CSOs would help, but the government does not count on them in the Recovery Plan either – rapid analysis

04 May 2021 | Members' Corner

Civil society organizations cooperating in the Civilisation coalition published an open letter in February addressed to dr. Szabolcs Ágostházy, the State Secretary for EU Development Programs, objecting to the lack of dialogue and meaningful civic participation in the development of plans for the use of EU funds expected in the coming years. Although we have not received a reply to our letter to date, Hungary’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) finally became available in its entirety  in mid-April instead of the previously published brief summaries.

As the government had to submit the RRP to the European Commission until 30 April, there was again not much time left to study the more than 400-page document. Nevertheless, several professional CSOs commented it in their specific field (e.g. Transparency International Hungary, the National Society of Conservationists – Friends of the Earth Hungary, the Hungarian Women’s Lobby and several member organizations, the Autonomia Foundation and other Roma integration organizations) and drew attention to the RRP’s weaknesses and shortcomings.

In our present rapid analysis, we examined the RRP specifically from the point of view of the extent to which (beyond consultation) the government counts on cooperation with and the contribution of CSOs in achieving the RRP’s objectives and in the implementation of its individual measures. The short answer is that it almost doesn’t – CSOs are barely mentioned in the document, and if they are, only as incidental actors among many others – most of all as contributors to the Clean Hungary program aimed at eliminating illegal waste dumps. Garbage collection – would that be the sole function of civic actors according to the government?

On the other hand, we are convinced that many of the 55,000 Hungarian CSOs are an untapped resource that can supplement the work of other sectors in almost all areas of RRP, enrich them with new elements, tools and insights, thus help achieve the objectives – the country’s development – as efficiently as possible. Without being exhaustive, (and without examining the professional content of the plan), for example, greater involvement of CSOs as an implementing organisations could be considered in the following areas:

  1. Demography and public education: According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office 13% of Hungarian CSOs are active in the field of education. Many of them could effectively participate in the creation and promotion of educational study materials (along the Educational Office) for digital or climate education. They could play part in teacher training and support reaching the educational goals with informal activities. Besides, the RRP doesn’t count on the network of family nurseries – which are often civic initiatives – when considering the capacity building of nurseries.

  2. Closing the gap in rural areas: it would be important to ensure greater use of the know-how (approaches, methods, tools) of CSOs active in the field, such as organisations working on the integration of Roma people with many years of experience. The plan – in its current form – considers only local organisations as potential actors in the implementation phase (following the instructions of the coordinating organisation, the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta). As the document itself admits, this field of work requires solutions which are tailored to the local needs and given circumstances – therefore, the experience of these professional organisations and networks should be taken into account, too, when choosing the appropriate measures.

  3. Water management and green transport: the role of CSOs might not be obvious at first glance in these fields which are basically oriented towards infrastructural investments. In case of water management the plan itself mentions the importance of shifting the paradigm among landowners, to which not only the The Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture, but green CSOs could too, contribute with their experience. Similarly, awareness raising and attitude changing campaigns could prove useful as a complementary to infrastructure development for cycling in the transport programme.

  4. Energy – the green shift: An important measure of this component is the subsidizing of households investing in solar energy. CSOs relevant to the field could play an important role in awareness raising as well as providing support for citizens with applications and reconstruction plans. A outreach programme led by CSOs working in underserved communities would be especially useful, since households living in energy poverty will be given priority in the selection process.

  5. Digital transformation and health: CSOs’ activities – similarly to other fields – could include awareness raising and campaigns for changing attitudes as well as reaching out to stakeholders. In the digital transformation programme they could take part in improving digital competencies or train people with disabilities to learn how to use their devices. In the health programme organisations of people living with chronic illness can effectively complement the efforts of the health care system.

We believe that it would be a mistake to neglect these capacities and knowledge during the implementation of the RRP (and the related distribution of the considerable amounts of resources). Although there are several ways to include CSOs as partners and implementing organisations, the selection of the best methods and practices of the civil society can be achieved primarily through competition and open tenders – and this element is also painfully missing from the current version of the RRP.

Issued by: Civilization Coalition


  1. Autonómia Alapítvány / Autonomia Foundation

  2. Az Emberség Erejével Alapítvány / Power of Humanity Foundation

  3. Demokratikus Ifjúságért Alapítvány / Foundation for Democratic Youth

  4. Humán Platform / Human Platform

  5. K-Monitor

  6. Magyar Helsinki Bizottság / Hungarian Helsinki Committee

  7. Magyar Női Érdekérvényesítő Szövetség / Hungarian Women’s Lobby

  8. MASZK Egyesület (Szeged) / MASZK Association

  9. Nyomtass te is! / Print It Yourself!

  10. Ökotárs Alapítvány /Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation

  11. TASZ / Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

  12. Utcáról Lakásba! Egyesület / From Streets to Homes Association

  13. Védegylet Egyesület / Védegylet Association