House of the Civil Society at the agenda of Council for NGOs

During the meeting of the Council for the Development of NGOs held today, the second topic on the agenda was “Discussion on the Government’s response on the question of the Council on the Civic house project.”

During one of the previous meetings of the Council (held on November 17th 2014), the President of the Managing Board of the Institute Alternative and the member of the Council, Stevo Muk, has initiated the request for the information about the negotiations (discussions) between the Government (the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Sustainable Development) with the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation (RBF), headquartered in New York, NGO “Fund for Active Citizenship” (FAKT), NGO “Center for Democratic Transition”(CDT) , NGO “Civic Alliance”(GA), and the capital Podgorica on installing a construction building called “Civic House”.

According to information from the media, the intention of the Government is to permanently assign these NGOs specific plot owned by the state of Montenegro, and Podgorica Capital will exempt these three NGOs/foundations from the payment of utilities while RBF would finance construction of the facility, which will be owned by previously mentioned NGOs. The initiative in its entirety can be found here (in Montenegrin only).

In the meantime, the Council has received an answer to its request, which can be found here (in Montenegrin only).

Here we present Stevo’s speech on today’s meeting, in which he pointed out the problematic issues of this case which were even more complicated by the Government’s response. Also, the proposal of the conclusions that the board should adopt is added as well to this presentation.

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“I am unpleasantly surprised with the way that the Government has informed us about this project. The way in which the Government informs us speaks for itself about the relationship of the Government to this Council and representatives of non-governmental organizations. I am not saying this just because of the fact that since the day we made the decision to refer these questions to the government to the day when the Council considers the response more than 60 days have passed. Firstly, I am referring to the content of the response.

The only news that we can learn from the Government’s response is the information that, allegedly last year (since the date was not added), the meeting of representatives of organizations Civic Alliance (GA), Center of Democratic Transition (CDT), and Fund for Active Citizenship (FAKT) has been held with the Prime Minister Milo Đukanović.

Additionally, the Government has introduced us to the fact that after this meeting, the series of other meeting between the representatives of the Government, the capital city and three aforementioned NGOs were held, for which the Government claims to represent “the triangle – research center – investigative journalism-allocation of project funding for NGOs”.

From the response of the Government lead by Milo Đukanović we were not able to find out how much will be the amount of financial contribution provided by the Government and the Capital, nor what exactly is the content of the of the “Civic house” project. In relation to that, we are not convinced by the claim from the Government’s response:

“It is agreed upon that the project, including the construction of the Civic house, will be financed by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation”

If this Government’s claim is true, then it would not have been needed to hold the meeting with the representatives of the CDT, GA and FACT with the Prime Minister nor that the Government expresses its “willingness to participate in this project”.

The response of the Government does not contain any new information in relation to those already published by the media. For this reason, I have the right to doubt that the government, in this case, is hiding some important information about this project. Unfortunately, the general rule is that where there is no transparency, where there is an excess of discretion, there is the highest risk of corruption. I think it’s a burden that should neither Government nor the colleagues from the NGO sector should carry.

We from NGOs must strive to equal principles no matter who is the subject in specific cases. Managing the state property as well as exempting certain subject from the payment of utilities stipulated by the law are both the matters of public interest and we cannot turn our heads only because it comes to NGOs. In the end, we cannot accept the Government’s idealization of one part of NGOs, while the other NGOs are being satanized by the same authority.

I want to emphasize once again, as I have already said to my colleagues from the so called “triangle”, that my goal is not to deny or obstruct the realization of the project, neither as the member of this Council nor as the President of the Managing Board of the Institute Alternative.

My only intention, which I would like to be adopted as the joint view of this Council, is to allow to all NGOs to realize similar projects, but in accordance to open, clear and precise regulations, without being forced to go to Milo Đukanović to exercise the granted right.

According to that, I suggest that the Council adopt the conclusion as follow:

  • The Council expresses it dissatisfaction with the content of the Government’s response related to the building project “Civic house” in Podgorica. From the response submitted, one could not find out much about the project “Civic house” itself.
  • From the Government’s response, one could not come to the conclusion about which questions would be regulated by the memorandum between the Government, GA, CDT and FAKT. From the Government’s response, one could not find out what will be the amount of financial or any other contribution provided by the Government and the Capital in the installment of this house or about the dynamics of its realization.
  • In addition to that, it is not clear when and where the meeting between Milo Đukanović and representatives of the Civic Alliance, Center for Democratic Transition and Fund for Active Citizenship was held.
  • The Council herewith reminds the Government that the Republic of Montenegro does not have any programme support for the purpose of investigative journalism, research centers nor the organizations which allocate the project funding for other NGOs.
  • The Council reminds the Government that the Republic of Montenegro does not have any open, public, written, transparent and fair procedures for the allocation of the state property to NGOs, nor for the exempting certain subject from the payment of utilities, nor for the cessions of the urban construction sites free of charges to NGOs
  • The Council urges the Government, before it makes any legally binding decisions with financial consequences related to the project of Civic house, to prepare and adopt the policy and procedure for the state support to NGOs related to the provision of the working and office space for NGO, in accordance to which the procedures with the Civic house project would be conducted as well as ensure the possibilities to all NGOs to compete for their rights.
  • Council recalls that the Strategy of development of NGOs in Montenegro stipulates the adoption of laws which would define the policy for providing working space for the use of NGOs.

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