Recommended actions:

  • In consultation with civil society experts, review the experience with CERV programme to make it a really transparent, flexible and user-friendly grant mechanism by decreasing co-funding and administrative burdens on applicants, also taking into account capacity building and institutional development needs of target CSOs

  • Increase the accessibility of other centrally managed funding programs to CSOs (through simplifying procedures, employing third-party financing and/or capacity building of applicants)

  • Monitor the accessibility of funds under shared management for CSOs and step up in case of deficiencies observed


Civil society organisations can fulfil their social roles only with adequate funding and resources. However, in most countries across the EU, CSOs are often underfunded, as public sources are cut back or due to excessive administrative burdens related to grants[1]. In this respect, the introduction of the new Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) programme is a welcome development. However, lessons of its first calls must be carefully evaluated in consultation with relevant experts and CSO representatives and incorporated in future funding modalities, in order to ensure truly transparent, yet flexible and user-friendly grant mechanisms (e.g. in terms of co-funding, reporting and administrative requirements), paying attention to capacity building and institutional development of CSOs, too. Appropriate assessment and appraisal procedures should be put in place not only to reduce burdens, but also to guarantee that funds are only provided to CSOs that truly promote and protect democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. 

Furthermore, the Commission should explore possibilities for increased participation of CSOs as beneficiaries in other centrally managed programs, also using the option of third-party financing (i.e. redistribution of small grants by civil society intermediaries) and develop capacity building programs to enable their successful application (e.g. Creative Europe, Horizon Europe). In case of the funds under shared management, the Commission should monitor the practices of the Member States and the extent to which CSOs can benefit from these funds both as lead applicants and partners (e.g. whether there are separate calls for proposals targeting CSOs), and facilitate their direct access as much as feasible.


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