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Fixing Past Problems with State Funding for CSOs

Soluciones a problemas pasados con financiamiento para OSC

Régler les problèmes passés de financement public des OSC par l’État

View from Tara mountain in Serbia, Europe. Drina river in the distance.

Lessons from Reformers

This case study was originally posted in the OGP Global Report.

Serbia’s first OGP action plan (2014–2016) had an explicitly ambitious commitment on the transparent funding of CSOs. It aimed to make transparent the public funding that CSOs received from the government.

Outside of public funding, there are diminishing alternative sources of support, particularly from international donors. Consequently, access to state funding was critical and had the potential to promote a more diverse and active local civil society. Existing regulation of state support to CSOs aimed to distribute public support to CSOs fairly, transparently, and without bias.

However in practice, findings showed that regulations were not enforced and state funding was misused for political ends. A media investigation found that a sizable number of CSOs that received public funding opened accounts only in the same year they received the funding and had ties to political party leaders.

The IRM assessed this commitment as substantially advancing transparency of public funding. It required the state to: 1) prepare annual summaries of funds spent and provided to CSOs; 2) publish all public tenders to CSOs on the E-Government Portal (including the evaluation of received proposals and final decisions); and 3) strengthen the capacity of public officials and civil servants to increase the transparency of civil society funding.

The IRM noted that some elements were not completed, especially publishing of tenders. Moreover, some CSOs continue to see the same lack of transparency about funding decisions. This also took place in a context of tightening of civic space. The National Parliament decided, for the first time, to exclude CSOs from its 2017 Parliamentary Week. At the same time, there was a significant amount of negative media on CSOs, particularly those working on anti-corruption, political processes, and human rights.


Photo Credit: Djoronimo, Adobe Stock

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