Civic Dignity names 124 winners of grant competition for human rights NGOs

posted 9 Dec 2013, 10:31 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 Dec 2013, 10:34 ]
5 December 2013

Source: (info)

One hundred and twenty-four NGOs from 47 Russian regions have won government-funded grants as a result of a competition carried out by the NGO Civic Dignity.

The Agency for Social Information reports that human rights NGOs will receive grants ranging from 300,000 roubles to 7m roubles to fund their projects.

The results of the competition were published on the website of Civic Dignity on 5 December. Ella Pamfilova, who heads Civic Dignity and formerly was chair of the Presidential Council on Human Rights and Civil Society, told the Agency of Social Information that the 124 winners are from 47 Russian regions; 44 are from Moscow; 7 from St. Petersburg; and 6 each from Sverdlovsk and Perm. Other Russian regions were represented by one or more grants.

The decision to distribute 200m roubles to support human rights organizations was taken by President Putin in the context of a reduction of financing for NGOs from foreign sources caused, among other things, by the law on ‘foreign agents’.

In the framework of the competition, grants have been awarded for projects in the field of human and civil rights and freedoms, including the development of public oversight and the advancement of civic education. The competition was announced in September, with applications to be submitted by NGOs from 1 October until 1 November 2013. Despite the little time available for NGOs to prepare submissions, Civic Dignity received 713 applications, of which 467 passed the first stage of the selection process.

Twenty-six experts took part in the assessment of the applications. Each proposal was initially evaluated by two experts in terms of 8 criteria on a four-point system (4 – yes; 3 – probably yes; 2 probably no; 1 – no). In addition, each expert assessed the proposed project as a whole and made detailed comments on it. The proposals that received widely differing assessments (for example, one positive the other negative) by the two allocated experts were sent to a third expert for review. Sixty-one applications received the highest score (i.e. 4 from both experts).The results of the evaluation were reviewed at a meeting of the competition commission consisting of well-known public figures. On 2 December a meeting of the competition commission, in which 17 experts also took part, lasted more than 7 hours. The commission was obliged to recommend that the budgets of the largest projects be cut.

"Among the first ranks of the winners there are a large number of good projects, each of which will be implemented in a large number of Russian regions and therefore are very expensive,” Ella Pamfilova wrote in a statement issued presenting the results. “The cuts to the budgets that were recommended to the largest projects are reflected, in particular, in a reduction in the number of regions in which a project will be carried out.” The largest grant awarded by Civic Dignity, of 7m roubles, went to Golos Movement to Protect Voters’ Rights. The smallest grants – 300,000–500,000 roubles - went to small regional NGOs.

According to Ella Pamfilova, the commission sought to support organizations from various regions and of various levels of development – from the well-known, oldest human rights NGOs to regional groups set up by students. Among the grant winners are Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial Human Rights Centre, Civic Assistance Committee, the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia, Movement For Human Rights, Agora Human Rights Association, and others.

The range of issues that the winning projects by regional human rights NGOs deal with is wide: from protecting the rights of children, families, young people, people with disabilities and other groups of citizens (suffering from specific illnesses, living in hostels, prisoners, and so on) to the development of the system of legal aid in a specific region.

"I am glad it turns out there are many active human rights groups all over Russia,” said Elena Topoleva, a member of the commission and also of the Presidential Human Rights Council. “There were many applications, they were very strong, and it was very difficult to choose between them.”

Civic Dignity intends to give maximum feedback to grant applicants. Just as during the period for submission of applications, the website of Civic Dignity will host a question and answer section and any organization that applied for a grant but was unsuccessful will be able to get feedback on their application. The experts themselves will also be available to answer applicants’ questions by e-mail where necessary.

After the results have been analyzed, the commission will meet in special session to discuss how to improve the procedures for the competition so as to improve transparency and accessibility for a wide range of NGOs.

Civic Dignity is planning to establish a system of permanent consultations and training in the writing of grant applications, reporting on project implementation, and other skills necessary for participation in the competition in the future.