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Lithuania

NGO Database, NGO Fund (LT0025)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Lithuania Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Finance SE Centre of Registers, Consultations are held with various NGOs, as well as the NGO Council. The commitment involves umbrella and national NGOs and the NGO Council; public consultation has been held on the draft law amending the Law on Development of NGOs. The plans are to share international experience and broaden stakeholder consultation (NGO Council).

Policy Areas

Civic Space, E-Government, Freedom of Association, Legislation & Regulation, Open Parliaments, Participation in Lawmaking, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Lithuania Transitional Results Report 2018-2020, Lithuania Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

2. Strengthen civic society through the development of non-governmental organisations (‘NGO’) database and NGO fund

31 December 2018 – 31 December 2019
Lead implementing agency Ministry of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania
Commitment description
Status quo or problem addressed by the commitment Since 2004, data on legal entities regarded as NGOs have been at the disposal of the state enterprise (SE) Centre of Registers. The expansion of the scope of the data collected and, consequently, the structuration of the data may help create a database to provide public authorities and the public at large with a simple form of information on whether the relevant legal entity is an NGO.
The problem to be solved is that part of the financial resources allocated by the state to strengthen civil society does not reach the intended recipient, as legal entities are not clearly classified (i.e. which are to be regarded as NGOs and which are not), part of the resources intended for strengthening of civil society eventually end up in the hands of public authorities, business associations and so on. This poses challenges for the sustainable development of the civil society sector.

For many consecutive years, NGO projects have been funded from the state budget. However, even though a lot of financial resources have been invested in different projects in different fields, the breakthrough in strengthening NGOs and the quality of their projects has failed to materialise. NGOs are still weakly involved in decision-making processes, fail to immediately and appropriately respond to emerging opportunities regarding decision-making at regional or national level. The main problem to be solved is the weak capacity of NGOs to engage and participate in the decision-making process professionally.
Problem solution/Commitment The problem will be addressed by legally providing that not only public bodies but also legal entities that have the legal form of a charity, support fund and association shall furnish information about their shareholders (members) to the system of the participants of legal entities. Once these data have been properly processed, it will be possible to create a tool that will facilitate easier recognition of NGOs.

The problem will be addressed with the help of financial means – through an NGO fund, which will operate as a programme administered by the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, intended to strengthen NGO capacity to participate in public policy and decision-making processes.
Main objective Creation of NGO data base and NGO fund
How will the commitment contribute to solve the problem? Once an NGO database has been established, public authorities and the public will be able to easily and clearly determine whether the relevant legal entity is to be regarded as an NGO and to take this into account when taking a decision regarding the funding of the activities, projects, etc. of such a legal entity.

There are currently no sustainable mechanisms in place to help strengthen the capacity of NGOs to participate in decision-making processes. The creation of an NGO fund will provide a mechanism that will enable strengthening of such capacities; as a sustainable entity, the NGO fund will carry out the regular monitoring (as to the developments regarding the public participation in public policy and decision-making processes) and, in the light of the results, will accordingly improve the fund’s strategy and activities.
Action and its description Expected concrete result Start date: End date:
1. Creation of a legal framework for the operation of the NGO database The necessary legislative amendments submitted to the Government and passed by the Seimas 01/12/2018 31/03/2019
2. Preparation of technical actions necessary for the establishment of the base together with the SE Centre of Registers Completion of actions planned 01/02/2019 01-06-2019
3. Preparation of the NGO database publicity strategy Implementation of the strategy 01/07/2019 31/12/2019
4. Compilation and analysis of information on the practical experience of counterpart NGO funds in other countries and on the activities carried out by such funds Compiled and analysed experience and measures taken by other countries 01/12/2018 28/02/2019
5. Preparing and agreeing NGO fund regulations with interested parties and submitting them to the Minister for approval Preparation and approval of the NGO fund regulations 01/03/2019 01-06-2019
6. Setting up an NGO fund board, which will be responsible for the strategy of the fund NGO fund board put in place 02/06/2019 31/07/2019
7. Launching NGO fund into operation The activities of the NGO fund identified, staff recruited and the fund launched into operation 01/08/2019 01/10/2019
How is the commitment relevant to the values of transparency, accountability and civic participation? The commitment will open up data on NGOs operating in Lithuania, improve the quality of open data and information, and increase the accessibility of availability of information about NGOs to the public and institutions.

The commitment will increase civil society’s access to public funding.

The commitment will strengthen the capacity of NGOs to participate in decision-making processes (linked to the value of civic engagement.
Additional information The provisions related to the premises for the establishment of the NGO database are included in the amendments to the draft law amending the Law on Development of Non-governmental Organisations and other related documents).

A concept of the NGO database has been worked out too. There is an ongoing discussions with the Centre of Registers, Ministry of Justice. For the part of the commitment related to the creation of the NGO database, the estimated budget is EUR 3 million.

For the part of the commitment related to the creation of the NGO fund, negotiations are held with the Ministry of Finance as regards funding sources. Provisions regarding the NGO fund are included in the draft law amending the Law on Development of NGO.

The commitment is part of the Plan for the implementation of the Programme of the 17th Government.
Contact information
Lead implementing agency Ministry of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania
Name, title, department, email and telephone number of the responsible person Aurelija Olendraitė,
Chief Adviser for NGOs and Communities,
email: aurelija.olendraite@socmin.lt,
Tel.: 8 70668 248
Other ministries, departments/agencies involved Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Finance
SE Centre of Registers
What civil society organisations, private sector representatives or other stakeholders are you planning to involve in the implementation of the commitment? Do you plan to conduct a public consultation during the implementation of the commitment? Consultations are held with various NGOs, as well as the NGO Council.

The commitment involves umbrella and national NGOs and the NGO Council; public consultation has been held on the draft law amending the Law on Development of NGOs. The plans are to share international experience and broaden stakeholder consultation (NGO Council).

IRM Midterm Status Summary

2. Strengthen civic society through the development of non-governmental organizations (NGO) database and NGO fund

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

Since 2004, data on legal entities regarded as NGOs have been at the disposal of the state enterprise (SE) Centre of Registers. The expansion of the scope of the data collected and, consequently, the structuration of the data may help create a database to provide public authorities and the public at large with a simple form of information on whether the relevant legal entity is an NGO. The problem to be solved is that part of the financial resources allocated by the state to strengthen civil society does not reach the intended recipient, as legal entities are not clearly classified (i.e. which are to be regarded as NGOs and which are not), part of the resources intended for strengthening of civil society eventually end up in the hands of public authorities, business associations and so on. This poses challenges for the sustainable development of the civil society sector. For many consecutive years, NGO projects have been funded from the state budget. However, even though a lot of financial resources have been invested in different projects in different fields, the breakthrough in strengthening NGOs and the quality of their projects has failed to materialize. NGOs are still weakly involved in decision- making processes, fail to immediately and appropriately respond to emerging opportunities regarding decision-making at regional or national level. The main problem to be solved is the weak capacity of NGOs to engage and participate in the decision-making process professionally. The problem will be addressed by legally providing that not only public bodies but also legal entities that have the legal form of a charity, support fund and association shall furnish information about their shareholders (members) to the system of the participants of legal entities. Once these data have been properly processed, it will be possible to create a tool that will facilitate easier recognition of NGOs. The problem will be addressed with the help of financial means – through an NGO fund, which will operate as a programme administered by the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, intended to strengthen NGO capacity to participate in public policy and decision-making processes. [9]

Milestones:

2.1. Creation of a legal framework database

2.2. Preparation of technical actions necessary for the establishment of the base together with the SE Centre of Registers

2.3. Preparation of the NGO database publicity strategy

2.4. Compilation and analysis of information on the practical experience of counterpart NGO funds in other countries and on the activities carried out by such funds

2.5. Preparing and agreeing NGO fund regulations with interested parties and submitting them to the Minister for approval

2.6. Setting up an NGO fund board which will be responsible for the strategy of the fund

2.7. Launching NGO fund into operation

Start Date: 31 December 2018

End Date: 31 December 2019

Context and Objectives

There is no central database on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Lithuania. It is unclear which organizations are NGOs and not social businesses or business-oriented associations. The State Enterprise Centre of Registers stores data on every entity operating in the country, but it does not have any filter to distinguish NGOs from other organizations. In addition, this data is not publicly available unless purchased.

Not having an official list of NGOs complicates the funding of civil society organizations (CSOs) through state programs. In a 2015 Transparency International Lithuania survey, 34 percent of Lithuanian NGOs said that national- and municipality-level institutions did not have clear criteria to finance NGO projects and applied different criteria to the definition of an NGO. [10] In addition, most CSOs in Lithuania are small and have an average annual budget of around 3,000 euros. [11] They rely heavily on volunteers instead of full-time employees, and many do not have their own website. [12]

This commitment aims to establish an NGO database and create an NGO fund. The fund would centrally finance NGOs to develop their advocacy skills, increase their capacity to draft legal acts, and participate in policymaking. This commitment is verifiable and measurable, even if some milestones are vague. As admitted by Aurelija Olendraite from the Ministry of Social Security and Labor, currently there is no agreement on what data about NGOs should be public: “[W]e aim to disclose as much as possible, however, officially there is no decision.” [13] In addition, this commitment was carried forward from the previous action plan due to its limited implementation. The milestone to analyze foreign experience was finished during the previous action plan. [14]

This commitment is important to strengthening the voice of civil society and creating better opportunities to engage them in decision-making processes. The NGO database would be the first of its kind in the country. Currently, no official registry exists. Although NGOs are particularly important in sustainable democracies, many are not transparent. Only 7 percent of NGOs declare their financial information and disclose their main donors. [15] If implemented, therefore, this commitment could have a moderate impact on access to information and civic participation. If data on NGOs from the State Enterprise Centre of Registers would be freely open to the public, it would make NGOs more transparent and could set the tone for other sectors to proactively disclose key information for citizens. This commitment could also bring more transparency to public spending and create opportunities to sustainably invest in the capacity of NGOs and civic participation.

However, according to Tomas Kubilius, the chief executive officer of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, the fund is timely and important, but its focus is too narrow. It specifically targets NGOs that participate in public policy, but there are many more NGOs that need assistance in carrying out their activities. [16] The limited scope of the commitment and the lack of information about what data about NGOs would be publicly available make its potential impact moderate rather than transformative.

Next steps

The IRM researcher notes that the deadline for this commitment is the end of 2019—an ambitious goal given that responsible institutions did not manage to implement this commitment in the previous OGP cycle. Nonetheless, this commitment is worthwhile, so the IRM researcher recommends continuing the initiative to the next action plan if either the NGO fund or NGO register are incomplete. If one is not carried out, the IRM researcher also highly recommends an internal assessment to understand the reasons for failing to achieve the goal within the deadlines.

[9] Full commitment text available at https://bit.ly/2HPWuXo. [10] “NGOs Survey on NGO Transparency,” Transparency International Lithuania, 2015, http://www.transparency.lt/nvo-atstovu-apklausa-apie-nvo-skaidruma.   [11] Ibid. [12] Ibid. [13] Aurelija Olendraite, the Ministry of Social Security of Labor, interview by IRM researcher, 27 March 2019. [14] Open Government Partnership, Lithuania IRM End of Term Report 2016-2018, https://bit.ly/2FAI0qR. [15] “Data on NGOs,” NGO Atlas, http://www.nvoatlasas.lt [16] Tomas Kubilius, Human Rights Monitoring Institute, interview by IRM researcher, 13 September 2017.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

2. Develop an NGO database and an NGO fund

Aim of the commitment

Under this commitment, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour and the National Centre of Registers aimed to create a database and a fund for NGOs in Lithuania. This would create an NGO database and disclose key information about their activities. The Fund would centrally finance NGOs to develop their advocacy skills, increase their capacity to draft legal acts, and participate in policy making. This commitment combined and carried forward two unfinished commitments from Lithuania’s previous action plan (2016-2018). [17]

Did it open government?

Marginal

The two main activities of the commitment, the NGO database and NGO Fund, were completed by the end of the action plan period.

The Ministry of Social Security and Labour reconfigured the National Centre of Registers in October 2020, but on a smaller scale than originally planned. [18] There will not be a separate database for the public to search for NGOs based on area of expertise. Instead, the National Centre of Registers will provide an option for legal entities to classify themselves as NGOs and then introduce a filter to distinguish NGOs from other organizations. [19] According to a senior official at the ministry, this deliverable was the closest option to what the ministry and the National Centre of Registers could agree on. [20] The system will be built entirely on trust, as no one will verify if an organization tagged as an “NGO” in the National Centre of Registers is truly an NGO as defined by the Law on NGO’s Development. [21]

Prior to the action plan, Lithuania had no central list of NGOs and there were no tools to evaluate which organizations should be categorized as such (as opposed to social businesses or business-oriented associations). The classification of NGOs on the National Centre of Registers is an important first step towards systematizing information about NGOs and thus improving the accessibility of this information to the public. This activity is also highly connected to the NGO Fund discussed below and could help streamline the process of funding NGOs through state programs. However, the improvements to access to information on NGOs is marginal so far, considering the above-mentioned limitations. For example, the database lacks verification on whether registered NGOs on the database are in fact NGOs. It also currently lacks the possibility for the public to search for NGOs based on area of expertise.

The NGO Fund was another activity of this commitment and the Ministry of Social Security and Labour implemented it as planned. In August 2020, the ministry developed the NGO Fund’s [22] governing structure and policies, including the rules to avoid conflict of interest. [23] The Fund, which started from an NGO-drafted concept, is scheduled to launch its first calls for projects to receive funding in the first quarter of 2021. [24] The Ministry of Social Security and Labour announced that 1.4 million euros would be distributed to the Fund annually. [25] The ministry analyzed international experience of counterpart NGOs and cooperated with CSOs to draft the working conditions for Lithuania’s NGO Fund. [26]

According to the CEO of the National NGO Coalition, the Fund is a timely initiative due to the unsystematic funding NGOs received in the past and that few investments focused precisely on their capacity. [27] Also, Lithuania did not previously have sustainable mechanisms to strengthen the capacities of NGOs, so this initiative opens new possibilities and gives freedom for NGOs to carry out their initiatives over the long term. [28] Once operational, the NGO Fund will provide central investment into capacities of NGOs and ensure there is a unified model to annually finance them. This could be significant because NGOs in Lithuania previously depended on funding from different public sector bodies, which use their own financing models and apply their own definition to what constitutes an NGO. [29] For example, in a 2015 Transparency International Lithuania survey, 34 percent of Lithuanian NGOs said that national and municipal level institutions did not have clear criteria for financing NGO projects and applied different criteria to the definition of an NGO. [30] However, the impact of the new NGO Fund can only be assessed after it is fully operational in 2021.

[19] The Centre of Registers, Guidelines for NGOs to register their status, https://info.registrucentras.lt/node/104642
[20] Ibid.
[21] The Governmental decree on Changes for Legal Entities' Status, No. 1016, https://www.e-tar.lt/portal/lt/legalAct/00d602e0fbd611eaa12ad7c04a383ca0
[22] The Government Confirmed an NGO Fund, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, https://socmin.lrv.lt/lt/naujienos/vyriausybe-patvirtino-kaip-veiks-nvo-fondas
[23] The Decree on the Implementation of the Law on NGOs, No. 141, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, https://www.e-tar.lt/portal/lt/legalAct/7615a050547f11ea931dbf3357b5b1c0/asr
[24] Aurelija Olendraite, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, interview by IRM researcher, 21 October 2020.
[26] Aurelija Olendraite, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, interview by IRM researcher, 21 October 2020.
[27] Gaja Savele, National NGO Coalition, interview by IRM researcher, 11 November 2020.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Transparency International Lithuania, “NGOs Survey on NGO Transparency,” 2015, http://www.transparency.lt/nvo-atstovu-apklausa-apie-nvo-skaidruma

Commitments

Open Government Partnership