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The Liaison Office as a Tool for Successful NGO-Government Cooperation: An Overview of the Central and Eastern European and Baltic Countries? Experiences

© International Center for Not -for -Prof it Law 2005.
All rights reserved.

The Liaison Office as a Tool
for Successful NGO -Government Cooperation:
An Overview of the Central and Eastern European
and Baltic Countries’ Experiences 1
By Maria Gerasimova 2

In many countries, government official s have expressed interest i n establishing nongovernmental
organization (“NGO”) liaison offices, and in doing so with the cooperation of the civil society sector. This
article , part of a research project on NGO -government partnerships, analyz es the experiences with liaison
offices in ten Central and Eastern European and Baltic countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary,
Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. The article examines key features
of the liaison offices in these countries , including the reason s for their creation, the means of
establishment , the input from NGOs in the process, the structure and organization of the offices, the
evolution over time of interactions between government and NGOs, and the main challenges and
opportunities that the off ices confront in promoting NGO -government cooperation.
The article reflects findings from a survey conducted in the spring of 2004. Government officials
and NGO representatives shared their experience in NGO -government cooperation and in the creation of
liaison offices. The survey was supplemented with follow -up interviews and additional research.
The survey revealed the following:
 Organization: Liaison offices in the region fall into four distinct models :
o In five of the ten countries examined (Poland, C roatia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, and
Slovakia), the functions of the NGO liaison office are carried out by a bureaucratic
unit and a broadly representative advisory body, which work in partnership as
stipulated in laws, decrees, or charters. In Croatia, t his model has further evolved into
the so -called new model , with responsibility for NGO -government cooperation
decentralized to various entities at the central and local levels, including a public, not –
for -profit foundation responsible for promoting sustai nability of the NGO sector.
o The Directorate of Institutional Analysis and Relations with Associative Environment
in Romania and the Directorate for Civil Relations in Hungary, both Government
entities, represent a second model. These offices oversee NGO -government
cooperation alone, without an advisory body. 3
o In Latvia and Estonia, existing departments handle NGO -government liaison
functions in addition to their other responsibilities , which include society integration,
local government , and regional admi nistration.
o Finally, Lithuania does not have a single, centralized NGO liaison office. Instead ,
various government departments are responsib le for coordinating with NGOs in their
areas of authority.
 Purposes: In all countries studied , the offices’ mission s include furthering democracy and
strengthening relations between civil society and government. European Union accession
was a n additional motivating force behind the creation of the offices in Slovenia and Latvia.
In Estonia and Croatia, the missions of the offices included implement ing cooperation
agreements between civil society and governments. Other office s were established to

© International Center for Not -for -Prof it Law 2005.
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foster dialogue on a more favorable legal environment for NGOs and other such issues, to
enhance NGO participation in public a dministration , or to advance Government policy –
making with respect to NGOs and NGO projects.
 Civil sector participation in the establishment process : In almost all cases, NGOs
played some role in establish ing the liaison offices. The NGO role was particul arly
prominent in Slovenia, Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovakia. Even in countries where the
government created the NGO liaison office on its own, it worked closely with NGOs
thereafter to develop the objectives of the office .
 Main areas of NGO -governme nt cooperation: The major activities of the liaison offices in
all countries studied are drafting and consulting on legislation , direct/indirect financing, and
exchanging information. Four countrie s – Slovenia, Romania, Estonia, and Hungar y –
emphasize edu cation, including training NGO representatives and others active in civil
society . Encouraging civic participation, open governance, and social dialogue are priorities
in Slovenia, Latvia, Romania, Estonia, and Lithuania. Latvia, Poland, and Lithuania
conc entrate on the delegation of state functions to NGOs. Promotin g NGOs, charity, and
philanthropy are key concerns in Slovenia, Croatia, and Latvia. Fostering partnerships
between NGOs, local authorities, and entrepreneurs is a priority in Latvia, Romania, a nd
Czech Republic.
 Specific fields of cooperation: Liaison offices in some countries support NGO –
government cooperation in specific fields , including Poland and Croatia (research), Estonia
(statistics and support systems for civic initiatives), and Hungar y (development of
“information society” resources) .
 Challenges: The obstacles to effective NGO -government cooperation are quite similar in
all countries. Experts in Slovenia, Poland, Estonia, and Hungary cited as challenges
building trust and overcoming m isconceptions and false expectations. In Slovenia, Poland,
Czech Republic, and Hungary, a difficulty has been determining who has authority to
represent NGOs collectively in cooperative efforts. Procedural failures have interfere d with
cross -sectoral consu ltations in Romania. Administrative constraints ( including old
structures, flawed coordination, limited resources, and inefficiency) have hinder ed
cooperation in Romania, Czech Republic, Estonia, and Hungary. Inexperience in cross –
sectoral communication , on the part of both the NGO sector and the government , has
stalled cooperative efforts in Poland and Romania.

Scarcely anyone disputes t he importance of the third sector for the development of democracy,
especially in the post -communist count ries. As NGOs proliferated throughout East and Central Europe in
the 1990s, however, two key challenges emerged: (1) the nascent NGO sectors, which received
substantial early support from foreign donors, need ed to develop more sustainable funding sources; and
(2) governments and NGO sectors, which in some cases had transcended initial hostil ity, needed to work
together to meet growing social needs. In addition, it became increasingly apparent that NGOs, although
independent legal entities with their own uni que missions, cannot achieve their objectives isolated from
one an other and from the government and business sectors .
Many NGOs and governments alike have begun to appreciate the advantages of cooperatin g
more closely , both to meet the challenges describe d above and to enhance democratic participation.
NGOs and governments have collaborated on projects to increase citizens’ involvement in governance
and to achieve greater accountability and transparency on the part of bureaucracy, greater access to
informa tion for both NGOs and governments, and a greater role for NGOs in policy formation. These
projects have led to additional fields of cooperation, such as proactive communication, networking, joint
educational ventures, consultative structures, project coll aboration, and community/social capital building.
The two sectors communicate and collaborate through several different institutional mechanisms ,
including advisory councils, government agencies, parliamentary committees, and “QUANGOs.” 4 The

© International Center for Not -for -Prof it Law 2005.
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institutional framework varies by country , and its attributes may depend on such factors as past
experience, political influence, NGOs’ viability, and international trends ( e.g. , EU accession). 5
One mechanism for NGO -government collaboration, the l iaison office within the government , ha s
gained respect in many countries. “Liaison office” refers to a variety of structures with two common
characteristics: (1) they are institutionalized within the government and have some measure of
government authority to act; and (2) th ey have responsibility for furthering cooperation with civil society.
The impetus behind creatin g a liaison office some tim es stems from the NGO sector’ s past experiences
(and failures ) in communicating with authorities ; in other cases, the liaison office a rise s through a result of
a law or a government strategy.
No doubt mutual confidence is difficult to build, especially among actors with diverse structures,
goals, and interests. One of the greatest conflicts stems from the discrepancy in the planning hor izons .
Government administrations usually have short terms of office and, recognizing their transient nature,
naturally want to achieve as much as possible as soon as possible. By contrast , the third sector copes
with social issues that cannot be ameliorat ed all at once. Accordingly, NGOs care more about
sustainabilit y – maintaining programs and activities over time to deal effectively with systemic problems.
Institutionaliz ing the mechanisms for cooperation helps reconcile this conflict, by increasing the chances
that cooperation will continu e relatively independent of political influences.
Characteristics of Liaison Offices
The most common functions of liaison offices in the countries studied include the following :
 Initiating programs to develop NGO partn ers and to provide for their long -term
 Establishing and maintaining relationships with other government agencies and related
entities to help them cooperat e with NGOs;
 Aiding the exchange of information on topics of shared interest;
 Coordin ating with NGOs on legislation affecting them;
 Making research and analysis available on topics relevan t to the third sector;
 Providing counsel to NGOs;
 Developing guidance materials as well as legal and policy memoranda;
 Publicizing and promoting achiev ements of NGO s, including those achievements that result
from successful collaboration with government institutions; and
 Distributing state funds or sharing information about funding opportunities.
In the following sections, we will discuss the establishm ent, functions , and activities of NGO liaison offices
in the ten countries , with particular attention to the third sector ‘s role in establishing these offices.
Background Information
Sign ificant collaboration between government and the third sector began when Slovenia
negotiat ed with the European Union . NGO -government collaboration focused primarily on making the
accession process as open as possible , with substantial participation o n the part o f citizens and their
organizations. A further goal was to prepare NGOs to operate in the larger arena of a united Europe after
the accession. As a result, the National Coordinator for Cooperation with NGOs was organized within the
Integration Unit II , Government Office for European Affairs (“GOEA”). 6 The Coordinator works in
partnership with a Cente r, co -financed and supported by the GOEA , that is responsible for training NGOs
and providing information to them .

© International Center for Not -for -Prof it Law 2005.
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In Slovenia, as in all Central and Easte rn European countries, the democratic changes brought
about fundamental reform of NGO law s, which sought to foster the participation of civil society in all
spheres of social life and decision -making. At the beginning, however, the lack of a common governm ent
policy toward NGOs impeded accomplishment of this objective . Ministries limited their relations with the
third sector to the sponsorship of particular projects. Consequently, NGOs became dependent on the
government and competed for budget appropriation s. Little meaningful NGO -government cooperation , as
currently understood, existed.
NGOs Participation in the Establishment Process
The beginning of EU accession negotiations triggered more joint activities between the
government and NGOs. In December 1998 , all interested NGOs were invited to contribute to the
preparation and adoption of the Slovenian government’s negotiating positions with the EU. In addition to
ensuring transparency and adequate input, the government and NGOs sought to open the way for
Slovenian organizations to undertake European Union projects. Although approximately 160
organizations expressed their readiness to participate , only 10 percent of the organizations actually
attended the public presentations of negotiating positions . The mai n obstacles to broader involvement of
civil society organizations were said to be the impression that decisions had been already made, the
complicated topics on which comments were requested, and the insufficient time for reaction. It became
apparent that the government did not efficiently use NGOs’ capacities in preparation for EU accession.
Slovenian NGOs concluded that their capacities could be more efficiently tapped through a new
institution that would, among other things, collect and disseminate info rmation on financial resources
available from the European Union for projects, training, and potential collaborators. Moreover, the scope
of NGO -government cooperation was now perceived as extending beyond the negotiations process. Both
government and the third sector recognized the need for honest and continuous interaction , not only for a
successful accession but also there after.
An outside player, the Dutch advisor Dr. Michel van Hulten, recommended the fundamental
concept: a Cente r established by NGOs but co -financed and supported by the GOEA. Several NGOs
signed a Statement of Intent on March 30, 2000 . In the following month, fifteen of them created a “core
working group” that framed the major principles for establishing the Cent er:
 Its members should be “non -profit, voluntary, independent organizations, which carry out
beneficial activities” ;
 The Center should enhance the information flow among NGOs with similar activities;
 It should undertake training , especially in the realm of project management; and
 It should improve communication between government and NGOs.
The Slovenian Cabinet authorized the GOEA to cooperate further with the third sector in the country’s
accession process.
GOEA and the initiating group of NGOs signed a Statement of Intent o n September 15, 2000.
The group’s efforts were rewarded when the Center was founded in January 2001 by 29 organizations.
The Center began operations in October 2001 with the technical assistance of GOEA. All NGOs could
take advantage of the Center’s servic es and information , but only members could participate in its
decision -making.
Functions of the Center
The Center has been financed not only by the government but also through projects funded by
UNDP, the EU -PHARE Access programs, and the Dutch -Slovenian bilateral program MATRA. Some of
the Center’s most prominent projects are as follows :
 NGO cooperation with local and national government for promot ing gender equality;
 NGO implementation of the acquis (environment al protection , sustainable development,
social protection, and opposition to discrimination); and
 education for NGOs and government officials on the means of cooperation.

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A focal point of the
compact, according to Fedor
Cerne, National Coordinator
for Cooperation with NGOs,
will be to improve the poor
conditions in which
Slovenian NGOs operate.
By creating a favorable
legal and financial
environment for the civil
society organizations,
government can expect that
NGOs will demonstrate
improved expertise and as a
result be better partners in
collaborative efforts.
In addition, the GOEA works to connect Slovenia’s NGOs with the European NGO network.
Other Players
The Coordinator is the o nly Slovenian governmental institution responsible for facilitating
cooperation with NGOs. As a result of several government decisions in 2003, however, the Commission
for Cooperation was established. The Commission , which comprise s ten Minis ters and four NGO
representatives, seeks principally to develop a strategy for NGO -government cooperation, to continue the
dialog ue with the civil sector, and to prepare a “compact.” 7 The Commission has a mandate to negotiate
with NGO representatives and to prepare a dr aft compact before the summer of 2004. The ultimate goal
is to ensure that as many NGOs as possible will join the compact. 8
From the third sector side, the NGO Center is only one of
several actors. Another is the Forum Initiative for Development of
NGOs, which unites approximately 80 percent of the non -profit
umbrella organizations. The Forum has launched its own strategy
for cooperation, which it discussed with government officials during
twelve regional meetings before its First National Conference.
Area s of Cooperation: Opportunities and Challenges
The National Coordinator for Cooperation with NGOs
outlined five priorities for the compact as critical to the evolution of
NGO -government cooperation. W ithin each area, differences of
opinion and even contro versies remain ; nonetheless, once
agreement on the major issues is reached, compromise on the
remaining issues is probably feasible .
The first priority concerns the legal framework governing
NGOs. At present, the NGOs themselves have not agreed on a
law r eform initiative, and negotiations continue.
The second priority is financing. A major proposal under
consideration is a “1 percent ” law, which would allow taxpayers to
designate 1 percent of their income tax to be paid to NGOs of their
choice. The enactm ent of this law is considered reasonably likely .
The third priority is develop ing support , in both government and the third sector , for open
governance characterized by transparency, accountability, and trust. Indeed, the strategy deems social
dialogue a government obligation. Nevertheless, achiev ing this goal may be difficult . S everal
corresponding initiatives recently have been launched, including collecting examples of good practices
and gathering an informal inter -ministry group to discuss means of ac hieving more open governance.
Another indisputable priority, according to Coordinator, is promotin g NGOs and their role in
Finally, “human resources” requires increased efforts, such as additional training as well as
subsidies for newly created employment in the NGO sector.
Mechanisms for cooperation in specific realm s – such as social, environmental, and educational
affair s – will vary , depending on the experience of the relevant Minis tries a nd on cultural factors. Overall,
building trust betwe en government and non -government actors is expected to take time, because many
misconceptions and false expectations still prevail.
Furthermore, the NGOs’ own representation in the process of cooperatin g with government has
posed challenges . The NGO Cente r has adopted an open procedure for electin g representatives. When
NGO participation is needed for a commission or working group, the relevant Minis try establishes criteria
for those members. The procedure is publicly announced via the Internet, electors v ote for the candidates
at a special meeting , and the names of those elected are conveyed to the governmental officials.
Background Information

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The absence of previous
experience in the
implementation and
interpretation of such
innovative legal regulations is
one of the major obstacles to
the ef fective NGO –
government cooperation, as
described by Malgorzata
Mazur of the Department of
Public Benefit.

Volunteerism and solidarity are often considered fundamental Polish traditions. Poland has
40,000 registe red civil society organizations (including 36,000 associations ), half of which use volunteers .
An estimated 17.7 percent of the Polish adult population worked pro bono in 2003. Given this reality, the
government strives to make the most of civil society ‘s potential and to unite the efforts of those interested
in strengthening democracy and increasing civic participation. 9
The scheme for NGO -government cooperation in Poland combines a bureaucratic unit with a
broadly representative advisory body. Poland is unique among the countries surveyed in that the forms of
cooperation are stipulated by law – the Law on Public Benefit Activity and Volunteerism (April 2003). 10
Because of its importance to strengthening NGOs’ role in Polish public life, the Law on Public B enefit
Activity and Volunteerism is popular among NGOs ; some call it “the constitution of the third sector.”
NGO -government collaboration has deep and venerable roots in Polish society. The Law seeks to
further this collaboration by framing the legal, fin ancial, and institutional conditions for NGOs to operate in
the public interest, as well as the duties of central and local authorities to work with NGOs. The areas of
cooperation regulated by the Law include contracting public services, establishing joint task forces,
consult ing on draft legislation, and exchanging information on planned activities.
Functions of the Department
In accordance with the Law, the Polish government established several institutions to promote
NGO -government collaboration. The De partment of Public Benefit Activity, which is part of the Ministry of
Economy, Labor and Social Policy , is responsible for establishing institutional and legal conditions that
promot e development of the Polish NGO sector . The “ main task of the Department i s to help NGOs and
other interested parties understand the spirit and the regulations of the Law. For example, we answer
questions about legal regulations connected with public benefit activity
[…] throughout Poland.” The Department also provides administr ative
and office services to the Council for Public Benefit Activities, 11 a
separate body intended to be a national forum for social dialogue .
NGOs’ Participation
The Law established a Council for Public Benefit Activities ,
which consists of five represent atives of the institutions of government
administration, five representatives of local government, and ten
representatives of NGOs, their alliances, unions, and certain other
specified types of organizations. The Council is an advisory body that
reports to the Minister responsible for social security. Its responsibilities
include providing assistance and advice when public benefit
organizations (PBOs) run into conflict s with government administration
institutions, as well as advising on a range of issues : the application of
the Law , other government legal acts affecting public benefit activities and volunteerism, public works
commissioned to NGOs, and the standards for performance of such work.
The third sector contributed significantly to the development of the law and thus to the creation of
the Council. A “Contact Group” of fifteen NGO leaders , based mainly in Warsaw, met regular ly for several
years with government representatives. It was during these discussions that the idea took shape for a
body to repr esent NGOs in public administration.
Some c ontroversy arose , however, over how the ten civil sector representatives on the Council
would be nominat ed and select ed. The resolution reached was that the se representatives would be NGO
leaders rather than exp erts, and that they would be proposed by NGOs . The Department of Public Benefit
announc es the criteria for positions and collect s nominations submitted by NGOs working in designated
areas, including environmental protection, poverty reduction, education, a nd culture . NGO leaders may
not nominate themselves. The responsible Minister then selects civil society sector representatives from
the nominees .12
Areas of Cooperation: Opportunities and Challenges

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The Council and the Department work together to advance N GO -government cooperation. One
emphasis has been public financing of NGOs. The 2003 Law (and its implementation law) included a “1
percent ” provision , permitting taxpayers to designate 1 percent of their taxes for the support of NGOs. 13
NGO s and the govern ment have also cooperat ed in developing a national strategy for the civil
society sector . The strategy will likely include the establishment of an administrative body called the
National Fund for Civil Initiatives, the functions of which have yet to be def ined.
Research is a third area of collaboration. For example, the Department of Public Benefit is
required to report to the government by June 2005 on implementation of the Law on Public Benefit
Activity and Volunteerism and its results. The report will b e subject to parliamentary approval. Because it
will address all areas affected by the Law, the Department will draw on many sources in draft ing the
report , including local governments, the government administration, and social partners. Civil society
orga nizations are expected to be a particularly useful source of information because of their knowledge of
successes and problems within the sector.
Finally, the Department facilitates NGO representation on the EU committees that redistribut e
funds . The third sector’s insight s are considered extremely important here , especially in allocatin g
resources to address poverty and unemployment.
Challenges particularly arise at the local level. At t he central level and in the bigger cities in
general , NGOs enjoy rela tively read y access to information, available funds, grant applications, and
training, but local authorities need to improve com munication and to build trust . Work needs to be done
outside the capital to advance knowledge about the new legislation and to o vercome civil prejudices.
Background Information
The Governmental Council for Non -State Non -Profit Organizations , an advisory body of the
government , is the sole administrative body at the state level focusing on the third sector. 14 The
gove rnment established it as a Council for Foundations shortly after the democratic changes and
assigned it primary responsibility , along with the Foundation Investment Fund, for distributing 1 percent of
the voucher privatization portfolio 15 to eligible founda tions. The idea was to restore at least part of the
foundation assets confiscated during the communist regime. More than 600 foundations made claims, but
the first contributions were not allocated until 1999 . By then, the council had a new name, the Counci l for
Non -State Non -Profit Organizations, and new responsibilities .16
Functions of the Council
The activities of the Council gradually altered, and the third sector participated in formulating the
new functions through discussions with administration repre sentatives. Recently, the Council has served
as a forum for developing a more favorable legal environment for NGOs, while continuing to distribut e
fund s from the voucher privatization portfolio .17 In addition, administrative -territorial reform and the start of
negotiations with the European Union have substantially shaped the Council ‘s structure and activities .
Through committees and working groups , the Council currently coordinates three aspects of NGO
operations: cooperation between the central government and local authorities; cooperation with relevant
European institutions as a part of the Czech Republic’s integration; and , together with the National
Property Fund , oversight of the distributed funds. The specific tasks of the Council are as follows :
 initiating and coordinating legislative activities;
 financing NGOs;
 coordinating relations and facilitating the exchange of information between the state, regional
governments , and civil society organizations; and
 ensuring equal opportunit y in the use of E U structural funds.
The Council comprise s 35 members , at least half of whom must be NGO representatives.
Members are appointed by the Chairman , who is part of the government . Consequently , the incumbency
of members coincides with the term of office of the President’s Cabinet. (Actually, “the greatest advantage

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of the council is the fact that its Chairman is the Deputy Prime Minister who ensures a direct contact with
the Cabinet. Conversely, the Council’s weakness is its lack of executive powers.” 18) Central and regional
officials and experts constitute the remaining membership of the Council. Members assemble at least
once every three months . They are not paid for their work. Th rough its composition and procedures, th e
Council enables the Czech NGO sector to participate effectively in the policy process. Operations of the
Council are supervised by the Secretariat of the Council at the Governmental Office of the Czech
Republic , which collect s information, prepar es expert materials, and provi des administrative a nd
organizational support.
Areas of Cooperation: Opportunities and Challenges
The method of distributin g public resources to foundations resulted from close NGO -government
collaboration. 19 Another NGO idea that has been successfully implemented relate s to appropriations for
associations’ support : after a survey of the Minis ters on specific areas of cooperation ( such as health
care, social services, and education), general rules for the use of the funds were proposed . The
government and civil society organiz ations continue to collaborate on prepa ring a new Civil Code and a
bill on Public Benefit Status. The latter will de term ine which organizations operat e for the public benefit
and regulate their access to public funds and tax exemptions.
Based on the exper iences in Hungary and Pol and , a new law has been drafted to encourag e
donations from individuals – namely, the system of designating 1 percent of personal income tax to
eligible civil organizations. Within a short time, the Council will send the draft to t he other Ministries for
comment. If the government rejects the draft, then it will be probably proposed to the Parliament directly
by deputies of the Ministries. Because of the complicated political situation and the anticipated premature
elections, howeve r, the chances for success may improve later. 20
One complaint expressed is that NGO -government relations lack transparency. Further , as in
most of the other countries studied, ambiguity with respect to NGO representation impedes social
dialogue. It has bee n suggested that alliances within the third sector are needed in order to make clear
who represents the sector in negotiatin g with the government . In the absence of umbrella organizations,
government officials have been able to excuse failures to negotiate by citing uncertainty about the third
sector’s representatives. Still, the Council has nominated NGO representatives to serve on monitoring
committees for operational programs , and t he relevant Ministries have accepted the nominations and
appointed the re presentatives. Moreover, after “intense negotiations, ” the Council succeeded in securing
the appointment of NGO representatives to the European Economic and Social Committee. 21
The picture at the regional level looks slightly different. As a result of admi nistrative -territorial
reform, fourteen new units were created. They possess the right of self -governance, which includes the
legal power s to establish their own liaison offices and to support NGOs from municipal budgets. About ten
of these units have open ed discussions o f their community development plans , with broad participation of
NGO representatives, service providers, and trade unions. In some instances, NGO -government
partnerships at the municipal level are set forth in written contracts. Although co mparable cooperation has
not yet been achieved at the national level , encouraging trends can be built upon , including negotiations
for an official governmental document stipulating the forms and rules of cooperation.
Background Information
The Co uncil of the Government of the Slovak Republic for Non -Governmental Non -Profit
Organizations (“CG NGNPO”) was set up in 1999 as a result of collaboration between the newly elected
government and civil society. A year earlier, th e Program Declaration of the Government had expressed
support for cooperation between the third sector and government, including joint activities to develop civil
society. The government endorsed this position in its 2002 policy statement and pledged to initiate
projects that would a dvance the collaboration. For example, the government promised the following
actions to engage the third sector: (1) transform ing the social services delivery system to include private
providers and to set standards for financing services and ensuring thei r quality; (2) support ing the poor
through charity and donations; (3) develop ing a transparent system of financing cultural activities; and (4)
engag ing NGOs in the development of foreign policy. NGOs expressed support for the government’s
concept in the D eclaration by the 6 th Stupava NGO Conference. Discussions regarding a liaison body

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ensued among representatives of the Gremium of Third Sector, the Donors’ Forum, and umbrella and
service NGOs. 22
Functions of the Office
According to its Charter , the Counci l is an advisory body of the government involved in all NGO –
related activities. It focuses on initiatin g and evaluatin g policy proposals to support NGOs ; draft ing
legislation concerning NGOs ; and facilitating NGO -government cooperation at all levels on iss ues such as
launching programs for cooperation, defining procedures and criteria for the distribution of public funds,
and developing mechanism s for subsidies. The Council is also developing methods for dis seminating
information on NGOs, government program s, and its own work. The Deputy Prime Minister for Human
Rights, Minorities, and Regional Development is Chairman of the Council. Council m embership is
honorary and unpaid. Members are selected from NGO platforms with the agreement of the Chairman.
Curren tly, the Council comp rises 40 members. NGO representatives slightly outnumber state
administrators , 22 to 18. The operations of the Council are supported by the Secretariat of CG NGNPO at
the office of the Government, Human Rights and Minorities Section.
The Council meets twice a year. In order to ensure ongoing communication and continuous
cooperation, it has established two working groups: (1) on legislative and economic issues, and (2) on
issues concerning NGO involvement in the EU integration process.
NGO Participation
One of the Council’s tasks is to propose appropriate NGO representation in decision -making,
monitoring , and evaluation bodies. As a result, the government supports the creation of cross -sectoral
advisory, consultative , and other bodies ( such as committees and councils). The most vivid example is
the (majority) participation of NGO platforms and similar umbrella organizations in the work of the Council.
In addition, NGOs and the government cooperate in develop ing and implement ing projects ,
programs, campaigns, and conferences , and t hey participate jointly in public discussions and
consultations. For example , the Ministry of Environment has signed an agreement of cooperation to
address environmental issues of common interest with EKOFORUM, an informal forum of NGOs active in
the environmental field . Another example is the Platform of Slovak NGO Development Organizations,
which has partnered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help develop and implement the Slovak
Development Aid system.
Ar eas of Cooperation: Opportunities and Challenges 23
The work of the Council between 1998 and 2002 significantly contributed to the development of a
“fair, reasonable and permanent” dialogue between the government and NGOs. The discussions and
activities focu sed mainly on such issues as development of NGOs, their financial sustainability, and the
legal framework in which they operate . In 2002, t he newly appointed members of the Council adopted the
following priorities: (1) analy zing legal and other issues rela ting to public funding, tax reform, public
administration reform, decentralization , and Slovakia’s EU integration; and (2) improv ing the legislative,
organizational , and financial framework for NGO s to participat e in the integration process and in both
bilateral and multilateral collaborations , as well as prepar ing for use of EU structural funds.
One of the remaining challenges is how to develop financing models and further partnerships with
national, regional , and local public institutions as well as the b usiness sector.
Croatia presents an innovative model for institutionalized NGO -government cooperation. The
government of Croatia began by establishing a centralized NGO liaison office, and then established a
council that worked in partnership with the office. The government then moved toward decentralizing the
cooperation and delegating some functions of the office to other bodies, under the framework of the New
Model of the Organizational Structure for Civil Society Development in Croatia (“the new model”) .
Background Information

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The Government Office for Cooperation with Non -Governmental Organizations (“Government
Office for NGOs”) was established in 1998. 24 It was responsible for fostering cooperation with the NGO
sector through fi nancing, consultation, education , and information sharing. The Office also coordinated
legislative initiatives on issues affecting civil society. I n addition, i t channeled state funds to almost all
fields of NGO activity through a transparent funding mecha nism that had the following characteristics :
public announcement s of calls for proposal s and clearly stated criteria ; the creation of independent
groups to review and assess projects ; and a well -established monitoring and evaluation process. The
Government Office for NGOs also led the process of preparing a Program of Cooperation between the
Government of the Republic of Croatia and the Non -governmental, Nonprofit Sector in Croatia (“The
Program of Cooperation”), which was signed in 2001. In addition, t he Office published “SPONA” (Croatian
for “liaison”), a periodic bulletin addressing issues of concern to Croatian NGOs , which was distributed to
16,000 recipients. Through its activities, the Government Office for NGOs helped build trust and
transparent coope ration between the government and NGOs.
The cooperation between the government and civil society proved to be a vibrant process that
was adjusted as need ed to ensure the sustainability of civil society organizations and to define their role
in spheres of collaboration. The government pledged to propose a means of financing civil society
organizations to the Croatian Parliament 25; in response, the Government Office for NGOs developed
plans for a decentralized organization. This model consist s of two bodies : the Council for Development of
Civil Society (“the Council”), established in 2002 , and the National Foundation for Civil Society
Development (“the National Foundation”) ,26 established in 2003 .27 The model also envisions creation of a
Strategy for the Developm ent of the Civil Society and harmonization of the state funding process.
Functions of Key Players in the New Model
The new model result ed from a two -year process led by the Government Office for NGOs . T he
aim was to decentraliz e cooperation and state fundi ng from one office to diverse stakeholders
(government bodies, local and regional authorities, National Foundation, Government Office for NGOs ,
and Council). Specifically, Ministries and government offices and institutions are now responsible for
channelin g state funds directly to NGOs active in their fields of jurisdiction. The new model encourages
Ministries to designate a person or unit responsible for cooperatin g with NGOs.
The d ecentraliz ation stems from the need for direct communication between vario us Ministries
and NGOs, in order to enhance their cooperation in addressing particular social needs. It also opens the
possibilit ies of diversify ing funding sources for NGOs and of tap ping alternative and matching funds for
joint NGO -government activities. In addition, t he Government Office for NGOs launched the drafting of a
Code of Good Practice and Standards for the Financing of Programs of Civil Society Organizations out of
State and Local Budgets. The Code is intended to guid e bodies that channel publi c funds to do so in a
transparent manner.
The National Foundation is established by the Law on National Foundation for Civil Society
Development as a public , not -for -profit entity. It is responsible for promoting the sustainability of the
sector, cross -se ctoral cooperation, civic initiatives, philanthropy, and volunteerism , through education and
publications, grant -giving, public awareness campaigns, evaluation services, research, and regional
development. The Foundation is governed by a Management Board c omposed of three representatives
from the government , one from local government , and five from NGOs. It is financed from state budget
funds, Croatian lottery funds, 28 private donations, income from economic activities, and other sources.
The Council compri ses ten government representatives, ten NGO representative s, and three
experts. The members are nominated by specific Ministries, NGOs, and the Government Office for
Cooperation with NGOs, and approved by the government .29 The Council acts as a cross -sector al
advisory body to the government , primarily responsible for implementing the Program of Cooperation.
The Council will continue monitoring implementation of the Program for Cooperation at the national and
local levels, as well as creat ing a database of NG O programs funded by the government and proposing
further changes in legislation relating to NGOs.
NGO Participation
The Government Office for NGOs initiated several cross -sectoral working groups , composed of
representatives of ministries and NGOs as well as domestic and international experts. The groups were

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assigned to lead legislative initiatives intended to create a more supportive legal environment for NGOs
(e.g., the Law on Associations, Law on Income from Games of Chance and Competition, Law on
Huma nitarian Assistance, and draft Law on Foundations).
As noted above, NGOs are represent ed on the Managing Board of the National Foundation and
on the Council. Significantly, the signing of the Program for Cooperation, discussed above, result ed from
close c ooperation between the government and NGOs. In addition, NGOs participate on almost all
working groups for initiatives led by the Government Office for NGOs, National Foundation , and the
Council. The most recent example is the National Committee for Develo pment of Volunteerism, a body
established by the Council to prepare a draft Law on Volunteerism and to develop a strategy for the
promotion and support of volunteering in Croatia.
Areas of Cooperation: Opportunities and Challenges
The Program of Cooperati on sets forth the following areas for cooperation:
 consult ing with NGOs on legal initiatives and inclu ding them in working groups;
 consult ing on designing the government ’s National Program and evaluatin g its strategy and
 consulti ng on evalua tin g projects in which public money is invested;
 evaluatin g national policy in all areas;
 decentraliz ing and cooperatin g for the development of society;
 partial or complete financing of programs and services;
 encouraging citizens to participat e in decisi on -making and in meeting community needs ;
 support ing and enhan cing self -organiz ation and volunteer s’ action to benefit their
communit ies ;
 developing social enterprise and social capital as important component s of social
development; and
 support ing a soc ially responsible business sector.
The Government Office for NGOs and the National Foundation have successfully advanced cooperation
in these spheres so as to respond to the needs of citizens most effectively.
Background Information 30
The Directorate for Civil Relations (DCR) within the Government Office for Equal Opportunities is
the government body responsible for liaison with Hungarian civil societ y. It has existed for six years , albeit
under different titles and organization structures. Institutionalized NGO -government coordination began in
1998 when Istvan Stumpf, a Minister with sound knowledge of and a positive attitude toward the third
sector, promoted his idea for a specialized NGO office. The Department was established thereafter by
government decree , without any participation of civil organizations in the process. 31
Functions of the Office
Functions of the Directorate include initiating laws f or the development of the third sector and
facilitating dialogue with civil society representatives on a non -partisan basis. The Directorate works to
incorporate a civil dialogue between NGOs and the government into the broader public discourse on
policyma king, not only because it is a European Union requirement but because it is necessary. The
Directorate also provides information about available EU funds and supervises the National Civil Fund,
“the largest financial state fund for NGO support.” 32

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NGOs’ Pa rticipation
NGOs active ly contribut ed to the prepar ation of the Civil Strategy of the Government and the Law
on the National Civil Fund (2003). Opinions were exchanged at conferences and workshops as well as by
traditional and electronic communication. Con sultative civil forums with non -profit organizations and
experts were organized. In the course of these discussions, the NGOs expressed the need for a more
transparent support system that was tailored to the needs of the third sector.
Areas of Cooperation : Opportunities and Challenges
According to the Hungarian government ’s strategy , “autonomous civil society” is considered “a
partner by the State.” As in Estonia (see below), civic education is a priority of NGO -government
cooperative efforts, ranging from the curricula at schools to education abroad. One reason for this
emphasis is that the Hungarian civil sector is rapidly growing; more than 400,000 people volunteered in
2000, in addition to the 62,500 employees who work in the sector. Taking into account the widespread
tendency toward outsourcing public services to NGOs, this employment is expected to soar . T he demand
for well -trained, qualified individuals will increase , with more and more positions requiring high
qualifications, project management skill s, and diverse abilities. In this regard, special attention is devoted
to retraining public servants to work in the third sector.
The development of an information society is an other field of prospective NGO – government
cooperation. Civil organizations can be both consumers of information services and providers of content.
“Telecottages,” along with the Civil Services Centers and other civil IT initiatives , are particularly
important sources of information for local NGOs. 33 In addition to the existing ninet een county centers, the
Budapest Regional Civil Service Center will soon start operating autonomously i n cooperation with the
Municipality of Budapest. Similar projects are expected to feature alliances between c ivil society
organizations , government bodie s, public educational institutions , and private IT companies. These
initiatives provide government with a reliable flow of research with which to assess its activities and
processes, particularly those involving the effects of contracting out public servic es, the consequences of
European Union accession, volunteerism, the democratization of society, and the role s of NGOs.
Furthermore, the third sector initiated the establishment of the National Civil Fund. The idea was
to ensure , by law , state budget suppor t for the operational costs of registered civil organizations beyond
taxpayers ‘ income tax designations. The newly adopted law stipulates that the government guarantees
the National Civil Fund the amount collected by civil organizations through the 1 perce nt law, taking into
account the taxes paid in the previous year.
This pattern of NGO -government relations arisen in other spheres , especially in the law – and
decision -making processes at all level s – national, county, and local. In addition to cooperation in the
legislative process (for example, recent collaboration on the Volunteer Law), we should note cross –
sectoral cooperation and cooperation with respect to EU accession issues. The two sectors have also
launched partnerships for provi ding public service s (e.g., the Ministries of Health, Social Affairs and
Family, Education, and Culture), and they have worked together on processes for determining direct and
indirect (delegated) civil representation in EU institutions.
De spite the overall success , challeng es remain . From the government perspective, NGO –
government contacts are not yet as regular as they might be ; the attitude of bureaucracy toward the NGO
sector is not yet as professional as it could be ; and administrative constraints still exist to a certai n extent
(for example, the State Budget Spending Transparency Program sets the maximum support for NGOs at
5 million HUF). 34 From the NGO point of view, the greatest obstacle is the huge number of participants –
around 48,000 – and related difficulties in c reating effective mechanisms for representation.
Background Information
Since 2000 , the law has required all central and local Romanian public authorities to have
specialized units responsible for relations with civil society organizations. At the national level, this
responsibility rests with the Directorate of Institutional Analysis and Relations with Associative
Environment, part of the Department for Institutional Analysis , which in turn is subordinated to the Prime
Minister. The Directorate’s duties are to promote partnerships with NGOs, to ensure transparency of

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government activities, and to encourage dialogue between the Prime Minister and representatives of the
third sector.
Romania has a distinctive experience in NGO -government cooperation at the local level. The
Directorate assists and coordinates 84 territorial delegates working in different institutions, who have
responsibility for encouraging NGO -government relations. These delegates receive monthly bulletins
published by the Directorat e (as well as magazines issued by NGOs ). They report to the Directorate on
the most active NGOs in their region s and their strategies, program data, projects, needs, and problems.
Functions of the Directorate
The Directorate provides professional training to aid NGO -government collaboration at the local
level . For example, several contracts between the Directorate and local authorities have fram ed the terms
of partnerships under which local entities could gain access to PHARE funding programs. 35 In addition to
offering professional development programs and information to public officers, the Directorate retrieves
and analyzes data on NGO -government cooperation and undertakes the following activities:

 monitoring the implementation of norms for civil society in collaboration with central and
local administrative structures;
 working on amendments to the legislative framework regulating associative life , in
accordance with available information and the comments of partner associations and
interested governmenta l entities ;
 developing and coordinating programs in conjunction with associations and foundations
(whether Romanian or foreign ) and administrative entities ; and
 publishing monthly bulletins , Civil Society in Mass Media and Observato r, to inform civil
socie ty organizations about programs and financing available from the Government as well
as from domestic and international partnerships. 36
The Directorate participated in the Tulcea meeting where the Guide to European Union Funding for
NGOs was presented. The D irectorate also co -organize d sessions to publicize the Program for Civil
Society Development , which was initiated by the Ministry of Finance with European Union support ; it
promotes NGO -government partnerships in various areas, such as counseling centers f or citizens,
communit y development, and the sustainability of the civil society sector.
NGOs’ Participation
Romanian civil society organizations have contribut ed substantially to the evolving national
debate on NGO legislation. They have prepar ed reports, conduct ed studies, and provid ed translations of
foreign best practices , in addition to meeting with governmental officials . An association of NGOs has
established a constructive dialogue with the Juridical Commission of the Deputies Chamber on
amendments to Ordinance 26/2000 (the framework law on not -for -profit organizations in Romania),
particularly those related to public benefit status. In addition, NGO proposals have helped the ministries
define criteria for selecting and financing NGO projects. Furthe rmore, a 1 percent tax provision was
included in the Fiscal Code of January 2004; the initiative for the provision came from the opposition
political party in cooperation with more than 200 NGOs. 37
The consultation process is not always smooth , though . Som etimes NGOs are asked for
comments and suggestions on very short notice, which makes it almost impossible for them to contribute.
Other problems include failure to explain the purpose of a requested consultation, failure to provide
necessary documents in a dvance, and failure to take expressed opinions into account in drafting the final
law. For example, local governments’ associations proposed amendments of the laws , as well as drafts of
the fiscal and public services’ decentralization law . E ven though thes e associations were among the most
important stakeholders with respect to these laws , their proposals were not accepted .
Another field of active NGO involvement was the debate o ver the European Commission’s White
Paper on Good Governance. NGOs organized several d iscussions. For example, the Regional Center for

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“This is a great example of
efficient coalition building, NGO –
political parties’ cooperation, and
consultation,” says Gabriela
Matei, 1 an NGO rep resentative, of
The Transparency Law (2003).
The law permits citizens and their
organizations to make
suggestions with regard to draft
legal acts and administrative
decisions through consultations
and public meetings.
NGOs in Constanta held a debate featuring representatives of the public sector , academia, the EURISC
(European Institute for Risk, Security and Communication) , and the Ministry of Integration.
Gener ally, Romanian NGOs form issue -based coalitions, allow ing more effective influence over
the development and implementation of public policies. Thirty NGOs , for example, combined forces to
combat violence against women. Anticorruption, health, and discrimin ation are also mobilizing causes ;
several alliances were established and broad campaigns conducted on these topics in recent years.
Areas of Cooperation: Opportunities and Challenges
NGO -Government collaboration has also produced several initiatives to en sure successful
implementation of laws: a guide for applying the transparency law, legislative rules for social assistance,
and models of good practice in child protection. In addition, NGOs have contributed to the Romanian
Academy reports.
The Directora te was among the founders of the eRomania Gateway Association , which identifies,
initiates, and carries out programs that promote e-development in Romania. The association was founded
as part of the Romania Development Gateway, financed by the W orld Bank t hrough the Information for
Development Program. The project produced the first country -wide Internet portal for Romania: a web –
based “resource center ” where people in Romania and abroad can learn about e-business, government
institutions, the business sect or, civil society, and much more. The Information for Development Program
seeks to use the World Wide W eb for enhancing technology and information flow, thereby helping
Romania (and other countries in transition ) advance toward European integration. 38
A new trend in cooperation is contracts fram ing the rights and duties of the parties and their future
activities toward common goals. Because the Roma population is considered one of the most vulnerable,
the Directorate signed an accord with the Roma Center for Social Intervention and Studies to advance the
Equal Chances for Roma Children without Identification
Papers program . In addition, the Directorate endorsed a one –
year collaboration protocol with the Foundation Civic Action as
well as three cooperation agr eements with the Peace Corps:
Development of NGOs in the Social, Health and Youths Areas ;
Economical Development of the Communities ; and The
Management and Environmental Education Program .
The Directorate has international partners as well. The
Francophon e Intergovernmental Agency approved a project
that was implemented in cooperation a French NGO, ORIFAL.
At r egional training seminars in three of the largest Romanian
cities , p ublic servants and NGO representatives compared
Romanian and French practices in forming partnerships with
public authorities.
In addition , the Directorate works to foster the
development of civil society in the Republic of Moldova,
Romania’s neighbor to the northeast. One project, undertaken i n partnership with the Moldovan Public
Policies Institute , developed a weekly publication , Democracy, which is issued in Chisinau, Moldova’s
capital and largest city, and in the Northeast Region of Romania.
According to Otilia Pop and her colleagues from the Directorate, the most critical obsta cles to
effective NGO -government partnership are the government’s wide -ranging and complex agenda and the
limited resources (time, expertise, money) it can devote to the partnership. 39 These problems produce
frustration on the part of NGOs . It is feared tha t bad experiences and failures of some organizations may
harm the whole sector. There is also concern that the lack of sufficient capacity on the part of civil society
organizations can result in the loss of valuable opportunities for the sector to influen ce the policy agenda.
Background Information

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The rise of civil society in Estonia has been attributed to two princip al factors: disappointment with
the existing governance system and g rowing confidence among citizens that they could contribute to
public decision -making. 40 The third sector has assumed a role as the “natural voice of the people ,”
providing a vehicle for them to express their opinions and to exercise their rights of assembl y.
The third sector initiated a partnership agreement between the public sector and civil society
organizations. The resulting agreement, known as the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept
(EKAK), was approved by Parliament in 2002. The agreement was intended to provide the basis for fair
interaction between the sectors in keeping with commonly accepted values, goals, and rules. 41 As will be
discussed below, the Ministry of Internal Affairs assumed responsibility for coordination with civil society,
including issues related to implementin g the agreement a nd establis hing a committee of government and
NGO representatives.

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NGOs’ Participation
The initiative for the agreement was taken in 1999. In order to ensure an open process and to
collect diverse sug gestions, a series of roundtables, negotiations, and seminars was organized and
continued for fifteen months. Impressive ly, more than 2,500 NGOs worked together under the leadership
of NENO (the Network of Estonian Non -Profit Organizations) with the assist ance of UNDP. Finally, the
initial ide a – an NGO -public sector contrac t – was transformed into a strategic document that sets forth
guiding principles for cooperation between the Government and the civil sector.
The draft of the EKAK was finalized in Nove mber 2000, after a process that sought suggestions
and comments from the EKAK’s Project Consulting Body, the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu
(the Estonian parliament), central and local administrators, and regional meetings of NGOs. 42 The EKAK
was introduced to the Riigikogu by the Representative Council of the Estonian NGO Roundtable and was
subsequently approved by Parliament . Despite some structural and technical changes , it retain ed the
spirit of the draft and the priorities formulated by the N GOs.
Functions of the Department
Responsibility for implementi ng the Concept was assigned to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Under its statute , the Ministry must coordinat e and cooperat e with the third sector and enhanc e
community development through i ts Local Government and Regional Administration Department. 43 The
Department also assists the NGO -government “joint committee” with administrative matters, analyses,
and investigations that arise in the course of its work advising on implementation of the a greement .
The joint committee was established for the purpose s of initiating, realizing, and evaluating action
plans to implement the EKAK. The committee consists of eight representatives of the government and
fourteen from the nonprofit sector, with the M inister for Regional Affairs presiding. The first assembly of
the committee was held in October 2003. In accordance with the EKAK’s long – and short -term priorities,
three working groups were created: (1) involvement, consultation, policy appraisal, and leg islation; (2)
funding and statistics; and (3) awareness, civic education, media, and infrastructure. 44 Representatives of
the government and NGOs share the chairmanships of the working groups. One of the committee’s first
tasks was to plan for implementatio n of the EKAK by examining the experiences of Canada and Great
Britain. The EKAK Implementation Plan of 2004 -2006, unanimously adopted by the Estonian government
in August 2004, summarizes the work done so far by the joint committee. “The efforts of the jo int
committee were put in a format of a table consisting of 11 goals emphasizing issues related to legislation,
civic involvement, funding, statistics, civic education and public awareness that are divided into separate
activities made specific with respec t to magnitude, time and responsibility.” 45
Areas of Cooperation: Opportunities and Challenges
Among the seven areas of NGO -government cooperation set forth in the EKAK, current priorities
are statistics, civic education, and the support system for civic initiatives. First, c ompiling and updating
statistics in an NGO database will be significant for both government and the NGO sector . The statistics
will help identify NGO coverage and capacity a s well as opportunities for collaboration , which in turn can
inform development planning.
Second, education on civic rights and duties enhances citizen involvement. NGO -Ministry of
Education cooperation is pursuing several objectives in the civic education area: introducing relevant
courses in school curricula start ing in the first grade, training teachers adequately , and establishing a
mandatory state exam.
Finally, i n order to avoid redundancy of administrative units, the Local Government and Regional
Administration Department will develop a “one -stop office” conc ept at the county level. This will involve,
among other things, assign ing some supplementary functions to existing county development centers.
These offices can coordinate regional partnerships . They can also prov ide services related to the
accession proce ss and EU funds, business and community development, and basic counseling. The key
purpose of these supporting structures is to guarantee the competence and sustainability of citizens’
NGO s also participat e in public decision -making. Third se ctor representatives take part in working
groups and expert commissions at all ministries, particularly those making and implementing policies

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related to community development, education, youth, and enterprise. Unfortunately, public meetings and
hearings a re still not a common feature of Estonian political life.
One obstacle to effective NGO -government cooperation, from the point of view of Maris
Puurmann of the Local Government and Regional Administration Department, is that the existing scheme
complicat es the new role of the Department in coordinating activities. Each ministry ha s established
working partnerships with civil society organizations , so introduc ing a different model of collaboration is a
challenge . In a ddition, the variety and complexity of subjects represent a challenge to the newly unified
functions of the Department.
From the NGOs’ point of view, the main hindrances are “mistrust, different management and
administrative structures, [and] resources.” 46 The government has failed to comprehen d the ordinary
NGO ‘s problems with sustainability and its daily struggle for survival . The transformation of the Estonian
third sector will probably enhance cooperation with the government : the sector will “become smaller in
numbers due to improved and acc urate statistics, but it will grow in quality, services provision, and
financial viability.”
Background Information
The Secretariat of the Minister for Special Assignments for Society Integration Affairs, particularly
its Department of Society Integ ration, serves as the NGO -government liaison office in Latvia. Latvian
policy places a high priority on social integration , with civic participation as one of its core values. This
“bottom -up” approach seeks to generate more productive interactions between government and civil
society by enhancing c itizens’ interest and involvement in state governance. NGOs can play an important
role here by developing methods of influencing decision -makers at all levels and by aiding the civic
education of the population. The Department thus focuses its activities on improving the dialogue that
citizens and their organizations conduct with the state. 47
Functions of the Office
The Department of Social Integration is the leading state governmental body in the field of NGO –
gov ernment cooperation. It has the following responsibilities: to prepare legislation and other rules
addressing social integration and minority rights in accordance with European Union legislation and other
international treaties; to implement and coordinate two government programs , “The Integration of Society
in Latvia” and “The Livs in Latvia” ; and to promote the development of civil society. The Department is
also responsible for coordina ting state support for ethnic minorities’ cultural associations, as w ell as for
evaluatin g relevant policy papers and legislative acts from other Ministries. The Department has the
additional responsibility for providing civil society with relevant information and educati on.
NGO Participation
The Elaboration of Civil Societ y Development Strategy for Latvia is a project within the framework
of PHARE ,48 so the rules, procedures, and Terms of Reference for PHARE projects govern the Steering
Committee . The Committee includes representatives of central and local governmental insti tutions as well
as NGOs. Although the civil society sector did not initiat e the project, NGOs were invited to express
opinions during development of the Terms of Reference. NGOs also took part in the debate on the draft
framework document of the national p rogram “Integration of Society in Latvia,” which was approved in
2000. The program elicited a significant response and was considered a useful step toward improving
social integration.
Areas of Cooperation: Opportunities and Challenges
NGO -government colla boration represent s a major goal of “ The Integration of Society in Latvia.”
Under this program, the state must support the establishment and operation of NGOs. Priorities are to
strengthen the links between individuals and groups in society, and those betw een individuals/groups in
society and the state. Implementation of the framework document began in the summer of 2001 , with the
establishment of the Society Integration Fund. 49 Under this framework, state policy is expected to provide
for intensive cooperat ion with and support for NGO cente rs, as well as promotion of NGO development.
The main areas of cooperation are as follows :

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 Legislation : The Law on Associations and Foundations developed through close
cooperation between responsible ministries and the NGO community. Although current
NGO legislation does not pose significant obstacles to establishing and operating an
organization , it is not seen as furthering NGOs’ development and financial sustainability.
For that reason, a Law on Public Benefit Organizati ons was adopted in 2004 , and related
draft laws have been prepared and submitted by representatives of the Ministries of
Culture, Finance, and Economy, in collaboration with NGOs. In addition, associations in
certain fields are participating in working gro ups for revising legislation and developing new
drafts and programs ( e.g., law on volunteerism and tax laws).
 Charity and Philanthropy: Charitable traditions have been promoted among entrepreneurs
and individuals through debates and presentations.
 Cooper ation between the State and Local Authorities, Entrepreneurs and NGOs:
Compared to other Latvians, t he residents of Riga, the capital, have considerably more
opportunities to associate through formal organizations and to influence policy -making.
Over 60 pe rcent of all registered NGOs operate in Riga. It is considered crucial to enhance
civic participation in the regions and rural areas, where the population has fewer resources.
This program has conducted educational and informational activities and implemen ted
grant s for projects promoting NGO -local government cooperation. For example, a common
information exchange system in all regions was established to facilitate NGOs’ access to
information. In addition to this regional cooperation, successful dialogues have been
conducted at the national level concerning environmental protection, consumers’ rights,
and industrial development.
 Delegation of Functions to Non -Governmental Organizations: The government is
outsourc ing services under principles of equality and public competition. At present,
outsourcing has been accomplished primarily through the government ‘s contracting for
social services, in addition to the Ministry of Culture’s agreements with professional artist
organizations and the Ministry of Education and Science’s agreements with NGOs that deal
with education and youth issues. Most state institutions, h owever, still lack experience with
and knowledge of the contracting mechanism.
Most of these projects were carried out with the financial support of the Secretariat of the Special
Assignments Minister for Social Integration ( SMSASIA ) and UNDP, as well as assistance from State
Society Integration Foundation, Department for Ethnic Minority Affairs, local governments, Baltic –
American Partnership Foundation, the PHARE program, and others.
One r ecent activit y of the Department of Social Integration was an international conference , “We
Go Further. National Minority Youth Activenes s – An Impulse for Social Integration,” organized in
partnership with the Friedric h Naumann Foundation in December 2003. Participants from Latvia, Estonia,
and the Russian Federation – including l eading experts in sociology, political science, and cultural
science, as well as national minority (youth) NGOs and media representative s – presented their countries’
experience s in the integration of national minority youth, analyzed the present situation, and discussed
future plans.
Background Information
By contrast to the other countries discussed in this article , Lithuania has no single administrative
unit specializ ing in NGO -government coordination and cooperation. Instead, various institutions are
responsib le for particular aspects of cooperation with NGO s.50 For instance, the Ministry of Social
Security and Labor coordinates the provision of social services under agreements between municipalities
and NGOs, a realm regulated by the Law on Social Services. The Lithuanian Council for the Affairs of the
Disabl ed oversees NGO -government projects involving, among other things, medical and occupational

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There is a need for a focused
gove rnmental body to enable
“closer relationships between
the third sector and
Government, more effectively
represent NGO interests and
distribute state resources for
NGO activities purposively
and rationally,” claims Marius
Navadunskis, of the Ministry
of Soc ial Security and Labor.
rehabilitation and the social integration of disabled people. The Youth Affairs Council operates under
similar conditions and facilitates state budget funding for and implementation of youth NGO initiatives. 51
Areas of Cooperation: Opportunities and Challenges
Some observers advocate a single body dedicated to fostering cooperative relationships between
government and the third sector. In addition , stakeholders from both sectors view the lack of an adequate
legal framework as the major obstacle to effective NGO -government cooperation. Another hindrance is
financing, because the main funding sources for NGOs remain foreign donors, with the state providing
few options.
Recently, a n NGO Development Law has been drafted with significant contributions from NGO
representatives and experts, who combined their efforts with those of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas)
Temporary Work Group for Solving NGO Problems. Key proposal s are that the law specify forms of NGO –
government cooperation , and that it establish dut ies on the part of government to consult with NGOs , to
provid e access to government information, and to permit NGO s to participat e in decision -making.
Another good exa mple of a successful cooperation is an ongoing poverty reduction project that
began in 2002. UNDP, the Ministry of Social Security and Labor, and the Non -governmental Information
and Support Center (NISC) 52 worked together toward several strategic objective s: establishing the basis
for an NGO network against poverty and a continuous institutionalized dialogue between NGOs and the
government ; educating network participants ; and administering pilot projects on social inclusion.
The Permanent NGO Commission an d the Advisor for the Relationships with Society both work
closely with the Executive Office of the Prime Minister to find ways
of improv ing the environment for NGOs. These structures can be
considered a step toward creating a governmental body for third
sector liaisons. Furthermore, establishment of a liaison is
consistent with the aims of the Lithuanian Government Program for
2001 -2004, which proclaims support for NGOs in general and for
governmental cooperat ion with NGOs and civil society in
particular . Regional mechanisms for cooperation are likely to
assume greater significance, given the growing number of NGOs
focused on providing social services at the local level and their
need to develop relationships with local authorities.
Without an institutional ized form of cooperation , the third
sector has recognize d the need for coordinate d communication. In
response, NISC put into practice initiatives to facilitate the
exchange of information and opinions. For example, several email lists and an NGO bulletin b oard are
available to members of the Seimas Group, the Board of the NGO Coalition of Philanthropy, and the
Permanent NGO Commission, as well as legal experts, donors, think tanks, and NGOs. The result is an
open and accessible forum for discuss ing legislat ion and other issues of common interest.
Another positive development is the increasing involvement of NGOs in decision -making. As
specified in the Law of Public Administration, government institutions at the national and local level s are
encouraged to co nsult with interested civil society organizations on all legislation drafts , decisions, and
policies. For this provision to be fully effective, the government institutions must publish drafts in the press
or on the Internet and then hold public hearings.
NGO liaison offices have provide d vital mechanisms for successful NGO -government
cooperation. The benefits of their activities are recognized by both bureaucrats and NGO representatives.
The offices help identify, first, the problems in further ing the sustainability of the civil society sector and in
building workable partnerships, and second, the most suitable solutions to th e problems . The leading
principles in these continuous processes are open dialogue, mutual trust and understanding, and s hared
goals. Adherence to these principles make s the NGO liaison offices not merely administrative structures,
but meaningful “bridges” between the public and non -profit sectors.

© International Center for Not -for -Prof it Law 2005.
All rights reserved.

1 This article will appear in a book on partnerships between NGOs and governments, to be
published by the International Center for Not -for -Profit Law.
The author would like to acknowledge the many colleagues and experts without whom this article
would not have been possible. Thanks to the great International Center for Not -for -Profit Law team –
Stephan Klingelhofer, Douglas Rutzen, Catherine Shea, and all colleagues from the D.C. office – who
gave me the opportunity to w ork on the topic and provided excellent, incisive advice and encouragement
throughout. Special thanks to the “NGO -Government Cooperation” team: Radost Toftisova, Nilda Bullain,
and Katerina Hadzi -Miceva of the European Center for Not -for -Profit Law, who pr ovided valuable
comments and insight. To those who participated in the survey, thank you for your useful information,
your thoughtful and creative suggestions, and your valuable time: Izabella Szaniawska and Malgorzata
Mazur (Poland); Martin Vysin and Petr Pajas (Czech Republic); Nora Sasvari (Hungary); Tereza Horska
(Slovakia); Fedor Cerne (Slovenia); Cvjetana Plavsa -Matic and Matko Pajcic (Croatia); Daniela
Parvulescu, Diana Nitulescu, Otilia Pop, and Gabriela Matei (Romania); Maris Puurmann and Kristina
Mand (Estonia); Marius Navadunskis (Lithuania); and Inese Vaivare (Latvia).
2 Maria Gerasimova is a Bulgarian lawyer with professional experience in local government and
academia focused on NGO law issues. She is currently working on her Master’s in Publi c Administration
at the University of Kentucky. This article was authored during Ms. Gerasimova’s term as a senior fellow
at the International Center for Not -for -Profit Law. This publication was made possible through support
provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development, under the terms of Award No. EDG -A-00 -01 –
00002 -00. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views
of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
3 In another example of this mod el, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia in 2004
adopted an initiative to establish a “Unit of the Government for Cooperation with the Non -Governmental
Sector in the Republic of Macedonia.” The Unit will be mainly responsible for establishing confid ence and
furthering cooperation between the Government and NGOs “as two fundamental preconditions for
modernization and development of the civil society in Macedonia.” Among other tasks, the Unit will be
responsible for preparing a program and strategy for cooperation, facilitating legislative initiatives affecting
NGOs, financing NGOs, undertaking educational programs, and coordinating cooperation among the
various Ministries and NGOs. It is expected that the Unit will launch its activities in 2005.
4 This acronym stands for “quasi -nongovernmental organization” and is used to designate NGOs
formed by branches of government that function as NGOs despite a lack of independence from the state.
5 Nilda Bullain and Radost Toftisova, “ A Comparative Analysis of E uropean Policies and
Practices of NGO -Government Cooperation ” (Budapest, Hungary, ECNL February 2004).
6 .
7 A compact is a policy document outlining the principles of cooperation between th e public sector
and organized civil society and establishing the basic structure of the future partnership. See Daimar Liiv,
Guidelines for the Preparation of Compacts , 3 International Journal of Not -for -Profit Law (2001), available
at . See also .
8 Based on a phone interview with Fedor Cerne, National Coordinator for Cooperation with NGOs
(May 27, 2004 ).
9 .
10[eng].htm .
11 Email from Izabella Szaniawska, Head of Legal Division, Department of Public Benefit, to Maria
Gerasimova (May 14, 2004).

© International Center for Not -for -Prof it Law 2005.
All rights reserved.

12 Based on a telephone interview with Malgo rzata Mazur, Department of Public Benefit (June 25,
13 At the same time, at the instance of the Ministry of Finance, and to the dismay of NGOs, the
maximum deduction allowed under the tax laws for charitable contributions was reduced to 350 zl
(appro ximately $100) for individual donors and 10 percent of the donated amount for corporate donors.
14 .
15 In the beginning of 1992, the Czech National Council enacted an amen dment to the
Privatization Act allocating part of the portfolio of state industry privatized by the voucher privatization
method for the needs of foundations. The State Privatization Fund established the Foundation Investment
Fund as a shareholding company to administer the 1 percent voucher privatization portfolio and then to
distribute the shares or dividends from it to foundations. See Petr Jan Pajas. “ Endowments of
Foundations Receive Contributions form the State Privatization Fund of the Czech Republic ” 2 The
International Journal of Not -for -Profit Law (August 1999), .
16 Ibid.
17 Phone interview with Petr Pajas, Vice -President for Ad ministration, The New Anglo -American
College (June 4, 2004)
18 Hana Fristenska, Secretary, GCNGO, and Martin Vysin, “ Non -State Non -Profit Organizations in
the Czech Republic ” (June 8, 2004).
19 Supra, Note 17.
20 Letter by email from Martin Vysin, Secretaria t of the Governmental Council for Non -State Non –
Profit Organizations, to Maria Gerasimova (June 30 , 2004) .
21 Supra, Note 17.
22 Telephone interview with Tereza Horska, Senior Counselor of the Council.
23 Information on areas of cooperation is largely based on the presentation “Overview of
NGO/Government Relations in the Legal Framework of Civil Society in Slovakia after 1989,” delivered at
a conference on “Governments and NGOs in the Accession Countries,” April 14 -16, 2003, Budapest.
24 .
25 Government of Republic of Croatia, Program of Work for 2000 -2004 (as cited in “From Vision to
Change,” publication by the Government Office for NGOs, 2003) .
26 http:/ / .
27 For detailed information on the new model see Cvjetana Plavsa -Matic and Katerina Hadzi –
Miceva, “A New Model for Civil Society Development in Croatia,” SEAL, W inter 2003/Spring 2004, pg. 43, .
28 “With the adoption of the Act on Income from Games of Chance and Competitions (2002) the
material basis was formed for the foundation of the National Foundation for the Development of the Civil
Socie ty, as some of the money, as determined by Article 10 of this Act, intended for organizations which
contribute to the development of the civil society, will be directed to the National Foundation. According to
the Decree adopted by the Government of the Re public of Croatia in March 2003, the level of that
expenditure on the activities of the National Foundation amounts to 14% of the total part of the income
from games of chance which is directed towards NGOs, according to Article 10 of the Act on Income fro m
Games of Chance and Competitions.” “From Vision to Change,” publication by the Government Office for
NGOs, 2003.
29 The Decision on Amendment of the Decision for Establishment of the Council for Development
of Civil Society and Election of President and M embers of the Council (Official Gazette of R. Croatia no.

© International Center for Not -for -Prof it Law 2005.
All rights reserved.

111/2003) specifically enumerates the Ministries that can nominate representatives and the fields from
which NGOs can nominate their own representatives.
30 .
31 Email from Nora Sasvari, Head of Unit, Government Office of Equal Opportunities, and Dr.
Gyorgy Bodi, Director, to Maria Gerasimova (May 27, 2004), and phone interview.
32 See discussion of the Civil Fund, below.
33 Bullain and T oftisova, supra Note 2.
34 Supra , Note 31.
35 Email from the Directorate of Institutional Analysis and Relations with Associative Environment
to Maria Gerasimova (June 10, 2004).
36 http://ro .
37 Mona Musca and Horia Paul Terpe, “ Developing a Percentage Law: The Romanian
Experience ,” SEAL (Summer/Autumn 2004), pp. 31, 44, .
38 Supra, Note 35.
39 Ibid.
40 Kristi na Mand, Director of the Network of Estonian Non -Profit Organizations, phone interview
(May 24, 2004); Kristina Mand, “ Implementing Partnership: Non -Profits and Public Authorities in Estonia ”
(May 25, 2004).
41 .
42 .
43 Phone interview with Maris Puurmann, Estonian Ministr y of Internal Affairs, Local Government
and Regional Administ ration Department (May 25, 2004 ).
44 Supra, Note 40.
45 Email from Kristina Mand (August 23, 2004) .
46 Kristina Mand, Director of the Network of Estonian Non -Profit Organizations , phone interview
(M ay 24, 2004 ).
47 .
48 Email from Inese Vaivare, Deputy Director, Department of Social Integration, to Maria
Gerasimova (May 12, 2004.) PHARE is “one of the thr ee pre -accession instruments financed by the
European Union to assist the applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe in their preparations for
joining the European Union.” http://europ .
49 .
50 Marius Navadunskis, Ministry of Social Security and Labor, “ Overview of NGOs -Government
Relations and the Legal Framework of Civil Society in Lithuania ” (May 19, 2004).
51 -1025581663 .
52 .