By Civic Alliance – Latvia
The past year has been a challenging for each of us, both individuals and the civil society as a whole. In the beginning of the year, it seemed that we had overcome the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic, but in February Russia started a brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, which created a new crisis, while strengthening solidarity in Latvia and around the world, no one remaining indifferent to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is also a test for Latvian society, and it is up to us how we manage this test – whether we become more united and more responsible towards ourselves, others and democracy. The past months have been shown how much good and warm-hearted people, ready to help to others who needs more, live in Latvia, and that there is a huge potential of civic participation and responsibility in Latvian society that was just underestimated and unrealized. We would therefore like to say that Latvian civil society has passed this ‘test’ and has shown that we are a mature democracy.
The Civic Alliance – Latvia has been involved in supporting Ukraine in various ways, including:
- organized a march in support of Ukraine “Together for Ukraine! Together against Putin!”, with more than 30 000 participants;
- together with the Latvian Scouts and Guides Central Organisation and the “Gribu palīdzēt bēgļiem” movement, organized the “Show that you are with Ukraine!” campaign, inviting people to put ribbons of the Ukrainian flag on their clothes;
- together with the European Movement in Latvia, organized the “Sunflowers for a united Europe with Ukraine” campaign, inviting everyone to show their support for the Ukrainian people, the reconstruction of Ukraine and its integration into the European Union;
- the website propozycii.lv/ was created and updated to help Ukrainian refugees find the support they need in Latvia, with CAL’s involvement in the HackForce #HackForUkraine hackathon dedicated to Ukraine;
- carried out advocacy activities to promote a more favorable legal framework for supporting the Ukrainian people, for example by improving the donation framework in the Law on Support of Ukrainian Civilians;
- ensuring the circulation of up-to-date information on how everyone can help Ukraine, while encouraging organizations and citizens to get involved in support actions and how to support safely and ethically;
- provided advice on organising support actions to Ukraine, and other related issues; – facilitated access to finance for organisations providing support to Ukraine.
In the area of interest advocacy, CAL’s priority activity in 2022 remained the representation of civil society’s interests in order to promote a supportive legal and social environment for civil society interests, develop a sustainable and multi-stakeholder funding model, and strengthen civic dialogue. This year was a parliamentary election year, therefore CAL encouraged political parties to include political commitments to strengthen civil society in their programs. The new government’s in the Declaration included a paragraph with commitment to develop and support self-organisation and resilience mechanisms, and to implement civic dialogue, and to allocate permanent state budget funding for capacity building and strengthening of civil society. We welcome this and note that it is essential that the dialogue between decision-makers and representatives of society is open, participatory, transparent and inclusive in all decision-making processes, extending also to the process of drafting the Government Declaration and Action Plan.
In 2022, CAL continued to work on strengthening non-governmental organizations by promoting the availability of funding, including availability of permanent and sufficient state budget funding to strengthen civil society capacity and civic participation in democratic processes, as well as to attract EU funding. This year we also supported financially organizations through the Active Citizens Fund.
We worked on creating new support mechanisms, including the launching the “ASNS” (Sprout) – program for the development of civil society – a platform where CSOs can seek resources for their activities, offered by other organizations, professionals, institutions and companies willing to support civil society and promote their social responsibility and sustainability.
A strong civil society also means a knowledgeable and resilient civil society, therefore CAL organized different types of training to strengthen the capacity of civil society actors. Training topics included good governance and quality management. We also organized a summer camp for leaders of organizations in August, which not only strengthened leaders professionally and mentally, but also fostered the development of informal networks of leaders working towards common goals and supporting each other.
In order to make promote civil society, in addition to the regular communication activities, including the weekly newsletter, this year the CAL launched a podcast. The content of the podcasts was about and around civil society, some of the recordings was conversations with politicians before the elections, capturing their political commitments on strengthening civil society.
On 27 February, we celebrated the 13th World NGO Day, which were celebrated in a spirit of erudition by playing the Democracy Quiz. On 21 September, for the 9th year, we held the “Human Development Award” ceremony to highlight good deeds and initiatives of civil society.
In June, we organized the “Civic Week”, which included 16 events: networking and cooperation-building activities, finding solutions for local and national civic participation, strengthening civic competence at national, local and individual level, etc. The events were held in person in different cities of Latvia, as well as remotely, with participants and experts from Latvia and abroad, including experts from Iceland and Ukraine.
CAL continued to implement the civic education initiative “Young Citizen” and developed a new format of civic education – a virtual escape room game on the values of the European Union. At the end of the year, we also finalized the Democracy Academy, a long-cherished idea to strengthen civic competence among society. The Academy will be launched in January 2023 and will be implemented with our partners – Latvian Rural Forum, South Latgale NGO Support Centre, Kurzeme NGO Centre, Valmiera Community Foundation and Zemgale NGO Centre.
In 2023, we will continue the work we have started – with a new capacity, inspiration and by taking into account the lessons learned from the recent crises.