Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) across the European Union (EU) are encountering growing obstacles when it comes to executing their initiatives. This is highlighted in both the 2022 European Commission's rule of law report and a report from the European Civic Forum.
CSOs are currently grappling with challenges in attaining secure, regular, and sustainable financial support. Given the substantial variation in the availability of sustainable funding across various policy sectors, CSOs in certain sectors find themselves especially impacted.
Operating grants provided by the European Commission serve as a crucial funding source for European CSOs. Unfortunately, the discrepancy in the availability of sustainable funding across different policy sectors is currently placing health-focused CSOs at a distinct disadvantage.
The allocation of operating grants has transitioned to an annual basis, leaving health-focused CSOs in an uncertain environment with no assurance that the programme will be maintained in the future.
The EU4Health Civil Society Alliance organised an event in the European Parliament on June 26th 2023, gathering representatives from CSOs from various sectors to discuss the ways forward to ensure sustainable funding of civil society across sectors. In particular, EU funding provided in the form of operating grants plays a crucial role as a funding source, allowing European CSOs to effectively contribute to EU policy making in an efficient and sustainable manner.
Several insights are shared below:
- CSOs across all sectors universally view operating grants as an essential funding programme.
- Multi-year frameworks for Operating Grants empower CSOs to stay dedicated to their core activities, which encompass advocacy and policymaking.
- CSOs in all sectors encounter challenges with funding programmes, including the lack of multiannual financial frameworks, imbalances in co-funding rates across programmes, and the necessity or request to diversify their funding.
- Regular and reliable funding through multiannual frameworks is necessary for supporting policy advocacy work. In the absence of such a framework, health CSOs are currently placed in a disadvantaged and uncertain position, with a heightened risk of becoming dependent on commercial actors and interests.
The EU4Health Civil Society Alliance manifesto and the one from Civil Society 4 EU both advocate for more robust funding mechanisms. It is strongly urged the European Commission Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) to reintroduce a multi-year framework for Operating Grants dedicated to health CSOs.
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