The Association of NGOs in Norway (Frivillighet Norge) is an umbrella for the voluntary sector in Norway, founded in September 2005.The mission of the Association is to coordinate the voluntary sector’s dialogue with the authorities on issues that are common to the voluntary sector, and to voice the voluntary sector’s opinions to the public and the authorities. Another important task is to produce information and give advice to the member organizations. Some of the current issues we focus on are VAT and the voluntary sector, new public register for Norwegian NGOs, more research on the voluntary sector, as well as inclusion of the immigrant population in the voluntary sector. Currently, the Association of NGOs in Norway consists of more than 250 member organisations, including all sectors of society (organisations for children, youth and grown-ups, sports, culture, humanitarian work, religious congregations, music, theatre, etc). The Association of NGOs in Norway is a member of The European Network of National Civil Society Associations (ENNA).
Frivillighet Norge is member of AGNA. Affinity groups are groupings of CIVICUS members that exist to take forward CIVICUS’ mission and values. The Affinity Group of National Associations (AGNA) brings together national associations from around the world. National associations are those organisations, which provide and give a collective voice to civil society in their countries, serve as interlocutors between civil society and other sectors and struggle for the creation of an enabling environment for civil society at the national level.
State/civil society relations:
How does the state view and relate to civil society in your country?
The state has a very favourable view of civil society. All political parties share a common understanding of the different roles that civil society plays in our society, e.g.
- Bonding and bridging or acting as the “glue” in society
- Providing an important arena for teaching children/youth about active citizenship
- Providing an important arena for adult learning
- Developing democracy, citizenship and social capital
- Serving as a critical voice or “watch-dog”
- Standing as “Pioneers” – identifying needs in society and promoting change
- Producing services
However, when it comes to concrete relationships between state/municipalities and civil society organisations (CSOs), there is often a lack of understanding of all these different roles. This can result in a one-sided relationship, where the state/municipality is only interested in supporting concrete outputs (e.g. contributing to public health by arranging walking trips for people with disabilities) from the CSOs, and not all the less tangible (but equally important) roles that civil society plays. Our role as an umbrella body for civil society is often to remind representatives of the public sector to keep in mind all the different functions of civil society when they develop their policies towards the voluntary sector and relationships with CSOs.
The legal and regulatory environment:
What recent trends do you feel have enabled or restricted the efficiency of civil society?
The most worrying trend is moving towards more bureaucracy, where organisations are required to provide more and more detailed reports to multiple public offices. The situation is most worrying at the local level, where the organisations are entirely dependent upon voluntary work. Although it is a priority from the government to reduce bureaucracy, this has not resulted in any real improvements.
Funding environment for CSOs:
What is the reality of funding in your country? (Access to funding/ patterns of donor support/ restrictions on funding etc.)
CSOs in Norway have access to multiple sources of funding. For the sector as a whole, self-generated income (e.g. sales, fees, membership fees, individual donors, etc.) represent around two thirds of the income, while around one third of the income is from public (state and municipalities) sources. There is a gambling monopoly in Norway, where the state owns the only company which has a licence to conduct certain kinds of lotteries and gambling activities. The income is channelled to CSOs on both local and national levels. This represents an important source of funding for the organisations that are eligible for such funds. However, it also restricts the fundraising activities of the CSOs, because it is difficult to get permission to establish new lotteries or other novel ways of generating income from the public.