“Regarding the perception as to how citizens see us, MCIC has been following this issue for about 20 years, and to be honest, the opinion has not changed much. The division is in three parts, one third think that we are OK and that we are good. The main stereotype is that NGOs are money launderers and for 20 years we have been unfortunately explaining to them – can you accuse us of being corrupt, of stealing…but you cannot accuse us of money laundering, because the money comes from legal sources into legal accounts. MCIC has not paid in cash for 15 years, we can see who CIVIL’s donors are, you can click on those websites and see who the donors are, therefore we cannot be money launderers. Unfortunately, as NGOs we have not managed to break this stereotype”, said Aleksandar Krzalovski, Executive Director of MCIC, at CIVIL’s panel discussion titled “What is the role of civil society organizations in social-political processes?”.
“It is true that a relatively large number of funds come into our country, mainly from foreign sources. Compared to other countries, for example, Slovenia has never had foreign donations.
In our country, unfortunately or fortunately, many funds have come from foreign countries, and still do, and since we are still not negotiating with the European Union, this reinforces the stereotype of “foreign spies”.
The budgets of all NGOs together range from about 90 to 130 million annually in Macedonia. It is concentrated in about 300, 400, 500 organizations that have over 2.5 thousand euros of revenue that they have reported as such. However, a large number of civil society organization, around 6.5 thousand, along with all the undeleted ones from the previous law, a total of 15 thousand, do not have funds, do not dispose with much money, that is, they function on the principle of membership fees and similar.
There is double calculating here, namely, when the money comes to MCIC, we channel it to other organizations, and so it is considered that they have arrived in our organization and in another organization, hence the reality is around 50 to 70 million euros, which for some seem a lot of money and that is how these stereotypes keep going.
On the other hand, the entire contribution of the European Union to Macedonia through IPA funds is 70-80 thousand euros, which means that civil society organizations contribute similarly, but the European Union is seen as a great donor and great supporter in Macedonia’s development, and we are not.
Unfortunately, we have too many foreign sources and therefore that perception, while it should be the opposite, of all that money only 10 million euros are from the state budget. For comparison, in Serbia, 120 million euros are allocated from the state budget for the civil society sector, Croatia has 230 million euros, Slovenia is as big as us but has 300 million euros… When the state will start giving money to the civil society sector, that is when the stereotype “foreign spies” will change. Whether they will become attached to political parties, we will see when it comes to such a situation.
The state should finance NGOs, particularly those that criticize it, because that is the base of civil society in Western democracies.
The connection between civil society organizations and the citizens is lost, perhaps because we are more oriented towards the donors than the citizens, and that connection should be strengthened and nurtured and ultimately the funding to be transferred from those citizens who will see benefit from that organization.
One example from the Netherlands, the Dutch Cyclists’ Union is a 175-year-old organization formed when the first cyclists had appeared for the purpose of protecting cyclists and similar, but now everyone rides bicycles in the Netherlands and it has about 15 million members. With only 1 euro per person, that is 15 million euros just from membership fee of the organization. Their budget is much higher though, because the membership fee is not one euro. However, people saw that it benefits them and that is why it is as it is in the Netherlands, bicycles are the main means of transport, because the Union works in the interest of cyclists. We need to convey this in our work, to strengthen the relationship with the citizens for whom we exist and work, and to convey this in several years also in the financing of the very organizations”, stressed Krzalovski.
Translation: N. Cvetkovska