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Donors and grant-makers condemn Hungary’s actions against NGOs

Since its re-election, the Hungarian government has continued to undermine the credibility of Hungarian NGOs and tried to gain control over NGO funding, which is distributed independently from the government.  The background to this stand-off is an ongoing dispute between the Hungarian and the Norwegian governments, with Budapest accusing Oslo of interfering in Hungarian political affairs through NGO funding of Hungarian civil society.

 

Representatives of the Hungarian government have made serious allegations about well-established, respected Hungarian NGOs which raise serious doubts about the commitment of the Hungarian government to its obligations as a democratic government and a member of the European Union.

 

A consortium of three Hungarian civil society organisations which disburse funds locally from the European Economic Area and Norway Grants are currently under investigation by the Hungarian government, following publication by the Prime Minister’s office of a list of recipient organisations, including some of the most reputable human rights and civil liberties groups in the country, which led to accusations of them being “problematic” and “left leaning”.  The three members of the consortium — Autonomia Foundation, DemNet and Ökotárs — are well known for their promotion of democracy, defence of human rights, and environmental work, as well as for ‘re-granting funds’ on behalf of other donors, including the European Union and USAID .  The consortium is challenging the investigation under Hungarian Law and is regarding it as an act of intimidation.

 

Human rights watchdogs and NGOs have a crucial role in democratic societies.  Any political pressure on them, or any attempt to restrict their funding, is against democratic principles, rules and standards, and the protection of universal values.  

 

The Barrow Cadbury Trust, as one of many donor organisations committed to human rights and democratic values, has signed a statement protesting about the actions of the Hungarian government against its own human rights NGOs and the consortium of grant-makers. We hope that the Hungarian government refrains from any further political pressure and shelters its NGO sector from threats and interference. We also call on EU member states and institutions to remain vigilant towards any government pressures on civil society organizations, in particular on human rights and civil liberties watchdogs, which have a fundamental role to play in democracy.