The adopted Strategy for improving the incentive environment for work of NGO 2018-2020 does not reflect the needs of non-governmental organisations in Montenegro. It represents one more document that the Government obviously created just for itself and for the needs of checking their obligations in the EU integration process.
Out of at least five key segments proposals, submitted by the non-governmental organisations during the public debate on the draft of the Strategy, aiming to improve this document, and which represent needs of the civil society, the Government accepted only one – that the Council for the development of the NGOs should not be integrated into the Council for the Reform of the Public Administration.
The Government managed to avoid to define the policy of the allocation of state premises and land to NGOs. The need for adequate addressing of this issue, and for prescribing precise conditions for the allocation of premises and land to NGOs, was recognised in the 2016 Report of the European Commission for Montenegro. The content of the Strategy only leaves the possibility for this issue to be resolved, but it doesn’t appear in the Action plan, therefore it is meaningless. The lack of transparent procedures in this area opens space for the Government to make discretionary decisions on which NGO should be provided land or premises, in regard to their political suitability.
Paradoxically, the Strategy that should support the development of the non-governmental sector does not contain any signle measure for strenghtening the capacities of non-governmental organisations. That is a clear statement of the Government that it does not need developed non-governmental organisations. The Strategy points that the Government does not want powerful civil society, but that it mostly plans to strenghten capacities of the civil servants for the cooperation with NGOs. With these measures and attitude towards NGOs, which don’t have the support to develop their capacities, following question emerges: with whom will the Government, i.e. civil servants, cooperate?
The Government rejected the proposal of NGOs on encouraging social entrepreneurship. The document does not contain also measures for creation of strategy document in this field that might help the allevation of the greatest problem in Montenegro – the unemployment, through activities of social corporations.
Furthermore, although the European Commission underlined in the 2016 Report for Montenegro that smear campaigns targeting civil society activists have continued, the Government still hasn’t provided any strategic response to this issue. These phenomena, that still last, were not even noted in the Strategy, even though they directly refer to the freedom of speech of NGO activists, or the environment in which NGOs operate, which is the subject of this document.
The Government’s attitude towards the development of the non-governmental sector can be clearly seen through financial segment of the document. Out of total of 34 activities stated in the Action plan, the implementation of only 12 activities will be funded from the budget, and total amount the Government invests in the implementation of the Strategy is 12,000 EUR. Essentially, this document will be implemented with financial support of the EU Technical Support Project, which is not even the project the Government of Montenegro provided. Financial support of the Government is the best indicator of its attitude towards this issue.
This document has shown what occurs when NGOs don’t participate in the drafting process. Therefore, this Strategy represents the Government’s point of view on the needs for the development of the civil society. Unfortunately, that viewpoint indicates serious lack of knowledge on key elements for the civil society development and at the same time, deliberate bypassing of proper measures that can essentially contribute to the work of NGOs. As we warned during the public debate, if this document is adopted without incorporation of key suggestions of NGOs, it won’t enhance further development of NGOs, but it will serve the Government for formal reports to international actors.
The Coalition of NGOs Cooperation to the Goal currently brings together 99 NGOs from the entire Montenegro and represents a largest organized coalition of NGOs in Montenegro.
Ana Novaković, president of the Management Board
- Centre for Civic Education (CCE) is a member of the Coalition of NGOs Cooperation to the Goal, and in this capacity has a representative in the MB.