"Citizens at work", or how more than 300 000 people became part of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria for the past 7 years

family photo
family photo
Georgi Stoytchev, Executive Director, Open Society Institute, Sofia
Georgi Stoytchev, Executive Director, Open Society Institute, Sofia
Georgi Stoytchev and  Kerstin Wahlberg
Georgi Stoytchev and Kerstin Wahlberg
04-07-2024 16:44

With many inspiring and exciting stories, discussions, videos, an exhibition, and even theater, the concluding event of the “Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria” took place today.

“I want to thank the over 250 civil organizations that implemented projects under the ‘Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria.’ These organizations are the face of the fund. If citizens like this face, they will appreciate the fund's contribution. Over the past seven years, this has been, in my opinion, the largest and most thematically comprehensive program supporting the civil sector in Bulgaria,” stated Georgi Stoychev, Executive Director of the Open Society Institute – Sofia, at the event’s opening.

He highlighted the significant role of the “Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria” in Bulgaria's public life: “In this uncertain environment, what we as an operator tried to do was to ensure that the fund could support the long-term initiatives and goals of civil organizations, despite all the instability. On the other hand, we aimed to ensure that civil organizations could adapt to this changing environment and address both new problems and new opportunities. The implementation model of this program was even more important. It stands out with three characteristics. First – respect for the independence of civil organizations. The fact that public money supports the activities of civil organizations should not come at the expense of their independence. Second – trust in civil organizations to manage the resources for their activities independently, and third – the donors’ willingness to support the authentic goals and mission of civil organizations, without imposing their priorities. And I think this model is contagious,” said Mr. Stoychev.

From the donors’ side, Ms. Kerstin Wahlberg from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway opened the event. She noted that the provided funds are not the only factor for successfully implemented initiatives – motivation, dedication, passion, and well-drafted rules are also necessary. “We must continue the fight for democratic values and against media disinformation, hate speech, and extremism, as well as efforts to keep disadvantaged children in school.”

Ms. Wahlberg announced the beginning of a new program period, which will continue to support civil society: “We are already looking towards the new program period. We know everyone is wondering what comes next. The good news is that an agreement has been reached between the EU and the donors, which is yet to be signed. After that, negotiations will begin with each beneficiary state. We know there will be a new program period, and 10% of the entire budget will be allocated to civil society,” she noted.

Partner organizations from Norway and Poland participated in the event. Representatives from the “Norwegian Support Group after the July 22 Terrorist Attack” also attended. Beneficiaries and the audience discussed important topics at the heart of the fund – media literacy and disinformation, attitudes towards hate speech, manifestations of violence and bullying, the role of art and media in civic activism, and many others. Support for Ukrainian refugees and the Roma community was also a significant focus. Over the past six years, 121 Roma youth studying health specialties received scholarships and mentorship support for their education.