Legislation partially satisfies standards when it comes to policy (document) that regulates state support for institutional development for CSOs, project support and co-financing of EU funded projects. There is no such comprehensive document in Serbia, but some elements are recognized in the area of the project basis financial support.

Law on Associations (Article 38) provides the (financial) means for promoting programs or the missing share of the (financial) means for funding programs (hereinafter referred to as the program) that the associations are carrying out and are of public interest shall be secured out of the Republic of Serbia budget. The Government or the ministry responsible for the association’s area of work assigns the funds on the basis of the completed open competition and shall conclude contracts for the implementation of the approved programs.

On a basis of this article, Government Regulation (by-law) on financing programs of public interest (Regulation) addresses the issue of allocation of funds on the basis of a public invitation issued by the competent authority and published on the official website and E-Government portal, as well as the criteria, conditions, area, method, distribution process, and manner and process of reimbursement.

However, there are also several other laws and regulations directly referring to the project based financing sectorial CSOs such as youth, culture, persons with disabilities (including institutional support), criminal law in the part on distribution of money raised through the institute of deferral of prosecution etc. Distribution of the funds mentioned above is being conducting out of Government Regulation.

0 – 20 Fully disabling environment20 – 40 Disabling environment
40 – 60 Partially enabling environment60 – 80 Enabling environment
80 – 100 Fully enabling environment

Partially enabling environment is also recognized regarding national-level mechanism for distribution of public funds to CSOs. Serbia has not set up a special mechanism for the allocation of funds. Article 38 of the Law on Associations provides that the Government shall specify the criteria, conditions, scope, method, allocation procedure as well as the method and procedure of restitution of the means. These provisions shall also apply accordingly to the (financial) means allocated to the associations out of the budgets of the Autonomous Province Vojvodina and local self-government units. Regulation provides that funds are allocated in the budget line 481 on the basis on public competition managed by the commission established by the state administration body in charge of public interest area.

Same is with public funds for CSOs which are partially clearly planned within the state budget. Government Regulation only applies to appropriations under the budget line 481 – Donations to NGOs but there is no specific percentage for distribution.  However, payments to other legal entities are also made from this budget line without applying the provisions of the Regulation. Outside the regulation, CSOs are also receiving funds from several other budget lines: 472 – Compensations for social protection, 451 – Subventions to public non-financial corporations, 423 – Contract services, 424 – Specialized services, 462 – Grants for international organizations.

Also, the Law on games on chance provides that 40% of the funds collected under this law, shall be used for funding the Serbian Red Cross and other social organizations and associations of persons involved in programs aimed at protecting and improving the general position of organizations, sports and local self-management without further instructions for its delivering.

However, when it comes to clear procedures for CSO participation in all phases of the public funding cycle, legislation is not in line with standards. Article 8 of the Regulation provides that competent institutions will form a commission for the implementation of the competition and appoint persons who will feel in their work. Members of the commission have to sign conflict of interest statement. Article 10 establishes a framework for participation of the experts in the work of the commission, as well as in the preparation of the analysis on the success, quality and achievement of the goals of the programs being implemented. There are no other specific legal provisions aimed to requirement for consultations with CSOs in this regard.

Partially enabling environment has been notified when it comes to responding CSOs needs within available public funding. According to the Budget Law of RS for 2019, total amount of funds planned for CSOs support was 64.431.679,49 EUR from the budget line 481 (grants to NGOs) Data gathered through FoI requests showed that sum of all known contracted projects is 3,9 million of EUR, which is significantly less than it was planned to be.  Having in mind that total number of registered CSOs was almost 33.500 average amounts per CSOs was 1914 EUR. However, all registered CSO aren’t active and don’t apply for state funds. On the other side, Budget execution law wasn’t announced in the last few years and there are no official data on funds spent for those purposes.

In 2018 this amount was 61.444.201,31 EUR and 61.840.465,42 EUR in 2017, which indicates an increase of about 5% compared to both previous years.

Answering to FoI request, Ministry for innovation and technologic development stated that 6 projects implemented by associations were supported in 2019 economical classification 423 – Contract services in total amount of 162.653 EUR. Ministry of Culture and Information reported that around 1,2 million EUR were allocated from economical classification 481; Ministry of Education, Science and technological development allocated nearly 199 thousands EUR from economical classification 424 to CSOs and more than 75.000 EUR from economical classification 481 through public call. Additional documentation sent to us indicates that more than 556.000 EUR were allocated to CSOs by direct giving. Ministry of Sport and Youth allocated 1,3 million EUR to CSOs; Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications allocated bit a more than 1 million EUR. Ministry of Economy allocated more than 85 thousand EUR to only one CSO for one project, based on Contract service in entrepreneurship education area. It could be seen as example of illegal procedure, bearing in mind there is separate economical classification for this type of contracting. MSALSG reported that more than 49.000 EUR were allocated to CSOs from the budget line 424 and almost 203.000 EUR from budget line 481.

Total amount of funds planned to be allocated in 2019 budget from line 472 (social protection fees from state budget) was 963.721.137 EUR. That is less amount than it was planned in 2018 (965.729.101 EUR) and 2017 when it was planned more than a billon EUR for this purpose, which indicates a decrease of around 3,5% for both previous years. However, this amount is envisaged for financing a wide range of services/giving: child protection, veterans’ and PWD’s protection, social protection, transition fund, pupils’’ standards, students’ standards, – Young Talent Fund, sports scholarships, awards and honors, refugees and displaced persons, other social protection fees from the budget. At the same time, from this amount different CSOs licensed to providing social services had right to apply for part of this funds intended for provision of social service. Totally 558 organizations were licensed for providing social services till the end of 2019 and 111 of them (nearly 20%) are CSOs.

Only 2 state bodies allocated funds for co-financing of EU and other projects were Government Office for cooperation with Civil Society (GOCCS) and the Ministry of Youth and Sport (MYS). In the 2019 GOCCS allocated bit a more than 38.000 EUR for co-financing 6 CSOs’ projects, supported by EU within EIDHR program; MYS allocated almost 29.000 EUR for co-financing 4 CSOS’ programs and projects in the youth sector areas approved by the European Commission through the Erasmus + EU program and cross-border cooperation programs. Most of other state bodies (Ministries, Offices, and Agencies) allocated funds only for project /program support to CSOs, but not for their institutional development. All answers gathered from state bodies via FoI request indicate that they supported only CSOs project’ and program’s activities.

According to the MM Survey, 23 out of 52 CSOs reported they used state financial support for concrete project or activity; only 1 CSO reported that used grant for co-financing of EU projects or other projects; 6 CSOs reported they used Government programs and benefits for stimulating employment in CSOs; 2 CSOs reported they used Government programs and benefits for stimulating volunteering in CSOs; 10 CSOS used non-financial state support; 8 CSOs were contracted for service delivery. 8 CSOs reported they used institutional support grants. From 30 CSOs that reported use of state funds, only 3 expressed agreement that available public funding meets the needs of civil society organizations Only 4 CSOs reported that majority of its annual budget (more than 50%) comes from state bodies’ funds, 17 CSOs stated that share was less than 50%, in the fact 10 of them had less than 20%. 26 CSOs (50%) reported on share from LSG funds in their budgets – only 1 was 100% financed by LSG, 3 CSOs were 90% financed by LSGs, 13 CSOs’ received less than 30% of annual budget from LSGs, 14 CSOs received less than 50% of annual budget from LSGs.

According to ACT Study on CSOs sector in Serbia in 2019 while 33% of them stated they were financed by local self-government, 10% of them by different Ministries, 75 by Regional government. Almost 1/3 (29 %) was financed by the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs (MLEVS); the same as by the Ministry of Culture and Information (28%). When asked directly about LG funding, the majority of the CSOs from ACT Study (72%) responded that LGs do not finance their work. CSOs that provide social services (41%), those from Eastern (46%) and Western Serbia (43%), those established prior to 1990 (41%) and those with small to medium-sized budgets (37%-38%) are most often funded by LG.

There is no clearly established list of areas of public interest by the Regulation. However, there is variety of policy areas for which funds are available to CSOs (employment, social issues and services, support to PwD, human rights protection, culture, environmental protection, agriculture, education and science, youth and sports, health, socio-economic development, etc.).

However, practice is not in line with standards regarding government bodies with a clear mandate for distribution and/or monitoring of the distribution of state funding. There is no state institution with a mandate to allocate the biggest share of state funding. All state bodies and local self-government have mandate to allocate state funds to CSOs. Data gathered through FoI requests show that biggest amount of funds was allocated by Ministry of Youth and Sport. However, according to the Budget law 2019 the biggest amount for donations to CSOs (budget line/economical classification 481) was planned to be allocated by Ministry of Youth and Sport – almost 468 thousand of EUR and that amount was planned for sports associations and federations’ programs.

According to ACT Study, funding of CSOs that are financed by the ministries most often comes from the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs (MLEVSA) (29%), followed by the Ministry of Culture and Information (28%), and the Ministry of Environmental Protection (10%). Funds are distributed in line with the CSO area of work (for example, most of the funding from MLEVSA goes to CSOs that provide social services – 54%).

There is no state body for monitoring the implementation of state funded projects. Monitoring process should be done by each body which allocated fund for CSOs’ programs/projects, but clear definition and unique monitoring methodology is missing, as well as  obligation to individual evaluations and summary evaluation of the effects of the competition in relation to the strategic document of the body in a particular area of public interest be done, and the evaluation reports (individual and summary one) published on the website of the competent authority body and on the eGovernment portal. 

Practice partially met standards when it comes to predictability of funding and easiness to identify it within the state budget. Funds from budget line 481 (grants for civil society organizations) and 472 (financing services of social protection) are used for financing sport clubs, churches and religious communities, public institutions, the Red Cross, which already have their own line defined within the budget. Comparing to 2017 and 2018, an increase of about 5% for funds planned from budget line 481 and decrease of around 3,5% for funds planned from budget line 472 were recorded.

According to the Law on Budget for 2019, MYS (11,3 million EUR), Ministry of Finance (9,5 million EUR) and MLEVSA (almost 816.000 EUR) were planned to distribute the biggest amount funds from two mentioned lines. MYS and MLEVSA regularly announced public calls during the 2019 on their web pages. However, any public call wasn’t announced at Ministry of Economy web page although they were distributing funds for CSOs.

Partially enabling environment has also been identified regarding CSO participation in the public funding. Government Regulation provides only possibility for representatives of the expert public, including CSOs representatives, to participate in commissions for public calls’ implementation.

Ministry of Culture and Information reported that calls for election of CSO representatives in decision-making/advisory bodies of public foundations/ institutions allocating state funding weren’t announced. Ministry of Youth and Sport answered that representatives of Serbian Olympic Committee, Serbian Para-Olympic Committee, Serbian Sport Federation and Serbian Institute for Sports and Sport Medicine participated in public funding cycle. MYS didn’t report on youth CSOs representatives’ participation in decision-making/advisory bodies. Ministry of Education, Science and Technological development reported that there is no body gathering CSOs representatives with mandate to decide on public fund allocation. However, MESTD reported that an opinion of National Councils of national minorities should be obtained when funds need to be allocated to CSOs’ for project related to national minorities. MTTT reported there were no CSOs representatives among members of Commissions that decided on ranking and selection of submitted applications.

From the 2019 the Government Office for cooperation with civil society (GOCCS) is responsible for creation an E-calendar of the public calls for financing projects and programs of civil society organizations from the budget funds of public administration bodies.  E-calendar presents an application through which competent authorities from all levels of government are publishing: data on planned public calls intended for financing CSOs in the current year at the beginning of the year; announced calls with the documentation (or a link to a site on the Internet where they can be found); results of published calls, including basic information on supported projects/programs and their users. Till the end of July, the calendar of the public calls currently contains data on 781 planned calls of 175 public administration bodies, or about 90% of all calls.

All CSOs participated in MM survey stated they disagree (or strongly disagree) that CSOs are contributing in setting public funding priorities.

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