Manifestos of NGOs

Prior to every election since 2007 in Estonia NENO has outlined proposals for improvement of civil society.

The functioning of democracy and development of society depends on the vitality of the civil society, that is, on the active participation of the citizens in discussing common issues, making decisions and implementing them. This results not only in better decisions and more effective implementation, but also in greater trust and cooperation among people. A strong civil society thus brings about economic growth, security, improvement in public health and a rise in the quality of life.

Non-governmental organizations, – non-profit organizations, foundations, and associations founded and run by the citizens themselves, organizations where people work toward common goals – play a unique role in fostering this cooperation. Currently, there are over 24,000 such organizations in Estonia. An estimated quarter of a million people, or every fifth resident of Estonia, is involved in these activities and the number is growing. The organizations also represent an increasingly significant economic power – they provide about 5% of the jobs in Estonia.

Estonia’s development – also in the field of civil society – sets an example for many neighbouring and faraway countries. Already in 2002, the Riigikogu approved the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept (known as EKAK), which defines the complimentary roles of public authorities and civic initiative. The Local Initiative Support Programme was started successfully and our legislation allows organizations to operate freely in Estonia. Organizations have become stronger and the citizens’ interest to participate in their activities is increasing as citizens wish to take part in the development of the society.

However, we still see that there are great needs and opportunities for development regarding involving the citizenry, improving the capacity of non-governmental organizations, as well as changing the attitudes of the public and business sectors and improving their readiness for cooperation with the NGOs. This is especially apparent if we compare Estonia to developed Western countries.

We, the non-governmental organizations of Estonia, can and want to be a bridge between the citizens and the government. With the help of a strong civil society, we want to provide support to policies that value and appreciate civic initiative, so that with the cooperation of the state and non-governmental organizations, life in Estoniawould improve and become more secure.

We propose to the political parties the activities to be implemented by the 11thRiigikogu (Parliament) and the incoming government, which will help to strengthen civil society and non-governmental organizations in Estonia. We feel it necessary that the following principles be included in the programmes of the political parties and in the coalition agreement:

Improved decisions

  • To create rules in each ministry, based on the Good Practice of Involvement, to involve the citizens and the civil society organizations in the policy making and legislative drafting processes, so that this would become a natural part of officials’ everyday work.
  • To support activities that increase the capacity of non-governmental organizations to participate in decision-making processes and to advocate in behalf of its target groups.
  • To establish a training system for the officials related to civil society to help them enhance a dialogue with NGOs.

Citizens’ awareness and activism

  • To prepare a national civic education programme in cooperation with NGOs for a minimum of five years and actively involve mass media resources to carry this out.
  • To introduce internships in NGOs into the curricula of secondary schools, allowing students to become familiar with NGO activities and with the students’ own opportunities for participation.
  • To start up a programme in cooperation with youth organizations to encourage civic activism among young people.
  • To support informal education programs and in-service training for NGOs.
  • To support activities directed at the development of the strategic planning and management capacity of NGOs (training, internships, mentoring programmes, self-evaluation methods, etc.)
  • To provide support from the state budget for the development of a voluntary action system during the next five years.
  • As the public sector, set an example for the business sector by allowing each employee to take 1-2 days a year off for volunteer activities with a non-governmental organization. In crisis situations, having the state compensate employers the per diems of the volunteers.

Vitality and sustainability of the organizations

  • To create a comprehensive vision and uniform principles for the financing of non-governmental organization by public authorities, clearly defining project-based funding, subsidies and the delivery of contractual services.
  • To make a transition to long-term framework contracts in the case of subsidies for organizations in order to guarantee sustainability .
  • To initialize a programme for supporting start-up NGOs.
  • To create a foundation for developing civil society in order to guarantee the sustainable development of organizations.
  • To set up a programme to promote social entrepreneurship and revenue-creating activities of NGOs.
  • To reorganize tax policies in order to guarantee that private individuals have the opportunity to make unlimited tax-free charitable donations.
  • To differentiate non-profit organizations that are acting in the public or private interest in the register, as well as those founded by civic initiative or by the public sector.
  • To create a public non-profit organization register and conduct state statistical calculations based on a satellite account of the sector.
  • To carry out a general mapping of the sector once every five years.

We wish for the sections of the upcoming coalition agreement concerning the NGOs to be discussed in the presence of the representatives of these organizations.

The Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations is ready to contribute to putting the given activities into practice, and if necessary, to provide support with expert consultations. We believe that cooperation will guarantee a strong civil society in Estonia.