2022 was heavily marked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has impacted lives and societies in unimaginable ways in Europe and beyond. The number of refugees in Europe more than doubled compared to 2021, leaving the region with unprecedented socio-economic challenges.
The war in Ukraine has also amplified existing inequalities and vulnerabilities across Europe. Girls and women, people of Roma origin, the LGBTI community and people with disabilities are among the groups that find themselves particularly vulnerable to exclusion in this context.
These challenges have demonstrated the importance of creating a more just and resilient Europe – and that starts with inclusion.
Through the EEA and Norway Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are committed to contributing to a more inclusive Europe.
The funding supports the Beneficiary States in facing up to society’s most challenging issues. With the EEA and Norway Grants, the Beneficiary States are building inclusive public institutions and strengthening civil society organisations, fostering dignified living conditions, and promoting climate action, fighting discrimination and advocating for decent jobs and an active civic space. These are just a few examples of activities enabled by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway’s contributions.
The EEA and Norway Grants are based on the shared European values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. Making sure that younger generations are better equipped for the future, that vulnerable groups are empowered, and that institutions are just and transparent, are fundamental drivers of the Grants’ programmes.
Making Europe more inclusive is at the heart of the EEA and Norway Grants. This is reflected through many of the Grants’ priority sectors, such as Social Inclusion, Youth Employment and Poverty Reduction and Culture, Civil Society, Good Governance and Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, as well as Justice and Home Affairs.
Under the priority sector Social Inclusion, Youth Employment and Poverty Reduction, the programme areas are:
Under the priority sector Culture, Civil Society, Good Governance and Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, the programme areas are:
Under the priority sector Justice and Home Affairs, the programme areas are:
All these programme areas aim to break the cycle of disadvantage. This is done through the social inclusion and empowerment of vulnerable groups, through providing equal access to education, employment, healthcare and culture, and through building the capacity and accountability of institutions and key players such as civil society organisations.
By the end of 2022, the EEA and Norway Grants had provided over €1 billion to projects fostering inclusive and fair societies in the Beneficiary States. These initiatives have helped to educate thousands of civil servants and police officers as a basis for more accountable public institutions and services. Civil society organisations were able to influence 428 policies or laws across the Beneficiary States.
The EEA and Norway Grants are playing a substantial role in creating a gender equal Europe. To create the most impact, partnerships with organisations that are pioneers in the field of gender equality are critical. Beneficiaries of the Grants are being advised by partners from Norway and Iceland, as well as the OECD and the Council of Europe.
The EEA and Norway Grants stand out compared to other funding sources. For instance, the Grants’ Active Citizens Fund is one of the largest funding sources for democracy and human rights organisations in the Beneficiary States, providing rare support for advocacy and watchdog activities. In the areas of asylum and migration, gender-based violence and correctional services, the EEA and Norway Grants facilitates unique models focusing on human rights and human dignity. Last but not least, the Grants’ Roma inclusion and empowerment programmes finance flagship projects that apply a systemic, flexible, and integrated approach, with investments in both infrastructure and services.
Partnerships between Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein and the Beneficiary States contribute to capacity building in civil society organisations and public institutions. This happens through exchanges of knowledge and best practices and the transfer of working methods. The Synergy Network against Gender-based and Domestic Violence brings together governmental and non-governmental stakeholders from Donor and Beneficiary States in all relevant programmes to strengthen the impact of the Grants. Another example is the ‘Barnahus’ model, derived from the Icelandic word for ‘children’s house’. This model has been piloted in several countries together with partners in Norway and Iceland to safeguard the rights of children in the legal system.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 forced millions to leave their homes and flee to neighbouring European countries.
The strength of the EEA and Norway Grants is long-term systematic capacity building, rather than emergency aid. Nevertheless, the Grants were able to address the refugee crises caused by the war in a flexible and quick manner. So far, the Grants have channelled €13 million towards this purpose. A significant part of this amount has gone to activities related to Inclusive Europe.
The bulk of the EEA and Norway Grants’ funding related to Ukraine goes through civil society organisations in the Beneficiary States. In Romania, for example, the Active Citizens Fund – the EEA and Norway Grants civil society programme – is contributing almost €2 million to civil society organisations. These funds will be used to organise civic participation in response to the Ukraine crisis, to create awareness about human rights and equal treatment for refugees, and to provide direct humanitarian aid.
“The Active Citizens Fund Romania must continue to show its solidarity with the people of Ukraine, with those fleeing their homes in search of safety, with the civil society organisations from the neighbouring country that need, now more than ever, a safety net, moral support, and realistic actions. Our values commit us to stand beside those defending democracy, and its core values. These are the times when we need to ensure even more that human rights are respected.”
Mr Ionuț Sibian
Executive Director of the Civil Society Development Foundation in Romania, and leader of the Consortium that administrates the Active Citizens Fund Romania
In Greece, the Grants contribute to asylum programmes aiming to enhance the capacity of Greek authorities to offer accommodation to asylum seekers in vulnerable situations. This also means improving operational procedures in the Greek Asylum Services and Appeal Committees and enhancing interpretation services for asylum seekers.
The Grants also cooperate with international organisations that facilitate migrants’ voluntary return to their home countries and offer free legal aid to asylum seekers. Furthermore, by cooperating with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Greece and five different reception facilities, the Grants have so far provided accommodation for 363 unaccompanied minors and 260 women in vulnerable situations.
These activities complement the EU’s support in this area and are aligned with EU migration policies.
A robust civil society is a fundamental building block of a vibrant, well-functioning democracy. NGOs play a vital role in promoting democratic values and human rights and fostering civic participation. However, civil society organisations face legal, financial and sometimes even physical threats in several European countries. Through the Active Citizens Fund, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway aim to strengthen civil society, encourage active citizenship and empower disadvantaged groups in the Beneficiary States. The Fund is managed by national operators that are independent of local, regional and central governments, political parties and religious institutions.
The Active Citizens Fund represents a contribution of over €210 million from the EEA Grants towards the strengthening of civil society. By the end of 2022, over 2,591 projects had been supported through the Active Citizens Fund.
Lithuanian and Ukrainian activists are working together to try to make sense of the war. Under the name LT+UA=TULA and funded by the Bilateral Fund of the EEA and Norway Grants, they are bringing people together through art, family and moving personal stories to share experiences and better understand the senseless violence that is raging nearby.
Being able to respond proactively to migration flows, and making sure vulnerable populations are taken care of is vital for any well-functioning society. The project ‘Improving national asylum and migration system’, funded by Norway Grants’ Home Affairs programme in Romania, is taking the country’s response to the next level. Through training, exchange of expertise, new infrastructure and relevant equipment, Romania is building much-needed capacity – especially with regard to the current war in Ukraine.
Barnahus means ‘Children’s House’ in Icelandic. Often described as a “one-stop shop” for young victims or witnesses of violence, the Barnahus model provides a safe, homely and nonthreatening space for the children who need it the most. In Latvia, efforts to strengthen children’s rights and safety have been going on for many years. The project “Support for Barnahus implementation in Latvia” supported through the EEA and Norway Grants follows that approach and aims to further improve the Child Protection System in Latvia by opening the country’s first Barnahus in cooperation with the Icelandic Government Agency for Child Protection.
|Total funding for this area: €1,061.3 million1|
|11 programme areas|
|14 Beneficiary States2|
|27% of projects with donor project partner4|
|Annual number of cases of domestic and gender-based violence officially reported||88,147||119,0315|
|Number of national policies and laws influenced||411||4286|
|Number of people reached by campaigns||22,602,520||52,869,0797|
|Number of students educated in civic and human rights||25,270||156698|
|Number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors receiving services||3,650||2899|
|Number of vulnerable individuals reached by empowerment measures||39,830||264,99210|
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflect a shared global vision for a peaceful and prosperous world through sustainable and fair development.
Some of the SDGs that the EEA and Norway Grants contribute to under the umbrella of an Inclusive Europe include:
This SDG focuses on reducing inequality within and among countries. It calls for reducing inequalities in income as well as those based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic or social status within a country. Combatting inequalities and social exclusion lies deep in the heart of the Grants. From reducing poverty, fighting discrimination, and protecting children and youth at risk, to empowering vulnerable groups and safeguarding our fundamental rights, the Grants help pave the way for less inequality and a more inclusive Europe – one project at a time.
One such project example is the ‘Centres of Renewal in Gemer’ in Slovakia. Throughout the years, the region has become marginalised, and its unemployment rates are among the highest in the country. That means that many of the cultural heritage landmarks are run-down as well. Restoring these landmarks is one of the key elements to turning the tide. By working together to safeguard Gemer’s cultural heritage, the project hopes to reduce the social and cultural divide between the local communities.
SDG 16 focuses on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. The EEA and Norway Grants are supporting numerous projects that are helping the Beneficiary States strengthen the rule of law and promote human rights. Overall, through the Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway plan to channel over €30 million into projects from civil society and local and national authorities.
Among the already funded projects is an initiative by the Czech Probation and Mediation Service which has opened the very first probation house in the country. The Písek probation house is designed for adult men on parole. It is targeted at offenders for whom reintegration into society would be complicated without intensive professional aid. During their six-month stay, the parolees will complete a specially designed residential resocialisation programme under supervision. The programme includes aid in managing duties and restrictions, skills, and administrative training for a successful return to society. The parolees receive support in their job search or get advice on handling everyday tasks like banking, housing or administrative matters. The new probation house was designed with the help of the Buskerud Probation Office in Norway and was based on a Norwegian model that is an integral part of the Norwegian sentence execution system.