On the 31st of January the Small Project Approval Committee (SPAC) responsible for the thematic area "responses to environmental concerns" has made it's supporting decision. 99 application was submitted to the call announced in 2012. After the formal screening 92 of them was assessed. The SPAC supported altogether 24 applications with 272 609 503 HUF in the small (2-10 thsd CHF) medium (10-50 thsd CHF) and macro (50-100 thsd CHF) categories.
In the first half of the application period the program managers of the operating foundations held information events and project planning workshops in 23 cities and towns, including all county seats. Altogether several hundred NGOs' representatives participated at the events. A video was shot about the project planning workshop as well, with the purpose to help project development and proposal writing with more lively methods beyond the written words.
On the 20th of March the Small Project Approval Committeeof the "provision of social services" thematic area held its second meeting, and thus, the funding decisions were taken in all thematic areas. The Scholarship Fund used its full allocation to support 9 projects altogether with 216 702 000 HUF to help marginalized children starting or finishing secondary level education. In the framework of the NGO Block Grant 24 applications were supported in the environmental thematic area while 33 projects were supported in the social services area, altogether with 497 765 149 HUF.
Micro projects could be submitted until the deadline of the 29th of April in 7 thematic areas: (1) democracy and human rights; (2) gender and equal opportunities; (3) community and organizational development; (4) youth and children issues; (5) environment and sustainable development; (6) provision of welfare and basic service to vulnerable groups; (7) empowerment of vulnerable groups, including Roma. Thanks to the great interest we received 1029 applications through the online system.
310 first-phase project concepts were submitted in the two thematic areas of the macro project call until the deadline of the 29th of March. After evaluation, the very first task of the Selection Committees was to decide which proposals had qualified to go on the second phase. The results were born on the 10th of May: in thematic area I. (human rights and advocacy) 25 while in thematic area II. (community and organization development) 18 organizations could develop their full proposal.
The 6th of May was the deadline for the individual internship applications to support 3-6 months study trips in the Donor States: eventually 15 NGO activists and leaders of organizations submitted their proposals.
Tree of they Year contest started on the 10th of May on the day of the Birds and Trees. The contest to which trees with special stroies can be nominated was announced the fourth times. We are not searching for the biggest or oldest trees in this contest but the one that is important for those who are living around it, to which they have a special bond - and this can be best reflected in the stories told about the trees. This year, 41 tres were nominated from all over the country."
The first grant decisions within the framework of the NGO Fund have been taken on 9th June 2013. Based on the recommendation of the Selection Commitees of the 7 thematic areas, the Approval Board chose to support 105 proposals, disrtibuting a total of 859,210 € out of the 1029 applications in the following distribution:
|Thematic area||Grant amount (EUR)||Number of supported proposals||Proportion to all submitted|
|A. Human rights and democracy||65 737 €||8 db||21,6%|
|B. Gender and equal opportunities||57 880 €||6 db||16,7%|
|C. Community and organisational development||157 353 €||20 db||8,5%|
|D. Youth and children issues||148 612,5 €||16 db||7,9%|
|E. Environment and sustainable development||154 140 €||23 db||9,9%|
|F. Provision of welfare and basic service to vulnerable groups||120 482,5 €||14 db||8,2%|
|G. Empowerment of vulnerable groups, including Roma||155 004 €||18 db||15,7%|
7 internship applications were supported as well - four people will go for study trip to Norway and three to Iceland.
Emese Balogh, our colleague has passed away on the 24 of July in a tragically sudden manner. After several years working for the NGO Waste Prevention Alliance she joined Ökotárs in 2011. We and the grantees of her programs keep the memory of her with her favourite quote: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" (Burke)
The Grants Committee of Ökotárs and MOL made its decision about the 118 applications received on the 12th of September. Seeing the results of last year, we enabled again condos' communities from Budapest to apply fo the to renew their inner yards besides projects by associations and foundations. The committee approved 75 applications to enter the second phase, from which 24 arrived from condos.
Similar to last years, several returning applicants were also given a chance to implement new projects. We held one day workshops for those who passed the first phase to help prepare for the second phase and start the community planning process.
On the 16th of September the Civil Advocacy Roundtable - an informal forum of discussing the legal environment of the NGO sector - held a somewhat irregular meeting. On the occasion, the Hungarian chapter of the CSO Sustainability Index 2012 published by the USAID annually during the last 15 years was presented as well.
The index measures the state and sustainability of the civil sector with a unified method across 29 countries of Middle-Europe and Eurasia. The survey measures 7 dimensions: legal environment, organizational capacity, financial viability, advocacy, service provision, infrastructure, and public image.
The Hungary index that was prepared with the involvement of Ökotárs paints a sad picture of the siutation: compared to previous years virtually all indicators have deteriorated. Thus, the overall average on the 7-point scale (where 1 is the best and 7 is worst) become 3. In the international system of the index it stands on the border of the categories enhanced and evolving sustainability.
People could casts their vote for their favorite tree in the Tree of the Year contest 2013 from the 10th of September until the 5th of November.
Out of the 41 trees nominated by private persons, NGOs, municipalities, schools, and other insitutions, the expert jury of Ökotárs selected those 12 finalists, which competed for the public votes, organized again online at http://evfaja.okotars.hu. The tree receiving the most votes became the Tree of the Year of Hungary in 2013 again.
After a short detour Virág Csóli returned to Ökotárs. From 2008 to 2011 she was managing the grants of the EEA/Norwegian NGO Fund and now she is responsible for the "green" projects of Swiss-Hungarian NGO Block Grant.
This was the seventh year since 2006 that local civil initiatives and (for the second time) condos' communities from the capital could apply to transform their environment making it greener and nicer with the involvement of the local citizens in the framework of a community action. This year, applicants who passed the first phase of the process could submit their full proposals in the second phase until the 7th of January. The plan had to be developed in a participatory, community planning process. The Grants Committee made its decision on the 15th of February: 27 out of the 41 submitted proposalsn were supported with altogether 14 502 000 HUF.
The new call for proposals of the NGO Fund was opened on the 12th of February to support macro and micro projects (in 7 thematic areas) and individual internships. The overall objective of the Hungarian NGO Fund is “strengthened civil society development and enhanced contribution to social justice, democracy and sustainable development” as the Donors defined it. Ökotárs and its partners introduced the general framework and the calls in detail at the full house opening event of the Fund held in the European Youth Centre in Budapest. The participation of 13 NGOs from Norway and Iceland served the other important goal of the programme, strengthening of bilateral partnerships with the Donor states: after their introduction they could meet and make first contact with representatives of Hungarian NGOs at a successful "speed dating" session.
From 1st to the 29th of February could the public vote for the nominees of the European Tree of the Year contest at www.treeoftheyear.org. In 2013 six countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Slovakia participated in the contest. Trees were not entered in the competition beacuse of their age or beauty but thanks to their stories and the strong supporting community that nominated them. The goal of the international competition is to present interesting European trees to the public and highlight them as important natural and historical legacy that deserves more attention and better protection. This year a Hungarian tree won the contest again, for the second time in a row: a plane tree living in the area of the thermal bath of Eger.
Gergő Horváth worked earlier for the Association of Conscious Consumers. From February onwards he joined our staff to coordinate the "green" micro projects of the NGO Fund.
A roadshow was organized in May-June to introduce to NGOs the expert assessment of the new Nonprofit Actand the related survey made by Ökotárs earlier. The events were held in Békéscsaba, Veszprém, Eger, Győr, Nyíregyháza, Szeged, Miskolc, Zalaegerszeg, Debrecen, Pécs and Budapest. We didn't only aim at presenting our work but also to collect ideas and feedback to finalize the package of amendments developed (http://civiljogok.hu/hirek/201304/24/hogyan-kellene-modositani-civil-szervezetekkel-kapcsolatos-jogszabalyi-rendelkezesek). The forums were good platforms to exchange views and several exiting new ideas came up, primarly related to the public benefit status as the organizations had to apply the new rules in relation to their 2012 annual reports for the first time exactly at that period.
In the first days of August, the evaluation of the 2nd phase macro project applications was successfully completed and the final grant decisions made. Accordingly, out of the 43 detailed proposals 14 received support in thematic area I. (human rights and advocacy) and 9 in thematic area II. (organisation and community development), with a total amount of app. 2.7 million €.
The list of supported organizations includes civil righta, women's and community develoment organizations, mainly from Budapest, but they projects serving the know how transfer to smaller civil groups and NGOs are covering the whole country. In both thematic areas there are projects focusing on the cooperation with Roma communities, too.
After the first round in 2012, the second and last call was announced on the 30th of August to distribute app. 282 million HUF with similar objectives and under similar conditions in two thematic areas A: provision of social services, B: responses to environmental concerns). This time micro and medium projects could be submitted until the 28 of October. The operators supported the applicants with gorup consultations held during September-October in the all the six target counties of Northern Hungary and the North-Great Plain.
Applications could be submitted until the 28 of October to the NGO Block Grant of the Swiss Contribution. By this date, we received 173 applications in the thematic area "provision of social services" and 65 in the area "responses to environmental concerns". After pre-screening 2 proposals were rejected in the both thematic areas, and the assessors started to evaluate the others.
On the 29 of November we celebrated the finalists of the Tree of the Year contest together with the towns, organizations and families who nominated them. Ökotárs awarded several trees and all finalists received a gift.
This year, the ever greatest number of votes, 18 661 were cast for the 12 finalist trees. The Tree of the Year nominated with the title of "The legendary old wild pear, or the story of the lonely giant" won the contest with 4059 votes. This tree stands in the botanical garden of the Saint István University, and it was planted by Count Grassalkovich in the 18th century with another 999 wild pears. By winning the contest the wild pear qualified to the final of the European Tree of the Year contest that is to be announced in the February of 2014.
The Hero Tree award was given to the 303 years old pear tree of Solymár and the 300 years old sorb tree in Teleki received the special award of the National Forestry Association.
In order to harmonize its provisions with the Civil Code, the government presented an amendment Nonprofit Act at the end of October in the Parlament. After conducting the parlamentary debate the modifiactions were accepted on the 2nd of December. Both before and during the legislative procedure several NGOs - including Ökotárs - proposed detailed modifications to develop the regulations towards a more "civil friendly" direction. Unfortunately nothing of these suggestions was reflected in the accepted legislative amendments.
Therefore, upon the initiative of Ökotárs finally 7 leading NGOs formulated and published their criticism in an open letter.
In December new calls were opened to support actions/campaigns, youth study trips and internships. All three calls address one or several of the horizontal concerns of the EEA/Norway Grants: human rights and the rights of minorities (based on ethnic, religious, linguistic and sexual orientation), equal opportunities; combating racism and xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, extremism; tolerance, multicultural understanding and social inclusion instead of discrimination and exclusion; understanding, mitigation and solution of problems arising from poverty and inequalities (with special attention to the situation of Roma); promoting gender equality, combating inequalities, gender-based and domestic violence and trafficking. Applications for Action projects can be submitted on an ongoing basis (without deadline) in a simplified procedure for a maximum of 5000 €. Any action and campaign idea is welcome that aims to raise awareness about problems occurring in the above-described areas and takes action to solve them in order to change or improve the present situation.
The youth study trips aim at giving opportunity for young people to explore good practices and examples in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. These must then be shared and promoted by them to the Hungarian audience in an easy-to-understand way via modern communication tools (blog, video sharing, facebook and other social media tools, etc.)
Ágnes Oravecz joined our team to manage the action projects of the EAA/Norway NGO Fund. Earlier she worked for the Kurt Lewin Foundation, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and later for WWF.