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SLOVENIA: CSOs successfully oppose the abolishment of NGO fund

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By Brankica Petković, Peace Institute

After various restrictive measures and hostile rhetoric targeting NGOs since the new government took power in Slovenia in March 2020, in December 2020 the Janez Janša’s government attempted to introduce an amendment abolishing the state’s fund for non-governmental organisations in the 7th anti-corona stimulus package.

The fund was introduced in 2018, during the centre-left government, to provide a systemic source of funding for professionalisation and development of non-governmental organisations. In 2019, for the first time, the grants from the NGO fund were allocated to the projects of dozens of NGOs from different fields, selected based on public tender procedure, administered by the Ministry of Administration.

The legislation in Slovenia allows citizens to designate 0.5 per cent of annual income tax as donations to up to 5 non-governmental organisations of public interest. Citizens shall declare to which organisations they designate the donation; otherwise, the donation is not allocated. In practice, many citizens do not make such declaration, and the 0.5 per cent of their income tax stays in the state budget. Therefore the umbrella organisation of non-governmental organisations – the Centre for Information, Cooperation and Development of NGOs (CNVOS) –  has continuously advocated for the establishment of the NGO development fund to systemically support the sector with the amount allocated from the state budget in the similar size as the amount which would be devoted to the sector if citizens individually designate donations to non-governmental organisations.

However, in December 2020, the Government in Slovenia proposed abolishing the NGO fund, effectively cutting the access to development grants and sustainability of jobs for humanitarian, volunteer, sports, cultural, human rights and other non-governmental organisations. Some of the organisations, recipients of the grants from the NGO fund in the first 2019 tender procedure are continuously targeted by the current government with hostility and restrictive measures, including eviction from the offices.

The Government officials claimed that the NGOs would be given opportunity to raise more funds from individual citizens because the anti-corona stimulus package introduces, simultaneously with the abolishment of the NGO fund, an increase of the size of individual donations, which individual citizens can designate to one or more non-governmental organisations, from 0.5 percent to 1 percent of the individual annual income tax. But, the practice for many years has shown that citizens are not making such designation and that such allocations are very fragmented and small. In 2019, 5294 non-governmental organisations received such donations, which were on average 912 euro per organisation, while 800 organisations received less than 5 euro from that donation scheme.

On the other hand, individual grants from the NGO fund for consortiums of 3 or more NGOs for co-financing their projects aimed at professionalisation and employments have been between 150,000 and 200,000 euro for a multi-year period. The NGO fund amounts to approximately 5 million euro annually. In addition to stimulating sustainable employments, the fund is also used to co-finance European and other international projects, supports a number of resource centres and advocacy organisations throughout Slovenia in the form of regional NGO hubs, etc.

The NGO fund is a thorn in the side of the biggest government party because it is the only systemic source of funding for non-governmental organisations, and the government cannot wilfully strip it of the money because it is protected by the NGOs act. Therefore the SDS now wants to change the act,” CNVOS said in a press release.

Following a great mobilisation of NGOs and citizens against this move, the amendment abolishing the NGO fund was removed from the 7th anti-corona stimulus package approved in the Parliament on 29 December as a coalition party SMC – that had proposed the NGO law in 2018 – joined the opposition parties in voting against the proposed amendment.

 

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