The Council for Cooperation between the Government and the Civil Society does not agree with the suspension of the procedure for adoption of the Draft-Program for financing the activities of the associations and foundations of the General Secretariat of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia for 2022. With this decision, the Government abandons the current good practice for consultations with the Council and civil society organizations, which is contrary to its commitments declared in the Government Work Program 2022 – 2024, especially in terms of providing a favorable environment for civil society work and the reform of the state financing of the civil society organizations.
The Council, as was the case in the past four years, after conducting a wide process of consultations with civil society, approved the Draft Program for financing the program activities of the associations and foundations of the General Secretariat of the Government for 2022. Unfortunately, the Draft-Program was removed from the agenda of the session of the General Collegium of State Secretaries, due to a negative opinion from the Ministry of Finance with the explanation that the funds in the amount of 15,000,000 denars planned in the budget of the General Secretariat are strictly earmarked. Namely, during the review of the Amended-Draft Budget, in a government procedure it was noted that the funds in the amount of 15,000,000 denars will be allocated for the needs of the Red Cross of the Republic of North Macedonia, and for financing the program activities of citizens’ associations and foundations are planned funds in the Ministry of Political System and Inter-Community Relations.
The Council welcomes the Government’s decision to allocate funding to civil society organizations in the Ministry of Political System and Inter-Community Relations and encourages other institutions to follow suit. The Council is consulted and involved in programming the funding priorities of the funds provided in the Ministry of Political System and these funds will be allocated in accordance with the priorities and objectives of this ministry, which relate to ensuring social cohesion between different ethnic communities, minorities and vulnerable groups in our society.
The Draft Program for financing the program activities of the associations and foundations of the General Secretariat of the Government for 2022, which was a practice for more than 10 years, defines priorities and goals that provide funding for civil society organizations and their activities related to meeting the priorities and the reforms defined in the Work Program of the whole Government, and not the priorities of a specific ministry or department. The question arises as to what funds, if not funds provided in the budget of the General Secretariat of the Government, will finance the activities of civil society organizations related to reforms in tackling corruption, rule of law, justice system, economic growth and development, European integration, etc.
Therefore, we believe that the decision not to provide funds in the budget for the implementation of the Draft Program of the General Secretariat of the Government for financing the program activities of associations and foundations, directly undermines the role and mandate for which the Cooperation Council was established. The Government and the civil society organizations are in contradiction with the goals for improvement of the enabling environment for the work of the civil society and the reform of the system of state financing of the civil society organizations determined in the Work Program of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia for the period 2022 – 2024 and are also in contradiction to the Strategy for Cooperation with and Development of Civil Society 2022 – 2024.
We demand not to abandon the long-standing positive practice of financing civil society organizations from the Budget of the General Secretariat of the Government of the RNM in 2022, which we are aware is a year of multiple crisis – health, energy and economic, which disproportionately affect more civil society organizations and above all the citizens whose needs are met and whose interests they represent. We remind the Government and the public that the final beneficiaries of these funds are the citizens of this country to more easily overcome the challenges they face, which are drastically increased in a period of crisis.
The Council requests an urgent rebalance of the Budget of RNM and the provision of additional 15,000,000 denars in the Budget of the General Secretariat of the Government of RNM on item 463 for transfers to NGOs that will be distributed to civil society organizations through a public call, according to the Draft-program for financing the program activities of the associations and foundations for 2022.
Ignoring the views of the Council for Cooperation between the Government and the civil society calls into question the role and mandate of this body for the establishment of which a decade-long battle was fought.
If the position of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia is not changed and an urgent rebalance of the budget is not approached, which will provide additional 15,000,000 denars for the implementation of the Draft Program of the General Secretariat of the Government for financing the program activities of associations and foundations for 2022, the members of the Council from the ranks of civil society organizations will boycott the work of this advisory body until the final resolution of this issue.
—————————————————24 March 2022