In Hungary there is no shortage of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), but the quality of their work cannot always be guaranteed. NGOs often lack the necessary management skills and sufficient budgetary resources. Switzerland has been supporting NGO projects in Hungary with a total contribution of CHF 5 million. This support was based on the belief that strong NGOs and a vibrant civil society play an important role in the development of the whole society.
NGOs often carry out tasks and provide services to the population which are otherwise inadequately met by the state or the private sector or not provided at all. In addition, Switzerland wanted to promote and strengthen the participation of civil society in the economic and social development of the country.
Integration of Roma and environmental issues
Of the 102 NGO projects supported, 67 have been implemented in the area of social services, with a special focus on the social integration of Roma. The remaining 35 projects dealt with environmental issues. Both areas corresponded to an explicit desire expressed by the Hungarian partners at the start of the programme in 2012. The selecting of the projects to be funded was carried out through two calls for tender, both of which met with great interest.
School support and leisure activities
In Hungary, funds are scarce for the support and integration of disadvantaged children and young people, leading to a high drop-out rate in schools. With its scholarship fund worth a total of CHF 1 million, Switzerland has supported nine small-scale projects, enabling 679 pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to continue and complete their education. The funds were used to provide Hungarian schoolchildren with extra tuition, for example, or information on educational opportunities. The money also opened up new leisure pursuits to them, such as sporting and cultural activities.
NGOs as pioneers
Both programmes have been implemented by a consortium consisting of four experienced Hungarian NGOs. The criticisms of administrative shortcomings levelled by the Hungarian supervisory authority were able to be resolved, resulting in the successful completion of all the activities to the satisfaction of the Hungarian and Swiss authorities.
The results and experiences of both programmes were at the centre of the closing event on 12 October. In his speech, Ulrich Stürzinger, head of division at the SDC, pointed out that in Switzerland too, NGOs often lead the way with new approaches and solutions, which are later picked up by government – especially in the areas of social services and environmental standards. The successful conclusion of these programmes is an encouragement to Hungary to continue in the same direction.