Slovenian government takes "huge steps forward" in its relations with the NGO sector

Association

According to the Centre for Information Service, Co-operation and Development of NGOs (CNVOS), Slovenia's government is “taking huge steps forward” in its relationship with civil society. The CIVICUS Monitor had previously reported that the government passed a law on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which was welcomed by the NGO sector and executive branches. CNVOS, a national civil society platform, expects that cooperation between ministries and NGOs working on certain issues will improve as a result of the new law. A key feature of the law is its emphasis on the state’s duty to create an enabling environment for the sector through open dialogue and financial support. Funds available to civil society, including funds for advocacy, should increase in the near future. In addition, procedures for NGOs wishing to obtain public benefit status should become less bureaucratic and more streamlined.

Environmental organisations' concerns

Some Slovenian civil society organisations (CSOs), however, are more cautious about the progress made thus far. Environmental NGO Umanoter, for example, stressed that while this is the first government to discuss the issue of financial sustainability of NGOs, in practice, funding for civil society working on environmental issues remains problematic. 

For example, on 23rd February 2018 the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning announced a public tender for co-financing of NGO projects working on environmental protection and spatial planning. According to a group of environmental NGOs working on nature conservation, the call over-emphasised service provision; failed to address civil society priorities; and did not leave adequate space for CSOs’ own initiatives. The funds target short-term projects but do not finance activities aimed at protecting the public interest through programmatic action, strategic development and environmental-related legislation. Several organisations were discouraged from applying and the call was labelled by some as “a step in the wrong direction”. In addition, some CSOs felt the sum of $160,000 would be insufficient to implement a project.

New fund

In this context, the new fund as described above and envisaged within the law on NGOs is considered crucial for environmental NGOs. Goran Forbici from CNVOS stressed that:

"The law is written in such a way that all non-governmental organizations should have equal opportunities for candidacy, including environmental ones". 

In addition, as part of the negotiations over the fund, the public administration minister, who is responsible for the development of the NGO sector, agreed to open a cross-sectoral subsidy of two million EUR for long-term employment in the  sector, which would include provisions for lawyers, advocates and campaigners.


Upcoming elections

Full implementation of the NGO law will depend on the outcome of parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2018. In the lead up to the vote, civil society is actively monitoring the electoral campaign and assessing candidates' positions on civil society. To assert their position on campaign issues, NGOs published a manifesto with civil society's responses to certain social issues. The aim of the declaration is to: 

highlight the key areas that need to be emphasised (or re-emphasised) in society: basic values, human rights, as well as the rights of nature, open society, democracy, integrity of authority, public good, social security, welfare indicators, inclusive development planning, public finance, a sustainable economy and the openness and global responsibility of the company". (Translated from Slovenian) 

The manifesto was well received by academia, media and some policymakers and encouraged a wider public discussion. Unlike previous election campaigns, political parties seem to be reacting to discussions organised by civil society. However, while the issues of concern to civil society are gaining more attention, the sector and its role in society is still not a topic of public debate.