Zagranica Group Polish Ngos Abroad

Zagranica Group Polish Ngos Abroad

Zagranica Group – Polish NGOs Abroad

Successes and problems in advocacy and policy dialogue of the Platform during 2005

2005 was the elections year (parlamentary in September and presidential elections in September and October), what in various ways influenced relations between authorities and various groups of civil society. In the last months of work of the former governement a will to take decissions on issues not being a subject of current political game was decreasing. We also shifted our interest to the potentially winning parties and started to establish/ strenghten connections to them. As the process of formulating a government was delayed, also the voting on the state budget for 2006 was posponed – usually it takes place still in November/ December (budgetary year runs from January to December), but this time the crucial phase happened in January/ February 2006.

We can indicate 3 stages of our policy dialogue and advocacy in 2005:

First quarter of 2005:

Dialogue on Framework Plan of Polish international assistance in 2005. There were several discussions organized by us with experts from various fields and then meetings with the MFA.

Last year there were two 'money baskets' - one for development assistance (PLN 7 mln) and one for assistance to coutries in transition (PLN 11 mln – with increase from 2 mln in 2004). Given the new opportunities opened by the 'Orange Revolution' in Ukraine we concentrated mostly on the second fund, proposing to establish a few big projects (programs) with narrow focus, which would make our aid more consistent and enable to see an impact. Frankly speaking, our proposals were included into the Plan to smaller extent than we expected.

In the first months of 2005 the MFA made last attempts to propose a bill on development cooperation. Likewise the two previous projects (worked out in 2004), this one also was stuck at the stage of inter-ministerial consultations and then the possibility to direct an act, which was not of crucial importance for the state, to the Parliament was closed due to the finishing of the parliamentary term.

In general, we concider the lack of proper legal basis as a crucial failure of Polish development policy, and to some extent this is also a failure of our advocacy; however, all proposed projects, especially the last one, were strongly criticized by us and we are convinced that adopting the law in proposed shape would be more harmful than helpful.

May-June 2005:

After a series of information from NGOs taking part in one of the competitions announced by the MFA about procedural mistreatments we took a leading role in explaining the situation. Another CfP of the MFA was already run without serious problems.

Second half of the year:

Advocacy towards parties likely to win elections. After the elections we established some good-working contacts in the Parliament, Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We were invited by the Chairmen of the Senate and established working contacts with the Undersecretary of State responsible of international development assistance.

The main issues for advocacy and policy dialogue of the Platform on national and international level in 2006

NB: In 2006 the main issue for advocacy is also our main priority of work this year.

We concentrate on advocacy for establishing in Poland an efficient system of development assistance. Taking into accout Polish conditioning, we are convinced that to achieve it it's necessary that the Parliament enacts a bill on Polish international assistence and that there's a development agency instituted. However, we are also aware that (depending on political situation) it might be necessary to carry out a step-by-step strategy.

Our second issue of advocacy (and currently main focus) is the MFA's Framwork Plan of international assistance for 2006 and monitoring of spendings. In January we ran successfully a very intensive advocacy in the Parliament – it turned out that several ammendments proposed by the MPs cut off the reserve for development cooperation (resources for bilateral projects managed by the MFA and/or the Office of the Prime Minister) from 80 mln PLN to 30 mln and further proposals decreasing it almost to 0 were already proposed. As an effect of our and the MFA's advocacy the initial amount was restored and two reserves – for development assistance and democratisation (with 5 mln budget) were merged under one budget heading with 85 mln PLN.

This is a significant increase of funds to be disposed by the MFA in comparison to the previous year (when altogether for development cooperation and assistance to countries in transition there was about PLN 18 mln), while since then there was no substantial change in the procedures of dealing with these funds or a number of staff working on it. The Framework Plan hasn't even been adopted yet.

The main challenges facing the Platform during 2006 (annual programme)

There are 3 priority areas for 2006:

  1. Advocacy at the national level (as described above)
  2. Our external PR – to increase knowledge about us (our public identification), our aims and activities especially among Polish politicians and other groups which may influence the state policy on development, as well as among NGO community in Poland
  3. Our internal PR and cohesion of the Group – to increase the number of interactions among members (to return to the more direct interactions which existed when Group was an informal coalition, but also to have better knowledge about the ideology and positions of individual members and basing on that more animated discussions), to increase involvement of members in achieving common goals.