The statement made by Archil Chkoidze, the representative of the Eurasian Institute, that funding of NGOs by U.S or any foreign country is prohibited in Poland, is false and groundless.
Real facts: EU Member States, including Poland,have quite liberal legislation regulating NGO activities. Neither Polish “Law on Public Benefit Activity and Volunteerism” nor the legislation on “Associations” and “Foundations” contains provisions forbidding foreign countries to provide funding of NGOs in Poland. Moreover, The Council of Europe document, “Fundamental Principles on the Status of Non-governmental Organizations in Europe and Explanatory Memorandum” clearly explains that NGOs may solicit and receive funding from another countries, international organizations and individual donors.
There is a 1% funding mechanism developed in addition in Poland for the Public Benefit Organizations(PBO), which allows taxpayers to choose the NGO themselves and to transfer 1% amount of their income tax to the organization of their choice. Such kind of Percentage systems financing public sector are also successfully established in other European countries: Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania.
According to the survey, conducted by the Klon/Jawor Association, approximately 45 000 associations and 7 000 foundations are registered in Poland and their majority (approx. 55%) operates on a regional level. Polish NGOs actively obtain financial support from European foundations and institutions.
In recent years, Polish NGOs receive financial support from international organizations, various governmental programmes and funds such as National Endowment for Democracy (NED), European Economic Area (EEA), the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), The Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Swedish International Development Agency (CIDA), European solidarity Towards Equal Participation of People.
In addition, Poland provides its own aid programs to the public sector and civil society for Eastern Partnership countries. E.g. Polish Aid, the agency of Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in charge of implementing development cooperation in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The program is focused on human rights, political and economic transformation, global education and humanitarian assistance. Special priority is given to agricultural development and environmental protection. Hence, representatives of the civil sector together with various NGOs have the possibility to receive financial support.
European Union, together with a wide range of international organizations actively facilitates the implementation of numerous programs aimed at developing regional cooperation between NGOs, sharing experience and best practices, overcoming common challenges using joint efforts. In order to provide civil society’s active inclusion in the process of developing cooperation with EU, Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum was created in six Eastern European countries: Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan. Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum facilitates sharing information, knowledge and experience about modernization and reform issues in EaP member countries.
Non-governmental organizations promoting open and inclusive societies play crucial role in democratic societies. NGOs monitor national governments and their policies, advocate the interests of citizens and provide a range of valuable services for public good. NGOs are only restricted in the have authoritarian countries and dictatorial regimes.
Countries having closed societies like Russia, are oriented to restrict NGOs and international organizations’ activities instead of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
According to a law passed in November 2012, NGOs that receive foreign donations are labeled as “Foreign Agents” in Russia. Therefore, NGOs that have “Foreign Agent” special status, must prepare periodic reports to be submitted to the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Tax service of the Russian Federation. According to the Russian Criminal Code, if any organization classified as “Foreign Agent” does not fulfill the requirements of the law, will be forced to close down.
In march 2013, representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice started raiding of NGOs throughout the whole territory of Russia. A wide range of local and trustworthy international organizations were checked: Amnesty International, Moscow Helsinki Group, Human Rights Watch, Agora, Memorial. In April 2013, Transparency International was also classified as “Foreign Agent”.
In the late 2007, British Councils, UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities which operates in more than 100 countries was forced to shut down regional offices in Yekaterinburg and St. Petersburg. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia was the initiator of the closure. In 2012, TheUnited States Agency for International Development(USAID) was also forced to stop its activities in Russia. USAID has worked in Russia for almost two decades, spending nearly $3bn on aid and democratic programmes.
In May 2015, according to the new legislative amendments, “Undesirable Organizations” operating in Russia do not have right to implement their activities without a court order. In case of Foreign Ministry’s consent, the Prosecutor’s Office is eligible to close them down. “Undesirable NGOs list” include George Soros‘s charitable foundation, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Freedom House, MackArthur Foundation, East European Democratic Center as well as three Ukrainian and two Polish NGOs.
Today, Russia successfully practices traditional Russian model of imperial governance, which provides state bureaucracy and police with total control of civil society. This model categorically excludes the existence of free and inclusive civil society. Hence, power is monopolized in the hands of the authoritative government and police.
Objective, Night Studio, 5 July
Archil Chkoidze, Eurasian Institute: “Unfortunately, our government hides from Georgian population and they tell us that that non-governmental sector must be financed by West, European Embassies and in Europe, while one of the biggest country, Poland prohibits financing NGOs from U.S and any other foreign country. People, who pay taxes have right to transfer 1% of their salary to their favorite NGO.”