Open Letter to János Lázár, Secretary of State

Dear Mr. Secretary of State,

we have read with dismay the statement of Undersecretary of State, Nándor Csepreghy made on the 30th of April 2014 through the press where he called our foundations, as the Operator consortium of the EEA/Norwegian NGO Funds “party-dependent, cheating nobodies”. We find this tone unacceptable - specially from a senior government official - that breached the reputation of our organizations and that we have to reject in the strongest terms.

Mr Secretary we would like to remind You that the consortium lead by the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation (Ökotárs) has a number of programs beyond operating the NGO Fund. Several of them serve the achievement of our common goal set in the Constitution as well: the development and strengthening of the Hungarian civil sector. During the past few years we have built fruitful cooperation towards this goal them with the actors of the government as well.

  • Among others our consortium operates the NGO Block Grant and Scholarship Funds of the Swiss-Hungarian Cooperation Program, in which the representatives of several ministries (Human Resources, National Development, Rural Development) are members of the Steering and Small Project Approval Committees. The Szechenyi Program Office as the background institution of the Prime Minister’s Office is actively monitoring and contributing to  this program whose representatives have so far approvingly agreed with the work of the foundation. (In any case, the observers delegated by the ministries to the Selection committees of the EEA/Norwegian NGO Fund have also recognized both the impartiality and the high quality of the decisions.)

  • Since 2010 Ökotárs actively and constructively participated in the preparation, creation and promotion of the new nonprofit law: Undersecretary of State Csaba Latorcai gave a lecture at the international conference organized by us at the end of 2010 in the MP’s House. Later  Dr. Latorcai invited the director of Ökotárs to participate in the working groups convened to prepare the law. The ministry gave us several positive feedbacks on the background materials and recommendations we prepared to the draft.

  • Zsuzsa Foltányi, the first director and board member of Ökotárs received a state honor, the “For our Environment” award in 2012  from dr. Zoltán Illés Secretary of State. Her long-standing work for environment was recognized with the prize.

  • Many governmental institutions relied on the roma integration field experiences of the Autonomia Foundation: the National Public Employment Office, the Institute for Social Policy and Labour and several ministries responsible for the planning of EU Structural Funds. Autonomia Foundation participated as expert advisor in the “Community development for the social inclusion of people living in deep poverty” program between 2010 and 2014.

  • Upon the invitation of the Ministry of National Economy the director of Carpathian Foundation is currently taking part  (free of charge) as an expert in the preparation and elaboration of several call for proposals and other documents of the “Grants for cultural and artistic diversity within the European cultural heritage” program within the EEA/Norwegian Financial Mechanism.

  • DemNet Foundation is constantly involved in forming the Hungarian international development policy and strategy in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament and its governing party members. In harmony with the goals of the government DemNet finds it specially important to introduce the issue of global responsibility to the wider Hungarian society, make it accepted and to present the transitional experiences of Hungary abroad.

For all these reasons we find the words of Nándor Csepreghy as ingorance towards our work, offensive and demeaning - not only to us but to the wide circle of Hungarian NGOs working for the public good. Therefore, Mr Secretary we strongly ask you to call upon your deputy to withdraw his statement!

However, in the spirit of constructive and mutual partnership we would pleased to present You in person the details, experiences and results of the NGO Fund which could be well utilized by other fund management systems and institutions, too.

Budapest, 7 May 2014.

Best regards,

Móra Veronika
director, Ökotárs Foundation

András Nun
director, Autonomia Foundation

Barbara Erős
strategic director, DemNet - Foundation for Development of Democratic Rights

Boglárka Bata
director, Carpathian Foundation -Hungary