The power of Civil Society Organizations is their mission
The strength and meaning of Civil Society Organizations’ /CSOs/ existence derives from people’s trust in their mission and it is important, especially in times of social and political crisis, that Non-Governmental Organizations /NGOs/ look critically at themselves and continue to uphold their core values and long-term goals. Thus, in a nutshell, can be presented the spirit of discussions on the identity with which CSOs enter into effective and mutually respectful equal interaction with state and local authorities. The forum was organized by the Project Generation Facility at the end of February 2023 in Varshets and brought together more than 20 representatives of NGOs working for the equal integration of Roma, among which “Nov Pat” Association, Roma-Lom Foundation, Association “STARS” – Montana, Integro Association, Permanent Roma Conference, Association “RO-MAG Shumen”, “Savore” Foundation, Community Center “Yavin 2004+” – Varna, Community Center “Romano drom 2002” – Dobrich, Social Dialogue 2001 and the Trust for Social Alternative.
In his lecture Dimitar Dimitrov from the Open Society Institute – Sofia emphasized that in recent years Bulgarian NGOs have faced serious challenges related to preserving and developing their organizational capacity and ensuring financial sustainability, noting that an alternative to limited and difficult access to public funds could be support from communities and businesses.
Rumian Rusinov from the Center for Public Policy and Advocacy gave an overview of the role of NGOs in the development of national policies for Roma integration. According to Rusinov, the adopted strategies and action plans for Roma integration have not led to the full involvement of state mechanisms and financial resources for the implementation of a systematic integration policy. And the mission to pilot integration models and projects has been left mostly to NGOs relying mainly on funding from foreign donors. In his lecture, the long-time human rights defender concluded that for Bulgaria, the process of joining the European Union is more of a missed opportunity for Roma integration policies, while populist movements across Europe and in Bulgaria pose serious challenges to democratic values, including the protection of human rights
Guest-speaker at the seminar was Alexander Gerasimov, Head of the Humanitarian Activities Directorate in Montana Municipality, who presented the sustainable results achieved by the partnerships of local authorities and civil society organizations for Roma integration and focused on the need to create flexible donor instruments that take into account local specificities.
The workshop in Varshets was the second forum dedicated to effective interactions between public institutions and NGOs working mainly in Northern Bulgaria. More about the first seminar on the topic, organized by the Platform for Project Generation, which was attended by civil society organizations from Southern Bulgaria, can be found HERE.