The discreet charm of democracy
In recent years, the Czech society has been undergoing a visible change – populist tendencies have prevailed in politics, intolerant attitudes towards other people and sympathy for swift solutions to complex problems have been promoted in public debate. We focused on two of these manifestations, which we consider symptomatic and especially risky for the future. Non-profit organisations are more likely than ever to face attacks from politicians and social networks. There is growing public distrust of NGOs, often based on the feeling that they are here only for minority issues and their activity does not bring anything to most people. Non-profit organisations are often innocent of this – their legitimacy relies on quality reporting to donors rather than understanding from wider social strata. Then, when there is an attack on the civil sector, there is no one to defend it. Moreover, the organisation must concentrate a great deal of energy on repelling such attacks instead of focusing on their work and mission. Without a stable background, the civil sector cannot replace the services of the state and contribute to the proper functioning of Czech democracy.
We see the recipe for the diminishing legitimacy of non-profit organisations in the targeted building and expansion of groups of own supporters (constituency building). People who understand why and how individual NGOs work and what they do, and help explain it further. People with whom NGOs will work in the long term to gain not only their legitimacy from them but also support if they are put under pressure because of the topics they address. We therefore support the development of these skills in Czech non-profit organisations. In the coming years, we will support civil society so that it can continue to promote democratic principles and fulfil its irreplaceable role for functional democracy.
In the Active Citizens Fund programme, we will distribute grants to increase citizens’ active involvement in public affairs and decision-making processes. We will enhance transparency in governance (by promoting advocacy and watchdog activities). We will encourage civil society to promote respect for human rights and the needs of disadvantaged groups. We will also contribute to civic education and media education. Grant support will enable systemic changes and implementation of projects that respond to both current topics and acute local cases and problems.