7 Analyzing Civil Society Assistance in Poland 

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The subsequent chapter investigates civil society assistance to Poland. What donors have been involved? What strategies have been pursued? What has been the output of civil society assistance and, more importantly, did these outputs facilitate the re-emergence of civil society in Poland after the end of authoritarian rule? In other words, may one plausibly attribute the state of civil society in Poland roughly ten years after transition to external assistance? Or are the various external support measures and programs nothing more than a footnote to a historically determined path shaped by existing or non-existing cultural preconditions rooted in the communist past and in the experience with the Solidarity opposition movement? The theoretical framework of this work pointed to two divergent hypothetical answers to these questions, whereby both are grounded in the assumption that past experiences and domestic settings matter. Following the line of thought of sociological institutionalism one comes to the conclusion that civil society assistance is doomed to fail and results at best in a supplementary stratum of donor-driven NGOs detached from society. The argumentation inspired by actor-centered institutionalism, however, comes to a different result. civil society assistance may indeed facilitate the development of civil society via the mechanisms of empowerment and learning. The provision of resources raises the capabilities of civil society actors in achieving political outcomes. More importantly, transnational networks facilitate learning and the spread of ideas. civil society assistance may thus effect the orientations’ of domestic actors, teaching them to trust their fellow citizens, to tolerate and respect the opinions of their political opponents, to place trust in the liability of public institutions and rules and to perceive themselves as agents of political change. The objective of this chapter is to determine which of our two hypothetical answers hold true in the Polish case.

To answer this tricky question the chapter takes the following steps: First, it investigates the “near past” and identifies the cultural legacies underpinning civil society development in Poland. Cultural legacies are not regarded here as major driving forces determining the development of civil society. Using the words of Scharpf, historical experiences are instead regarded as “a shorthand term to describe the most important influences on those factors that in fact drive our explanations – namely, actors with their orientations and capabilities, actor constellations, and modes of interaction” (Scharpf 1997: 39). Moreover, past experiences and cultural legacies as a major alternative explanation for the development of civil society need to be explicated in greater detail. Secondly, an illustration of the state of civil society roughly ten years after transition will be given. In doing so the research applies the distinction between the “structural” and the “cultural” dimension of civil society and makes use of the indicators put forward in chapter 2.2.3.117 The third section then gives an overview of the history of civil society assistance to Poland throughout the 1990s. It will be clear that civil society assistance to Poland came in sequences, in which three different time periods can be distinguished with varying strategies and emphasis. Finally the chapter focuses on the output and outcome of external assistance to civil society. As outlined in the methodology of this work (chapter 5.3.2), special emphasis will be placed on major recipients, especially so-called infrastructural NGOs, and their sustainability, legitimacy and effectiveness in advancing the structural and the cultural dimension of civil society. The role of these “main recipients” in advancing a relationship between civil society and the state, in acting as intermediaries of assistance and in building networks and horizontal links among various civil society groups is of particular importance (see chapter 2). The study thus aims to clarify the extent to which civil society assistance supported non-governmental organizations that acted as carriers of civil society. However, the analysis does not stop here. The relationship between donors and recipients also requires clarification. Thus, the investigation assesses the extent to which major recipients benefited from external assistance by placing special emphasis on the two modes of influence outlined above: empowerment and learning (see chapter 4.4.2). A summary of the major findings is subject of the fifth section.

7.1 The Domestic Context - Historical and Cultural Legacies 

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The following is based on the conviction that the re-emergence of civil society in Poland after 1989 must be viewed in a historical context.

“The collective memory of bygone days… has significantly affected the existing basic codes of national-political culture via the uninterrupted reinterpretation of historical facts” (Kurczewska 1995: 38).

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The author restrains from giving a minute and chronological account of civil society development in different periods of Polish history.118 Instead, the section draws attention to the legacies of the near past relevant to civil society development.119 The guiding question is to what extent have cultural legacies from previous events hindered or facilitated the development of civil society. The legacies of the communist regime evident in all post-communist countries have been summarized above (see chapter 2.3.). For this reason, the following will mainly focus on the Polish liberalization experiences and on the “legacies” of the oppositional movement Solidarity.

7.1.1 Solidarity and the Legacies of a “Successful” Opposition 

It is no exaggeration to state that Poland is the one country in CEE where liberalization experiences were the most far-reaching and profound. Poland is the only case in CEE where a strong oppositional movement existed, the trade union Solidarity. It therefore would be misleading to take the characteristics of communist states outlined in chapter 2.3. as the only factor pre-conditioning the cultural basis of civil society. The following thus briefly portrays liberalization tendencies and oppositional activities in Poland throughout the communist period. Secondly, the section discusses the extent to which the history of civic initiatives independent from the state nurtured an ethical life and civic values, thus facilitating the emergence of civil society once authoritarian rule came to end.

Liberalization tendencies and the rise of Solidarity

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Throughout the communist period spheres of social life existed that were outside the control of the communist state. One of such “circles of freedom” that resisted the centralization tendencies was agriculture, large parts of which remained in private hands in Poland. As a result, farmers presented a relatively autonomous interest group that was further represented in the form of a political satellite party (Pelczynski 1988). More important from the point of view of the opposition, however, were different partly legal, partly illegal citizens’ initiatives that enjoyed sometimes more, sometimes less freedom of maneuver. One can differentiate between individual and disconnected single oppositional initiatives in the 1950s and 1960s, the establishment of the infrastructure of an “alternative” society in the 1970s, the short interlude of “publicity” during the legalization of the Solidarity movement in 1981/1982, the subsequent underground activities, and a short but lively liberalization period in 1987/88, which led to the rise of several different organizations.

Throughout this period, the Catholic Church proved to be the most important guarantor of self-organized social activities in communist Poland. It ensured the existence of civic organizations on the one hand, and protected illegal protest movements on the other.120 In 1956 the Polish state granted the Catholic Church among other things the right to maintain its own organizations. As a result, the Catholic Church functioned as a protector of the oppositional movement and permitted the establishment of “permitted, but limited” citizens’ initiatives (Matynia 2001: 920). These initiatives included organizations critical of the official state ideology such as e.g. the Clubs of the Catholic Intelligentsia, parts of the Polish scouting organizations and partly the student cultural movement, academic associations and independent journals. Leading intellectuals were also affiliated with the Catholic Church and made use of the relative freedom of church near associations in order to spread critical ideas and thoughts (Michnick 1990: 186).

While using the openings in the system, these initiatives thus laid the ground for further oppositional citizen activities beginning in the 1970s that have been labeled the realm of the “unofficial” and “forbidden” (Matynia 2001: 922). It was the aim of the “unofficial” to create an alternative to the system, an informal sector or second society (see Fehr 1996: 61pp) as conceptualized in the writings of intellectual leaders such as Kolakowski (1970) or Adam Michnik (1976). This alternative was based on a moral concept of society as the sphere of citizens living in “truth” and “dignity”. Values inside society were contrasted with the ambiguities of the Communist regime thus praising the former and de-legitimizing the latter. The moral concept referred to human rights, to the identity as humans and the inviolability of human dignity (Tatur 1989: 221p). As pointed out in Michnik’s essay “the new evolutionism”, the aim was to achieve an evolutionary extension of civic rights. The way toward this goal was to “be constantly and incessantly visible in public life” rather than to act in hiding, and to “formulate alternative programs” (Michnik 1985 cit. in Matynia 2001: 921). The strikes at the Gdansk shipyards in December 1970 and strikes in Ursus and Radom in June 1976 finally resulted in the establishment of the “Workers Defense Committee” (KOR) in 1976, whose foundation marked an alliance of intellectuals and workers. After further nation-wide strikes in 1980s the trade union Solidarity was founded by Lech Walęsa in Gdansk. Additionally, several other forbidden civic organizations as well as a vibrant zamisdat underground publication sprang up. What evolved was an “infrastructure of organizations that facilitated political group interaction” (Fehr 1996: 107, own translation).

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Finally, the oppositional trade union Solidarity and the regime reached an agreement that legalized the union in August 1980s. Moreover, the regime recognized Solidarity as representative of society, thus giving up its claim to best represent the interest of the people (Morawski 1992: 99). The subsequent 16 months marked a period of lively citizen’s activities under the banner of Solidarity that filled the “social vacuum” (Matynia 2001: 927). Besides the workers’ committees, these initiatives included debating societies (e.g. DiP (Experience and Future)), expert councils, a “workers university”, human rights organizations, independent journals and even a center for social studies conducting among others opinion surveys (OBS) (Fehr 1996:88pp).121 Preserving the name of a union, the movement united several different initiatives concerned not only with labor issues but also with culture, education, publication, and with the advancement of a “self-administrated republic”. This concept fully developed in summer 1981 partly in response to the delaying tactics of the government. It marked a programmatic shift away from previous doctrine of the “anti-political” trade union and the “self-limiting revolution” that was until then seen as a warrant for stability and autonomy (Tatur 1989: 125pp). The concept stressed the importance of active citizens, and proclaimed the self-administration of society, i.e. the (re-)establishment of classical institutions of public life, resulting in a “reformation from below” and the construction of a social infrastructure “from below”.122 

The period of “publicity” and legalization of citizens’ activities came to an abrupt end with the establishment of martial law in 1982. The subsequent years were marked by underground activities kept alive by informal groups and social networks. Particularly important in this underground period were the survival of the independent publication activities and the circle of politically active intellectuals that nurtured a language of pragmatism and mediation and slowly worked toward a political dialogue with the authorities (Fehr 1996: 98pp).

With Perestroika and Glasnost, liberalization also advanced in Poland. Although single liberalization measures were already taken in the middle of the 1980s,123 the years 1987/1988 are usually regarded as the liberalization period in Poland (see e.g. Staniszkis 1991: 7; Fehr 1996: 111). In these years, several civic initiatives such as political clubs, economic student societies, or local environmental initiatives sprang up.124 The numerous organizations and clubs operated under the heading of Solidarity, shared the moral concepts of the oppositional movement, and were partly inspired by 1980/81. However, it has been convincingly argued that they had an independent organizational structure and developed a distinct style of action and discourse (Fehr 1996: 153).

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The legacies of Solidarity

The question now is the extent to which the history of civic initiatives independent from the state nurtured an “ethical life” or civic culture of tolerance and trust that has been identified as inevitable for civil society development. It often has been argued (see e.g. Morawski 1992, Ekiert/Kubik 1998) that Solidarity was a nascent civil society. Several factors support this argument: The size of the movement that embraced one fourth of the Polish population, the evolving infrastructure of organizations, independent circles, and publishing houses that filled the “social vacuum” between private life and nation; the moral concept of civil society as well as a cultivated culture of communication and discourse on which the movement was based; and finally the aim to build a “self-administered republic from below” that resulted in a “politicization of professional competences” in different issue areas (Tatur 1989: 179 own translation).

Nonetheless, the role of Solidarity in bringing about civil society has been highly disputed. Carpenter (1999) points out that Solidarity embraced civil society to a lesser extent than it drew on a strong sense of national consciousness moving it closer to a national movement than to civil society. The monolithic character of the movement, the tendency to suppress internal opposition (Carpenter 1999: 333), the “politics of unity” that referred to fundamental attitudes including neo-traditionalist, if not nationalist tendencies (Staniszkis 1991: 221), and the “fundamental heritage” (Thaa 1996: 260pp) are labeled as legacies of the Solidarity movement that counteract the development of civil society based on conflicting and diverging interests. Besides the moral concept of civil society based on civic values of society, the movement equally referred to and was transported by national and religious symbols. A romantic image of Solidarity was upheld, which equalized the movement with the unity of the Polish people. As a result Solidarity was based on a strong feeling of identity and unity in a “community of faith”, and on a strong sense of fraternity, mutual obligation and the common good (Carpenter 1999: 338). This strong feeling of identity maintained the unity of the movement, and was thus preserved as an important guarantor of its strength and power. However, although the monolithic character of the movement and the “myth of solidarity” ensured unity of the movement, mobilized the masses and was thus important to bring down the ruling regime, it has been identified as a major obstacle for the development of civil society and democracy. This is mainly for two reasons:

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Firstly, the “myth of solidarity” and the strong idealized feelings of a “community of faith” easily resulted in disillusionment and an “agony of myth” (Szacki 1991: 721). The romantic feeling of unity, the moral-cultural group identity and a “fundamental mentality” were especially evident in the masses of union members (Tatur 1989: 177). This “symbolic radicalization of the masses” highly contrasted with an increasingly pragmatic stance of the oppositional elite that continuously worked at the end of the 1980s toward a settlement with the communist regime (ibid). The new and old elites were united in their fear of mass protests. Staniszkis makes the point that this new pact that aimed at the demobilization of the masses alienated the electorate from their leaders.125 Moreover, the “identity crisis” inside Solidarity that brought divergent viewpoints to the fore and triggered the split inside the movement further disillusioned the masses that strongly believed in a united front (Staniszkis 1991: 215). Especially the “war at the top” evolving between the political leaders at the beginning of the 1990s had this effect. The outcome is a surprising and unanticipated passivity evident in Poland after the first elections, a phenomenon Staniszkis (1991: 221) compared with “a new social vacuum”.

Secondly, the idealized image of society on which Solidarity was based cemented the deep state-society divide. The image of a community of the “better” standing in sharp contrast to politics and the state as a realm of corruption and illegitimacy resulted in distrust and disguise of politics and the state. Additionally, the corporate character of the movement prevented a differentiation of interests despite the variety of divergent sub-groups that united under the roof of Solidarity: …”Illegal civil society … was diversified but also strongly unified by a common umbrella (the myth of solidarity)” (Ekiert/Kubik 1998: 20). The result was an administrative structure outside of and paralleling the state.126 Elzbieta Matynia (2001: 928p) points out that what developed was

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“… a highly mobilized polity that shadowed the state, creating its own authorities, experts, and domains of competence. …. Solidarity did not work against the regime in most cases, but rather in spite of the regime, or simply aside from the regime.”

Even the whole movement can be taken as a substitute for the state: Carpenter (1999: 341) makes the point: ”Solidarity in effect took on the Party’s function of having a monopoly on public representation.“

7.1.2 Summary: Preconditions of Civil Society in Poland

So what conclusion is to be drawn from the legacies of the communist regime, and the oppositional movement? It has been argued above (chapter 2) that civil society needs to be enshrined in a civic culture and certain values of tolerance and trust. This culture is, however, not the one of a community of faith inspired by a common public good or a corporatist ideal, for which each individual is willing to sacrifice him or herself. Rather it is a culture of a society of “modular men” (Gellner 1995) with different interests and desires who tolerate and trust their (unknown) fellow citizens thus respecting their different interests. Tolerance in the other becomes possible as each member of society trusts the other to equally comply with the same set of rules. This is the very “clue” that allows for compromise, conflict-resolution and a peaceful co-existence. Civil society is thus pluralistic and is based on Sittlichkeit or an “ethical life” and relies on institutional rules provided by the state. In this sense the legacies determining post-communism in Poland - the passivity, the distrust in others, and the negative image of the state - are all heritages that severely weaken the prospects for a re-emergence of civil society (see chapter 2.3.).

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Moreover, although the oppositional movement drew on an enlightened concept of civil society and triggered values of solidarity and trust, Solidarity did not automatically provide a fertile ground for civil society development. Rather it preserved an image of civil society that is not compatible with a liberal concept of civil society based on the recognition of divergent interests. Civil society was seen as a “community of equals” whereby equals are not understood as citizens holding equal rights but as a collective of people with equal economic status, viewpoints and religious and national feelings. Secondly, civil society is not perceived as a sphere holding a symbiotic relationship with the state, rather as a sphere ‘without’ the state, paralleling state structures. In addition, the moral image on which the movement was based preserved an image of civil society as the realm of the “equal” and “benevolent” that contrasts with the concept of civil society as a sphere of contesting and competing interests. This moral image of civil society cements the state-society divide and the deep distrust of both the state and anything ‘political’ and quickly triggered disillusionment and alienation once the movement split.

Nevertheless, Solidarity did make a change. The mobilization taking place on a mass scale, especially in 1981/82 broke through the passivity and incapability to mobilize prevalent in communist societies - An experience that was preserved in society’s memory. Marcin Krol made the point:

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“The effects of solidarity are not only that there had been the time (of legality), but the results of it, that is the participation of a large number of people in public life and the development of a political consciousness of these people” (Marcin Krol cit in. Fehr 1996: 120 own translation).

It has been rightly stated that the developing infrastructure of divergent social groups and initiatives were united under the roof of Solidarity. The same holds true for the conceptual approaches of different professional groups to create a “self-administrating republic”. However, concepts and ideas have been developed in various issue areas, be it environment, regional and local democracy, education or culture. Furthermore, distinctive organizations and networks striving for the fulfillment of these ideas developed that assumed the role of intermediary organizations filling the “social vacuum” (Fehr 1996: 114). The variety of organizations in existence thus contributed to the differentiation of the public sphere and laid the ground for differentiated social representation (ibid: 154). Moreover, a substantial basis of political, local and professional leaders and activists has been formed who were able and willing to build up civil society after 1989. These are cultural, institutional, and in particular personnel assets other post-communist societies did not possess and from which civil society in Poland could profit.

The following section will demonstrate the extent to which the cultural legacies outlined above shape the development of civil society after transition.

7.2 Ten Years After – The Reemerging Civil Society in Poland

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I now turn to an assessment of the development of civil society in Poland in the period of roughly 13 years after transition. The analysis follows the indicators of the structural and the cultural dimension identified in chapter two. The section thus firstly portrays the pluralism and inclusiveness of civil society by focusing upon the mere number of non-governmental organizations, the composition and regional dispersion of associational life.127 Secondly, the section aims to focus upon the cultural dimension of civil society by focusing on three indicators: (1) the willingness of citizens to participate in civic initiatives; (2) the relationship between state authorities and people active in civil society organizations; and (3) the relationship among civil society organizations. It will be evident in the following that in the period of investigation civil society advanced on the structural and the cultural dimension. However, the legacy of a state-society divide as well as distrust towards federations and umbrella organizations can still be felt.

7.2.1 Quantity of Non-Governmental Organizations 

After the overthrow of the communist regime in 1989, Poland experienced a fast and steady increase in non-governmental organizations, while the years between 1989 and 1993 marked a “rebirth period” with the most dynamic growth (Leś et al 2000: 21). Leś et al (2000: 12) estimate that there were approximately 50,300 active NGOs in Poland in 1997 and assume that 85% of the registered organizations are actually active. Based on a comparison of different sources, Klon/Jawor come up with a more pessimistic estimation. They risk the statement that at the end of 1994 about 18,500 foundations and associations were actively operating in Poland in contrast to 48,000 officially registered organization (BORDO 1998: 54).128 The vast majority of the organizations (about 85%) have been founded after 1989 (ibid). Many organizations that had been active in the communist period ceased to exist. Others “depoliticized”, thus reformed their programs and structures or returned to the programs maintained before the communist centralization.129 A comparative survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University assesses the size of non-profit non-governmental activity in terms of employment rather than actual numbers. According to their findings, the Polish nonprofit sector accounts for 1 % of non-agricultural paid labor and is thus about the same size than other non-profit sectors in CEE. For comparison, the equivalent average of Western Europe is 7% (Leś et al 1999: 331).

7.2.2 Composition

If one looks at the composition of associational life in Poland, two different pictures emerge depending on whether one takes number of organizations or employment as indicators. As measured by absolute numbers, most organizations in Poland in 1996/97, i.e. 51%, are dedicated to the provision of social services and see their primary field of activity in health care and social assistance. Activities related to education, family, children and youth, arts and culture, local and regional development, sports and recreation, environmental protection and human rights are further important areas of activity (BORDO 1998: 60).130 If non-governmental activity is measured on the basis of paid employment, the relationship looks much different though. Like other post-communist countries the percentage of paid employment in Poland is assumingly the highest in organizations involved with sports and recreation activities, followed by education (18%) and social service provision (12%) (Central European average) (Anheier/Salamon 1999: 18). Anheier/Salamon (ibid) attribute the surprising importance of sports and recreation in the associational life of Central European countries, which stands in stark contrast to other world regions, to the heavy subsidization of such associations during the Communist era. These findings are even more interesting if the different areas of activity are compared with Western Europe. Whereas the three areas (1) unions and professional associations; (2) sports / recreation; and (3) environment/advocacy are more developed (in terms of paid labor) in Central than in Western Europe, the areas of social services, health, and education are underdeveloped in comparison to Western Europe.131 These figures point clearly to the old and new faces of non-state activities in CEE countries. On the one hand, we have a rather limited number of financially powerful organizations, namely sports clubs, trade unions and other social organizations that were already active during Communism and fall back on the assets accumulated during communist times.132 On the other hand, we observe a large number of newly created organizations, in Poland namely in the area of social service provision, but also in areas such as decentralization and regionalization. This majority of associations in quantitative terms, however, does not have salaried staff positions but largely rely on volunteers (BORDO 1998: 64). A further interesting result of the findings above is the oversized environment / advocacy sector. The surprisingly high number of paid staff in environmental and advocacy organizations, both institutional forms of “new social movements” that are usually not equipped with exceeding financial resources in Western Europe, points to the “new” features of nongovernmental activity in post-communist Europe. The NGO sector is not only determined by a small number of powerful organizations that already existed under Communism, but additionally by a small number of organizations, which are at least well financed and whose objectives lie in areas such as environmental protection, human and minority rights, development or women issues. These organizations who count themselves as belonging to the “Third Sector” or “the movement of non-governmental organizations” (Gliński 1998: 31) hold intense contacts to the West, are influenced by ideas and concepts previously developed in the “new social movements” of the West, employ mainly young people (Gliński 1998: 31), and are financially supported by Western sources. In line with these findings Kurczewska / Bojar (1995: 166pp) differentiate between organizations that adopt models, values and organizational forms that are rather new in the Polish society and that often refer to Western models and ideas, and organizations that revert to models and tradition from pre-war times. The first category includes ecological movements, feminist organization and advocacy organizations but also quickly growing private foundations such as the Foundation for the Development of Democracy in Poland, the Foundation for the Development of Local Communities, or the Cultural foundation, organizations dedicated to international and European issues, and moreover economic associations inspired by the possibilities of private ownership and the market. The other category includes organizations that existed before the war and that have been resurrected133 or social initiatives and organizations that refer to organizational and cultural traditions that date back to the time of the partitions134, or Polish divisions of international associations135 (ibid: 167).

7.2.3 Regional Distribution

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As concerns the regional dispersion of nongovernmental organizations, the Klon/Jawor survey on NGOs in Poland in 1997 still noted that the activities of NGOs mainly focus upon large urban areas - usually former voivodship centers. The largest share of NGOs in 1997 was located in Warsaw (29.5%), followed by Krakow (6.7%), Gdansk (5.8%) and Katowice (5.7%) (BORDO 1998: 57p). Moreover, NGOs existed only in 54% of all gminy, the lowest level of the territorial organization of Poland (Chimiak 2000: 466). However, in recent years a shift to the regional and local level is observable. Especially, the territorial reform of 1999 that enhanced the process of territorial decentralization in Poland and included a county level is assumed to provide a possible impetus for NGO development (Kuti 1999: 54, Leś et al 2000: 22). The Klon / Jawor survey on NGOs of the year 2000 thus notes a lower territorial concentration than in 1997: in 2000 the number of NGOs registered in Warsaw sank to 20%.136 

7.2.4 Civic Participation and Volunteerism

If one turns to the cultural dimension of civil society one must first note that civil participation in Poland is still relatively low, but rising. According to Gliński (1999: 9), civil participation in Poland measured by membership in non-governmental organizations, increased from 5.5% of the population in 1990 to 13.7% in 1995 and 16% in 1997. Despite these optimistic figures, evidence suggests that organizational membership is exceptionally low in Poland in comparison with other post-communist countries (Howard 2003: 58). One further has to stress the point that passivity and a disbelief in the ability of NGOs persist in the Polish population. According to opinion polls conducted by the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology Polish Academy of Science (IfiS PAN) in 1992, 1995 and 1999, more than 50% of the respondents each time declared that no existing civic organization represented their interests and roughly the same percentage wanted new organizations to emerge, which 51% (1995) are in turn willing to join (Leś et al 2000: 21, Gliński 1999: 9). Gliński concludes that there is a substantial potential for civil activity in Poland, yet he has to admit that citizens do not place trust in the effectiveness of citizen’s activities. Over 76% of Poles claim that socially active people can achieve little or nothing (CBOS 1998 cit in: Gliński 1999: 10). Paternalism and a lack of faith in participatory mechanisms thus continue to be a disease of post-communist Poland. A further indicator for civic participation is the willingness of citizens to support NGOs as volunteers. Especially in Poland where the situation of NGOs is marked by a lack of financial resources, volunteerism is an important factor for many NGOs to sustain their activities (Wygnanski 1997: 94, Leś et al 2000: 17)). According to Leś et al (1999: 328), 16% of the adult population contributes time to non-governmental organizations. This figure is relatively low if compared with the “world” average of volunteerism derived from 22 countries that equals 28% (Anheier/Salamon 1999: 10). Moreover, volunteerism in Poland is also slightly lower than in other Central European countries (ibid: 329). One has to note, however, that the picture looks different if religious institutions are included. In this case 25% of the adult population volunteers (ibid: 328). This fact demonstrates that the lack of volunteerism, which has been identified as one major obstacle to NGO development (Regulska 1999: 63), does not equally apply to all NGOs. In particular non-governmental organization that already existed under communism, usually referred to as “social organizations” in Poland, have difficulties in recruiting volunteers (ibid). Since “volunteerism” had been imposed on the people from above during Communist times, the willingness to contribute to these organizations sank to a low. People are more willing to contribute to small and newly established organizations especially in charity. In the year 2000 87% of NGOs reported that they utilize the services of volunteers (Klon/Jawor data cit. in USAID 2001: 121).

7.2.5 Relationship between Non-Governmental Organizations and State Authorities

With regard to the relationship between non-governmental organizations and state authorities, one can note that a distorted relationship between civil society and the state is still apparent in Poland. This problematic relationship is grounded in attitudes and convictions prevailing in civil society organizations as much as in an ambiguous state policy and a lacking political will of the governing elite. Leś et al (2000: 19) make the point that the strong awareness of a social identity that is separate and independent from the state and grounded in the experiences with Solidarity and further cultivated by the disillusionment with the Solidarity elite that “changed sides” is still alive among civil society activists.137 One could argue that middle rank Solidarity leaders preserved the “myth of Solidarity” and the moral concept on which Solidarity has been based inside organizations of civil society.138 However, as Piotr Gliński points out, the young generation that has been influenced little by the experience of Solidarity also sees political elites and politics in a decisively negative light: ”The stereotype of rejecting politics as something dirty and immoral is still rife” (Gliński 1998: 33). Gliński thus sees the hypothesis of A. Rychard confirmed that “… Polish social life is very specifically removed from the field of politics” (cit. in ibid). The distrust of politicians and political parties has also been revealed by the DPP survey on NGOs in Poland. The majority of NGOs (79%) report that they have no relations with political parties. Moreover, the largest share of them (70%, 55% of total) does not regard such relations as important. The ones that hold contacts to political parties largely assess them as less important (33% of the ones with contact, 14% of total) (see appendix 8, table 26, question 10). On top of that, the question on major problems of NGOs reveals the big frustration with the government among Polish NGOs. 71% of Polish NGOs judge lacking governmental support as very problematic. The lack of governmental support thus ranks as the second pressing problem of Polish NGOs directly behind the lack of financial sources. A deficient cooperation among NGOs and state authorities is further regarded as a point of concern (see ibid, question 12).

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Whereas activists of civil society seem to regard politics as dirty and the state as superfluous, state authorities and political elites in contrast consider organizations of civil society to be unwelcome and unnecessary competitors. A political will by the political elites to stimulate civil society development is as much lacking as an understanding for the purpose of intermediary organizations.

“Generally speaking the Polish political class does not understand the importance of the non-governmental sector in the new democratic states; it tries to control it and is not interested in its development, although there are some exceptions, mainly amongst the politicians of the Freedom Union” (Gliński 1998: 39).

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Rather than stimulating and deliberately constructing intermediary organizations and non-governmental service providers through the provision of incentives, specific opportunity structures, or a suitable infrastructure, state policies are ambiguous and often destructive to civil society development.139 Formal structures ensuring communication with NGO representatives exist, but they are not supported by a coherent and clear state policy. In June 1993 the Bureau for the Cooperation with Non-governmental Organizations was along with the Ministry of Employment and Social Policy. Having just started its operations it was already closed in January 1994 subsequent to a change in government.140 In 1997 a plenipotentiary of the Prime Minister to Co-operation with NGOs, Minister Zbigniew Wozniak, was brought into office. In 1998 he appointed a working group consisting of leaders of NGOs, representatives of the government and experts that aimed to prepare the principles of reform and met for the first and only time in May 1998.141 The position of plenipotentiary of the Prime Minister was, however, again closed in March 1999. Several ministries, including the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources, and Forestry put the question of NGO development on their organizational agenda. However, with the exception of the Ministry of Environment protection that had been involved in regular and growingly intense working contacts and informational exchange with environmental NGOs since 1991, most ministerial activities in this area remain poor and are restricted to the drafting of purposive statements and ineffectual meetings (Gliński 1999: 19). In sum, the various formal structures created with the stated aim to establish institutionalized forms of cooperation and consultation between civil society organizations and state authorities hardly fulfilled their purpose. Throughout the years no constructive and coherent state policy to support civil society organizations existed. As a result, progress in legislative issues concerning NGO operations has long been postponed, leaving the legal framework that regulated the operations of nongovernmental organizations throughout the 1990s as ambiguous, inaccurate and insufficient.142 In the words of Zbigniew Lasocik, a Polish NGO activist:

“It must be noted that the Polish legal system fails to fully implement the constitutional principle of freedom of association. Numerous lacunae can be found in our provisional regulations: some fundamental definitions are lacking; some solutions negate the principle of impartiality of the registering bodies; and freedom of association is unjustly limited through some faulty solutions“ (Lasocik 2000: 6).

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Gliński (1999: 18) thus jumps to the conclusion that state authorities continue to treat civil society organizations according to customs and procedures inherited from the socialist times. More often than not, informal and personal are more important than institutionalized and legalized principles and rules. In this way, clientelism and corruption is common practice especially on the local level.

Despite everything stated above, one nonetheless has to note that changes in attitude are visible and that progresses in diminishing the state-society divide is in sight. Firstly, despite the incoherent governmental policy on NGOs and regardless of the repeatedly changing administrative structures in charge of NGOs there has been an on-going, although sometimes conflictual, communication process between government and NGOs. Secondly, in 2003 an agreement has been reached on new legislation regulating the relationship between civil society organizations and state authorities. Finally, one should add that the legislative process was marked by an ongoing although often interrupted process of consultation between representatives of civil society organizations and the government through which NGO activists were included in the decision making process (see in detail chapter 7.4). Moreover, it has been pointed out that the relationship between NGOs and state authorities is improving especially on the local level. Although it is still true that only 1/3 of NGO received local authority funding in 1996 (Gliński 1999: 23) and that the cooperation between local authorities and NGOs is especially low in the field of social services,143 signs are visible in recent years that a constructive relationship between local authorities and NGOs is developing (Regulska 1998: 64). As the studies conducted by Klon/Jawor indicate, NGOs label local authorities as their prime cooperation partner and this cooperation has been consolidated over the years of the survey and is increasingly perceived as important (BORDO 1998: 49).144 Additionally, triggered by operations of so-called “NGO support centers” and “infrastructural NGOs” (see chapter 7.4.), several local co-operations programs have been introduced as e.g. in Gdynia and in Gdańsk in 1995 (Gliński 1999: 22).

7.2.6 Relationships Among NGOs and Inside Civil Society

The remaining question of this section points to the relationships prevalent inside civil society, i.e. relationships between various civil society organizations. The image of “one sector” to which activists of certain advocacy NGOs like to refer obliterates the fact that civil society consists of a variety of different organizations with divergent interests. As outlined above, in Poland NGOs are active in various issue areas, be it labor issues, social services, health, education, culture, decentralization, environment or human rights. One can note that no evidence points to exclusionary animosities between the various groups that result in the preservation rather than a “cross-cutting” of cleavages within society. Nonetheless, I want to highlight two points referring to relationships among civil society groups. Firstly, in Poland distrust toward umbrella organizations and federations aiming to join forces of NGOs is observable (see e.g. Wejcman 1999). This distrust is largely attributable to the “negative associational freedom” described above (see chapter 2.3.). Umbrella organizations remind NGO activists too much of communist times (see in greater detail chapter 7.4.). Secondly, tensions inside civil society do not run along the lines of divergent interests, such as the interests of labor and capital, but additionally are apparent between what has been called above the “old” and the “new” stances of civil society organizations. Although transmission belt organizations of the former regime adapted to the new democratic system and truly reformed themselves (Bernhard 1996: 324), newly established organizations with a Western outlook often distrust those organizations. Such is the case for example between the two main federations of trade unions, Solidarity and OPZZ. Although both have similar interests as representatives of workers, and notwithstanding the fact that branches of both already cooperate on company level, political cooperation was unthinkable for a long time.

7.2.7 Summary 

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To conclude, ten years after transition a re-emerging civil society is visible in Poland. Some even call the NGO sector in Poland the “most robust in Central and Eastern Europe” (USAID 2001: 126). Numerous civil society organizations sprang up in a variety of issue areas, thus constituting a substantial and vibrant sector of NGO activity. Having said this, civil society in Poland still suffers from cultural legacies inherited from the communist past. The sector is characterized by “old” and “new” organizations, whereby the “old” features of the NGO sector in Poland have money and informal networks to administrative personnel, whereas the “new” strand has the youth, volunteers and Western support. Organizational membership and volunteerism is still low due to prevalent passivity and a lack of faith in participatory mechanisms. Civil society activists regard politics and politicians as something dirty; politicians in contrast regard NGOs as unnecessary competitors. A coherent state policy that aims to stimulate civic participation and self-organization has long been lacking. In this regard, the legacy of a state-society divide lives on. In addition, ties inside civil society are largely based on informal and personal contacts.

Having said all this, one still must mention that there is a visible advancement of civil society on the structural as well as on the cultural dimension. Statistical material depicts that not only the numbers of organizations but also civic participation and voluntarism are rising over the years. In addition, a small but very active circle of individuals and organizations exist, which see their purpose in the advancement of “the Third Sector”. Moreover, the year-long battle between activists of NGOs and governmental representatives ended with a final agreement on new legislation in 2003 that is regarded by both sides as favorable to civil society development. Additionally, on the local level signs of an evolving cooperation between local authorities and NGOs are also visible. The question now is: to what extent are these positive changes in the structural and in the cultural dimension of civil society attributable to Western assistance and support? In a first step to answer this question, I now summarize Western support to civil society in Poland in the 1990s.

7.3 The External Push – Forms and Types of Civil Society Assistance in Poland 

As already stated, it is not the purpose of the case studies to compare donors, their activities and strategies. Nevertheless, a brief analysis of civil society assistance in Poland, understood in line with most donors as assistance to “Third Sector” NGOs (see chap. 4.5)145 is indispensable. Based on the proceeding account of the programs and projects of major donors (chap. 6) and the strategies and concepts applied (chap. 4), this section aims to illustrate the external assistance to Polish civil society in the period under investigation.146 What kind and quantity of assistance has been donated, to whom, when and how? The chapter will approach this question by providing a chronological account of civil society assistance. It will be argued that civil society assistance came in sequences, in which roughly three time periods can be distinguished: the initial period of assistance from 1989 to 1993, a period of intensive support from 1994 to 1998, and a period of donor withdrawal starting at the end of the 1990s. In each period the chapter focuses on the aim, type and strategy of Western assistance. Before this is done, however, civil society assistance is approached in quantitative terms.

7.3.1 The Quantity of Civil Society Assistance – A Minor Financial Item 

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One has to note that Poland was by far the principal beneficiary of Western attention among the CEE countries. The head start in democratization, the prominence of the Solidarity movement, and not least the large immigrant populations abroad translated into huge public and private Western commitments (Wedel 1998: 205, Quigley 1997: 46).147

However, if the available data is explored in greater detail one realizes quickly that the major share of aid went to economic restructuring, privatization and to infrastructural measures (see appendix 2). Civil society assistance is a minor financial item that makes up for less than 2% of the overall assistance granted.148 Moreover, if one focuses only upon support in favor of democracy, what has been called “democracy promotion and protection” (DPP), it is evident that donors did place less emphasis on civil society assistance in Poland than in other CEE countries. In Poland civil society assistance makes up for 23% of the funds available for the support of democracy. This is a substantial share. However, one has to note that the share is lower than in other CEE countries. On average, civil society received 30% of funds available for the support of democratization in CEE countries. In Slovakia, even 42% of the DPP means went to civil society assistance (see table 7). In Poland, in contrast, emphasis was placed on institution building (such as administrative reform, decentralization measures) with 49% of the means available for DPP. Also per capita Poland received less support to civil society than the CEE average. 1.9 Euros were spent for civil society assistance per Polish inhabitant. In contrast, 3.5 Euros per capita went for the support of civil society on the CEE average. In institution building the ratio is only 4 to 4.8 (ibid).

Table 5: Cvil Society Assistance in Relation to other Forms of DPP in Poland, Slovakia and CEE Average, 1990 – 2000

CEE AVERAGE*

POLAND

SLOVAKIA

Categories of DPP

In Mio US$

% of total

Per capita

In Mio US$

% of total

Per capita

In Mio US$

% of total

Per capita

Civil Society Strengthening

329.8

30%

3.5

72.9

23%

1.9

55.4

42%

10.3

Democracy Promotion general

281.6

26%

3.0

80.5

25%

2.1

26.4

20%

4.9

Institution Building

451.7

41%

4.8

155.5

49%

4.0

46.9

35%

8.7

Political Process

39.6

4%

0.4

8.9

3%

0.2

4.7

3%

0.9

TOTAL

1102.8

11.6

317.7

29%***

8.2

133.3

12% ***

24.7

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Source: Own calculations based on the database of international DPP activities conducted by the joint research project “Democracy Promotion and Protection in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and NorthAfrica of the Humboldt University and the European University Institute.149 
*** Share of all DPP expenditures in the six CEE countries under investigation.

7.3.2 The Marriot Brigades and Some Favored Cliques: The Years 1990-1993

If one aims to investigate into the first years of Western assistance to Poland after regime change, one is well advised to risk a glimpse at the preceding decade. Unlike most other CEE countries, the story of Western aid to Polish civil society or non-state actors did not start in 1989 but long before. In the 1970s and 1980s personal contacts and ties had been established between Polish dissidents and the West, which Western donors were glad to use when they came to the country in 1989/90. In this way, civil society assistance to Poland in the period 1990-1993 was at least in part shaped by previous experiences.

According to Ekiert and Kubik (1998: 18) Polish dissidents have had intense and various contacts with the West that became “massive” in comparison with other CEE countries especially at the end of the 1980s. The links to Western social scientists and journalists allowed Polish intellectuals to publish in the West. This helped to raise Western awareness of the Polish situation. Much needed financial assistance followed on the spot. Especially after the introduction of martial law, the foreign outposts of Solidarity, i.e. its Brussels office and the Committee in Support of Solidarity in New York ensured a continuous inflow of financial and material resources assisting the de-legalized movement. This assistance came from private and non-governmental sources such as trade unions, social and political organizations or Polish émigré organizations but also from governmental sources, especially from the USA (Ekiert / Kubik 1998: 19). This head-start not only in democratization but also in assistance provided Poland with a great advantage. Personal contacts were already in place on which the massive inflow of aid coming in 1989/90 could rely.

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These contacts were of special importance in the first years after transition. The Western willingness to assist the democratization process was enormous and financial aid came in fast and on a grand scale. However, little knowledge existed on how and whom to support. Like most others, donor agencies were largely taken by surprise by the end of the Cold War, which made assistance to democratization in CEE possible. Neither concepts nor strategies existed that helped to face the new challenge. Moreover, Western agencies had no relevant experience, as experience with developing aid in the Third World was not applicable. Donors that previously conducted democracy assistance, e. g. the German political foundations, also found their experience in Latin America and Southern Europe unsuitable for the Polish and in general the post-communist cases. Whereas in former cases structures and organizations had been largely in place, finding suitable partner organizations proved a major problem in Poland (see appendix 6). “Bridgeheads” who identified worthwhile ways to invest in Polish democracy were consequently much needed (Wedel 1998: 5). Polish emigrants and Poles associated with the Solidarity movement played that role. Besides relying on individuals and on former contacts, donors focused upon the organizations largely opposed to the former regime: trade unions and universities. Or they concentrated on specific issues they regarded as important hoping that the provided publications, conferences or training would be of some use for the recipients. In brief, trial and error substituted a comprehensive strategy. And as Poland was the first CEE country to which donors moved, Poland was both a testing ground and learning field. Mistakes were inevitable and mistakes were made. For example, USAID relied in the initial period largely on short-term advisers. However, as USAID admits on its website:

“The predominant emphasis on providing U.S. short-term advisors, rather than on the creation of sustainable institutions, weakened the longer-term impact of some programs.”150

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The consultants that resided in the only Western-style hotel available, the Marriot Hotel, became quickly known among Polish recipients as “the Marriot Brigades”. The lack of local knowledge and sensitivity for the Polish situation and especially the obvious gap between the well-suited Westerners residing in the luxurious hotel and the living conditions of the Polish people provoked envy and frustration more than it provided needed advice (interview Stanowski).

One has to note that civil society assistance was not the major focus of Western assistance in the initial period. Chief emphasis was placed upon the economic transformation and on the reform of political institutions on the national level (see e.g. USAID 2000a: 4; Europäische Kommission (European Commission) 1990: 5).151

The donors’ lack of enthusiasm for supporting NGOs however does not imply that assistance had not been available for civil society and civic initiatives that sprang up. One has to note, though, that the initial support benefited only a few organizations, namely trade unions, the media, scientific institutions or individual scholars. US donors in particular continued their support of Solidarity of previous years. The NSZZ Solidarity was one of the principal recipients of grants to non-state actors from both USAID and NED (see tables 11 and 13 in appendix 5). For example the NED, who also administered the majority of SEED funds in 1990-1991, invested 60% of its funds in trade union development in 1990, mainly supporting NSZZ Solidarity, and spent another 20% on support to Solidarity’ citizen committees, in line with the US focus upon electoral assistance. Only 9% of the funds went to support of civic initiatives and “the Third Sector” (see appendix 5, table 15). The two largest German political foundations concentrated on political elites, and on potential “multipliers”, namely scholars and journalists. They worked together with universities, research institutes and in the case of the FES with trade unions. The initial activities aimed at the transfer of information to general topics such as social market economy, democracy and pluralism. Moreover, the German political foundations concentrated on specific issue areas such as decentralization in the case of the KAS and regional development and trade union development in the case of the FES (see appendix 6, portray 12). The Stefan Batory foundation placed an initial emphasis on the support of science, research, education, and the media (see appendix 4, table 10+portray 8).

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However, support to civic initiatives, associations and NGOs was available and steadily increased starting from 1991/92. In 1991 the NED already awarded 34% of its funds for third -sector development (see appendix 5, table 15). Also USAID invested a substantial amount (7.2 million US$) between 1989 and 1994 for overall support to NGO development (USAID 2000a: 77). In 1992 the Phare “civic-dialogue” program was launched with the major objective to “provide support for civic society by means of help for NGOs that are recognized to be the manifestation of civic activity and the inevitable part of any modern democratic society” (Mendza-Drozd 2000: 31). Financial aid in the form of grants, information, and legal services and training programs for NGOs were the three major activities carried out by the civic dialogue program (ibid). Here it is important to note that the dialogue program was less donor-driven than recipient-driven. It evolved out of a series of meetings labeled “the role of NGOs in a civil society” at the ministers’ council’s office.152 It was thus the Polish government that initiated the NGO support program as part of the Phare national program. Moreover, it was also the Polish side that looked into the administration of the program. The Cooperation Fund, a state treasury foundation established for the implementation of various aid programs for Poland in 1990, was in charge of the program – (see appendix 3, portray 6). Between 1992 and 1994 3 million Euros were earmarked for the civic dialogue program, benefiting 302 NGOs with 1.3 mio Euros (ibid: 29). Also the German political foundations and especially the Stefan Batory Foundation provided important initial support for the establishment of various NGOs.

In sum, money was available in the first years after transition in particular and donors were willing to spend it. However, it was the well-known personalities of the Solidarity movement that easily gained access to Western resources. Contacts established before the regime change as well as bridgeheads that identified valuable “investment opportunities” for donors were decisive. Moreover, in particular governmental donors opted for large-scale funding providing a few organizations with excessive means, training and advice and largely neglecting small and local initiatives.153 As a result, the assistance mainly benefited “some favored cliques” (Wedel 1998).154 As will be shown (chapter 7.4.), the beneficiaries of assistance in this early stage were not only still in existence but also became important and well-known organizations in their respective fields by the end of the 1990s. One can thus conclude that notwithstanding trial and error and a likely waste of resources, the massive inflow of foreign assistance in this initial period provided an important impetus for institution building and supported several NGOs that subsequently contributed to the development of a NGO sector and the advancement of civil society.

7.3.3 From Macro to Micro – The Donor Learning Curve: The Years 1994 - 1998 

Civil society assistance gained momentum in 1994/95. Not only did civil society assistance expand in quantitative terms, but a shift from capital-based NGOs with well-known founders to small and local initiatives is also visible. Along with that, donors moved from “institution-building” to “capacity-building” applying a more fine-tuned strategic approach (see chapt. 3.4.).

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The funds available for civil society increased, specific programs were implemented, and the focus shifted from “macro to micro”155, substituting large-scale funding with small grant schemes. For example, between 1992 and 1998 the Cooperation Fund awarded between 1992-1998 2.4 million Euros in 1028 grants via the Phare micro-grant schemes dedicated to NGO development (Civic Dialogue Program, Lien Program, Democracy Program) (see appendix 3, portray 6). USAID set up the Democracy Network Program (DemNet) in 1995 with the aim of strengthening the NGO sector. Administered by an American NGO, the Academy for Educational Development, and equipped with a local office and local staff, DemNet developed and supported public policy-oriented NGOs in Poland through grants, training and technical assistance. In a period of three years the program distributed 1.8 Mio US$ to 67 NGOs for 91 projects (appendix 5, portray 10). The Stefan Batory Foundation also shifted its focus from education and research to NGO support. Whereas in 1992 the two largest shares of funds were spent in the area of science and culture with 25% and 24% of the budget respectively, by 1995 28% of the grant budget and thus the largest share have been allocated for support for NGOs. Moreover, NGOs were recipients of most of the grants awarded by other Foundation programs. As a result, 66% of beneficiaries were NGOs in 1999 absorbing 77% of the total grants awarded by the Foundation (appendix 4). The German political foundations continued their support, but with a slight thematic shift. Emphasis was placed less on education and research and shifted to organizations with a European perspective from 1995 onwards.

The increasing use of micro-grants ensured that smaller, less professional, and local NGOs also gained access to foreign funds.156 The evaluation of the Phare Democracy Program jumps to the conclusion:

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“… (micro-projects) have much more of a direct impact in supporting civic education and civic activity and in mobilising people (in Poland). The small grants enable faster development of NGOs which are process-oriented and membership-based” (European Commission 1997c: 104).

In addition, the target of assistance broadened, although most donors continued to focus primarily on public policy-oriented NGOs, on NGOs active in civic education, and on activities of NGOs that contribute to the promotion of a pluralistic and democratic society (DemNet, the Phare Democracy Program, German political foundations). In contrast, the Stefan Batory foundation and the Phare Civic Dialogue Program had only limited restrictions concerning the thematic scope of supported NGO activities, although they placed special emphasis on activities aiming to support the NGO sector. The Batory Foundation stated broadly that it assisted NGOs that “are involved in the social, cultural and economic transformation processes” (Stefan Batory Foundation 1997: 3). The Civic Dialogue Program had no restrictions as to its thematic scope. Although a significant aspect was that the organizations cooperated with other organizations and self-governments and acquired new skills (Mendza-Drozd 2000: 35). The DemNet program also gave up its initial focus on public policy oriented NGOs and shifted to local grassroots and to NGOs addressing specific topical issues or social problems. The program operators realized that by focusing primarily on capital-based NGOs active in the diffuse field of “democracy promotion”, NGOs might be built up that are “sophisticated and skillful at courting the Western donor community while not responding well to their local constituents’ needs” (USAID 1999: 12).

Yet NGO assistance did not only gain in quantitative terms by covering a wider range of NGOs including the local level and focusing on thematic oriented NGOs as well, civil society assistance also profited with regard to the strategies and types of assistance. Donors became increasingly aware of the importance of indigenous processes and local knowledge.157 The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) put the lesson learned as follows:

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”...reform must result from an indigenous, transparent, participatory process. International organizations … help catalyze the process, by bringing important stakeholder together and providing technical assistance and comparative analysis…(but) in order for an.. reform process to succeed, indigenous institutions and individuals must assume ownership of activities” (USAID 1999: B1).

Training and capacity building became an important aspect of the NGO support programs. Thus the times of the “Marriot brigades” had passed. Instead of relying on foreign experts donors chose to refer to local expertise or to get involved in “train the trainer” projects that aimed to pass technical know-how onto Polish professional trainers. For example the Phare Civic Dialogue Program provided training and information services in order to enhance the professional standards of NGOs. In the period 1996/97 altogether 4258 NGO representatives had been trained in a range of subjects including management, fundraising, public relations, strategic development and the role of NGOs in a changing society (Cooperation Fund 1998: 29pp). Moreover, donors increasingly relied on domestic NGOs in order to implement their projects. For example, the DemNet team restricted from conducting an informational and outreach campaign on their own to help NGOs apply for DemNet grants. Instead they relied on a network of support centers, later known as SPLOT, to do so and trained the SPLOT staff in order to achieve this goal. The aim was not only to pass on information but also to strengthen local support centers (appendix 5, portray 10).

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Capacity building was further understood as “network building” between NGOs and between NGOs and local authorities. Moreover, the installment of an “infrastructure” of the NGO sector has been of special importance. This infrastructure consisted of “leading institutions”, that are local NGO support centers and a NGO representative, supported by a favorable legal environment. All specific NGO support programs (Civic Dialogue, Batory Foundation, DemNet) worked towards that goal (see chapter 7.4.).

In sum, donors applied a more fine-tuned approach starting in 1994. The emphasis was shifted to micro-grants that also benefited small and local NGOs. Moreover, a wider range of NGOs received assistance. Along with that, donors increasingly relied on domestic organizations and local know-how in conducting their programs. The EU as well as USAID used local staff in order to manage their NGO support programs. Domestic organizations were also used in order to implement projects. Finally emphasis shifted from institution building to capacity building. Not only intensive training, but also the building of networks and a favorable environment for non-governmental activities became the major concern.

7.3.4 Withdrawal of Donors and the Europeanization of Assistance: The End of the 1990s 

The end of the 1990s marked a further turning point in the history of Western assistance to civil society in Poland: Western donors were increasingly withdrawing from the scene. USAID ended its commitment in the year 2000 and US-based philanthropic foundations such as the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation or the Ford Foundation that have been very active in the field of NGO development are shifting their focus further East. The support of the German political foundations continues. However, their resources are too limited to broadly support civil society. They instead focus upon specific issue areas such as activities related to European integration. The Phare Civic Dialogue program was closed at the end of 1998, Phare democracy, Phare Lien and Phare Partnership followed shortly after.

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Donors aim to smooth out the consequences of their withdrawal. Thereby US-American and European donors apply two different strategies. USAID thoroughly worked on its exit strategy by starting initiatives in anticipation of its departure from Poland already in 1996. In the area of NGO assistance the USAID exit strategy consisted of two main pillars. Firstly, major emphasis was placed on ensuring the long-term sustainability of Polish NGOs. The initiatives and priority areas of DemNet have to be seen in this light. DemNet’s activities aim to raise the professionalism and public opinion on NGOs and to trigger local funding for NGOs by establishing “community foundations” (see appendix 5, portray 10). Professionalism, philanthropy and local support in contrast to state funding are thus seen as the best ways to ensure NGO sustainability. Secondly, USAID frequently leaves “successor organizations” behind that have been established by local staff of the USAID projects.158 In the case of DemNet the Academy for the Development of Philanthropy established in 1998 aimed to continue DemNet’s efforts to promote long-term sustainability of NGOs.

In contrast to the USA, the European Union continues its support, not under the banner of “democracy assistance” though. Instead the EU incorporates the candidate countries into the common European support structure of the cohesion and structural funds. As a result the specific Phare NGO support programs end in 1998.159 Starting in the year 2000 Poland, like other EU candidate countries, is eligible for the EU’s internal support programs and the structural funds. NGOs are thus eligible to various support programs in the area of education (e.g. Leonardo, Socrates), Justice (e.g. Daphne), Research & Development, Equal Opportunities for Women, Health or Human Rights (see Open Society Institute 2001).160 Moreover, in 2000 the EU launched the new program ACCESS with a budget of 20 million Euros for the ten accession candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe (total allocation for grants in Poland is 5.58 million €). ACCESS aims to support the development of Civil Society in these countries and replaces the Phare Lien, Democracy and Partnership program. According to the European Commission “Access will support initiatives and strengthen the operational capacity of non-governmental and non-profit organizations through co-financing grants for projects of relevance to acquis implementation and to certain social need priorities” (cit. from http://www.access.atomnet.pl/html/guide.html).161 

The Stefan Batory Foundation as a “local donor” seeks to ease the shift from foreign to domestic and European funding. To do so, it expanded its institutional grant scheme as a substitute for foreign funding:

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”The IGP (institutional grant program) fills a temporary foreign funding void. Two-three years ago institutional grants defined as support for “statutory activities” would be sought from a variety of foreign donors; this diversity has decreased considerably. The Helsinki Foundation for human rights with grants in 1996 and 1997, matched from the Ford Foundation, is a perfect example: In the past, it had secure funding from foreign donors; only one year later, these foreign donors are leaving” (Stefan Batory Foundation 2000: 11).

Moreover, the Stefan Batory Foundation supported the establishment of a Polish NGO Office in Brussels in 2001 to improve the communication between Poland’s NGO community, European NGOs and EU officials, and to ensure a better preparation of Polish NGOs for the membership in the EU.162 

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To conclude, the section has investigated in civil society assistance in Poland over time. It became clear that the importance donors place on civil society has changed over the years. In other words, civil society assistance came in sequences. Roughly three different periods have been distinguished: In the years 1989/90 to 1993, donors concentrated more on political institutions on the national level and on political elites than on civil society. However, this does not mean that civil society did not receive any assistance. On the contrary, important financial means were available that laid the ground for non-governmental organizations to start their operations. However, the aid benefited mainly “some favored cliques” (Wedel 1998) and was often directed by contacts already established in previous years. Like this, organizations came into existence that shaped the subsequent development of civil society. Civil society assistance gained prominence in the middle of the 1990s, starting around 1994/95. This new emphasis did not only translate into more available funds, but also in the provision of a more fine-tuned and appropriate technical assistance and in a broadening of the range of recipients. Donors aimed to build up the capacity of NGOs. This implied on the one hand an advancement of professional standards and organizational knowledge; on the other hand, donors stressed the importance of networks, thus a cooperative relationship among NGOs and local authorities, and aimed to build a favorable “infrastructure” of the NGO sector. Finally, at the end of the 1990s we were witness to a withdrawal of mainly American donors which posed a major challenge to Polish NGOs. As illustrated above (chapter 7.2), the NGO sector in Poland is quite developed in comparison to the situation in 1990. However, it is far from being consolidated. The question thus is whether Polish NGOs manage to shift from US funds to European or domestic sources. Issues such as sustainability, governmental support, cooperation with local authorities and advancement of philanthropy rank high on the agenda of NGO activists. It is left to the next section to clarify the extent to which recipients of foreign assistance succeed in settling these issues.

7.4 The Output and Outcome of Assistance – Recipients in Focus

Whereas the aim of the previous section was to highlight donor activities throughout the 1990s in Poland, the subsequent section aims to give a tentative assessment of the output and the outcome of the described endeavors, and thus shifts the attention from donors to recipients. Questions arise as to the extent to which the described efforts of donors have reached their aim to strengthen civil society in Poland. Did Western civil society assistance contribute to an increase in the quantity and plurality of organizations, and did it succeed in transplanting a respective cultural basis of civil society that is evident in the vertical relationship with government, and in horizontal relationships between NGOs (see chapter 2.2.3.)?

This question is even more salient with respect to the two problems of civil society assistance: the problem of selectivity and legitimacy. It has been pointed out that the selectivity of donors may not translate into a variety of non-governmental organizations and a classical civil society, rather a distorted and structural image of civil society evolves marked by a few organizations that serve donor rather than domestic needs and remain disconnected to society. If this is the case, civil society assistance supports nothing more than a “supplementary stratum” of highly professional NGOs that will vanish once donors funding ends.

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This section aims to clarify whether this has been the case in Poland. In order to approach this question, the analysis concentrates on major beneficiaries of assistance or “main recipients” in line with the argumentation outlined in the methodology of this work (chapter 5.3). The analysis thereby follows the leading research questions identified in chapter 5.3.1. First, what type of organizations gained Western attention? Second, are such “main recipients” sustainable in the long run? Third, are they embedded in local structures and perceived as legitimate domestic actors or as puppets of Western agencies, intruders and “bridgeheads of alien influence”? Fourth, are they the often-cited “multiplicators” that contribute to an advancement of civil society on the structural and the cultural dimension? And fifth, to what extent does external assistance support main recipients in fulfilling their role as carriers of civil society? A key question of the research is whether the outcomes of main recipients are owed to the peculiarities of domestic settings or whether the cooperation and transactions with external actors were decisive in bringing about the described results. In other words, to what extent did civil society assistance alter the capabilities and orientations of civil society actors and impacted upon social and political change by means of empowerment and learning?

7.4.1 Types of Main Recipients

It has been pointed out that external assistance tends to be selective in the distribution of civil society assistance and favors only a few organizations (see chapter 3.5.). Evidence suggests that this is also the case in Poland. According to the Klon/Jawor survey from 1997, with 17.6% of all resources available to Polish NGOs foreign funding is the second largest sources of financing for the nongovernmental sector in Poland in 1997 (BORDO 1998: 70). However, only 16% of all NGOs benefited from this important source (BORDO 1998: 67). Western civil society assistance thus benefits only a small segment of civil society in Poland. The question arises what segment of civil society has been supported and whether types of “typical” recipients can be identified?

Based on the observations of the author in Poland, three different types of “typical” recipients have been identified that have been labeled “democracy promoters”; “infrastructural organizations”, and “thematic organizations”. The organizations differ according to their statutory objective, their activities, and their relationship with donors.163

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Democracy Promoters:

Donors rely on domestic NGOs as implementers of their democracy and civil society development projects (see chapter 3). Instead of conducting civic education, awareness- raising, or anti-corruption projects themselves, they sponsor a domestic NGO to do so. In this way, organizations are established whose only objective is the promotion of democracy and civil society. Examples include organizations such as “The Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe” (IDEE), The Foundation for the Education of Democracy (Fundacja Edukacja dla Demokracji – FED), or the “Civil Society Development Foundation” (CSDF). Despite different backgrounds all three organizations are rather similar in terms of objective, areas of activity and origin.164 

The “democracy promoters” see their main objective in the promotion of democracy and civil society. IDEE “is committed to the development of a civic society and the enlivening of contacts between people actively working in non-governmental organizations …” (www.idee.ngo.pl). CSDF “works to strengthen and improve the effectiveness of citizen-based initiatives in Poland and other countries of CEE” (free.ngo.pl/csdf/English.htm). Also FED names “the promotion of ideas about democracy and the free market economy” as its major objective (www.edudemo.org.pl).

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Additionally, the approach to the promotion of democracy and civil society is similar. Civic education and training of NGO leaders are the main area of activity. The provision of consultation, technical assistance and information to NGOs, or the organization of internships and study trips are further undertakings. CSDF thereby mainly focuses on services to NGOs (e.g. strategic planning processes, evaluations, trainings). FED and IDEE have a wider target group. FED originally provided civic education to schoolteachers, but soon included NGO leaders, local government members and students. IDEE founded a network between like-minded organizations in CEE, the “Centers of Pluralism”. Both also manage projects supporting local press development in Poland and other countries, work with school councils and youth groups or organize internships and study trips for councilors of Ukraine to Poland (IDEE 1999: 13).

Finally, the establishment of all three is interwoven with Western based organizations. IDEE is the branch of the Washington based Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, the successor of the exile representative of Solidarity, the “Committee in Support of Solidarity” in New York. FED is the outgrowth of a joint program, created by Polish and American teachers in 1982 as a response to the introduction of martial law in Poland that became one of the first grantees of the NED in 1990. Workshops in union skills organized since 1990 by trainers from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) led to the creation of a team of Polish volunteer trainers, which then began conducting independent training courses based on the AFT model. Finally the Polish team established its own organizations, the FED. CSDF evolved out of a two-year “train the trainer” program for indigenous NGOs trainers initiated in Poland and Hungary in 1994. The program titled “Civil Society Development Program” was launched in response to a report prepared for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund on Civil Society Assistance in CEE that recommended the creation of indigenous teams of trainers and consultations (Siegel / Yancey 1992).165 The program was funded by a group of mainly private, US-American donors.166

Infrastructural organizations

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Infrastructural organizations may be labeled the “second generation” of recipients. They differ from the previous group in that they focus less on education and more on structures. Moreover, they compliment the provision of services with a political perspective. The aim is to build an “infrastructure” for civil society organizations including not only the provision of services, information and know how, but also a constructive political environment for NGOs including respective laws and representative structures.167 

The most important of these infrastructural organizations in Poland are:

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Regarding their major objective and mission, the “infrastructural organizations” do not differ much from the “democracy promoters”. The main mission is to promote the development of civil society as stated with different wording in each statute.168 However, the activities and approaches to civil society development are slightly different than the “democracy promoters”. On the one hand, the activities aim to support NGOs via the provision of services.169 On the other hand, activities aim to build an “infrastructure” for NGOs. Such an infrastructure embraces networks and institutionalized forms of cooperation among NGOs, but also a respective legal framework as well as cooperative relationships between NGOs and state authorities. In order to ensure such an “infrastructure”, the organizations engage in network building among NGOs (BORIS, FIP), lobby for legislative reform (FIP, representatives of KLON, BORIS, Academy), or lobby central government on behalf of social NGOs (WROSZ). They aim to install an NGO representative (FIP, WROSZ) and domestic funding possibilities for NGOs (Academy).

One must note that the described organizations have their roots in social initiatives surrounding the Solidarity civic committees and are further manifestations of a strong charity tradition in Poland (Wejcman 1999: 19). Nonetheless, all organizations hold intensive contacts with Western donors, benefit from technical and financial assistance, and also embrace Western models and ideas. One may say that the organizations are inspired rather than driven by the different foreign models and templates. BORIS was founded in 1992 with the aim of coordinating the self-help initiatives movement. From the very beginning BORIS has been cooperating with the Deutsch-Polnische Verständigung e.V. (Association for German-Polish Understanding) sponsored by the German Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband (German welfare association). BORIS acted as the Polish partner of the Deutsch-Polnische Verständigung assisting the implementation of various training and internship activities for Polish social workers (program “training and twinning”) (Balon 1999: 6). Moreover, BORIS received start- up funding from USAID and was supported by Phare civic dialogue (appendix 7, table 19, 23). The network SPLOT previously known under the heading ”Open Society Network“ received financial and technical assistance from Phare civic dialogue, the DemNet project of USAID, and the Batory foundation. It consists of previously established regional centers of social initiatives (the first one was founded already in 1989 as the “Council to coordinate self-help” at the regional office of the NSZZ Solidarity in Poznań).170 Western assistance aimed at enhancing the services of SPLOT for its members including information provision, standards of training etc. The process leading to the national representation of social NGOs WROSZ, i.e. the process of building regionally organized umbrella organizations and federations is modeled on the German system of “freie Wohlfahrtverbände” and has been accompanied and supported by the association Deutsch-Polnische Verständigung e.V. and regional branches of the German association “der Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband”. The first regional association of this kind called WROS was founded in 1995 in Wrocław after a study visit of Polish social workers in Germany. From the beginning the organization received assistance from its partner organizations in Germany, while the major share of assistance was coming in the form of training and advice and less in the form of material goods and direct financial support (Drogoś 1999). FIP was founded in 1996 after the first national forum of Non-governmental initiatives was held in Warsaw in September 1996. It was founded by individual members including among others employees of the Civic Dialogue Program, of BORIS, and of the Foundation for Poland (Polish representative of the Fondation de France) (Cooperation Fund 1998: 23; FIP 2000). Local representatives of donor organizations were thus founding members of FIP. Moreover, FIP can name most Western donors as their sponsors. The Academy is finally a direct offspring of a donor program. The Academy continues the efforts of the USAID DemNet project aiming to promote local philanthropy (see appendix 5, portray 10). The local staff and their know-how have still been ensuring that the Academy remains embedded in local structures. The director Pawel Łukasiak is the former president of BORIS and well known in the NGO community. The Academy’s endeavors are joint ventures with FIP and the Batory Foundation. Moreover, it received some further funding from USAID. This little summary depicts that the described organizations hold frequent personal and informal contacts. What evolves is an informal network of recipients and locally active donors.

Thematic Organizations

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Although they have a certain preference in this respective, donors do not only sponsor advocacy NGOs or NGOs that regard the promotion of democracy and civil society as their main statutory goal. NGOs with specific thematic objectives are also “main recipients” that benefit from donor funding. One has to note, however, that some topics receive more Western attention than others. A fact revealed by the survey of KLON /JAWOR (see table 6). According to this survey, NGOs active in the area of “state, law, politics”, “human rights”, “education” the “mass media”, “family/children/youth”, “religion”, “social issues”, “decentralization”, and “environment” relied more frequently on foreign resources than the average of NGOs in Poland.

Table 6: NGOs Relying Partially on Foreign Funds by Core Area of Activity in Poland 1994

Area of activity

Declared as core act i vity in 1994 in %

% of organizations using fo r eign funds

Total of NGOs

16

State, law, politics

3.8

28

Human rights

6.3

24

Education

40.9

20

Mass media

7.3

19

Family, children, youth

12.5

19

Religions, denominations

4.8

18

Social assistance

29.6

17

Health

21.4

17

Regional Development

16.7

16

Ecology

23.6

16

Science

11.2

14

Rural areas / decentralization

3.6

13

Economy

10

13

Hobby

7.4

11

Sports

13.5

11

Arts, culture

29.4

11

Construction

2.5

11

Professional groups

6.4

8

Communication

2

7

Public safety

1.5

6

Source: Survey of Klon/Jawor 1994 published in BORDO 1998: 44, 32

Examples for such thematically oriented “main recipients” are the “Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights” (HFHR), “The Foundation in Support for Local Democracy” (FSLD) but also various think tanks such as the “Institute for Public Affairs” (ISP, Instytut Spraw Publicznych) or the “Institute for International Relations” (CIM).171

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The named organizations are active in different issue areas and strive for different objectives.172 

One has to note that the mentioned organizations are rather different with regard to statutory objectives and major activities. Nevertheless, three combining characteristics can be highlighted. First, the briefly described organizations did profit from an early start and early Western support. By the year 2000 they are well-known and reputable organizations with a substantial budget and a high number of paid staff that shape the development of their specific thematic fields.173 Second, all of the organizations are affiliated with prominent personalities from politics and (social) science with international contacts and reputation.174 This fact facilitated the access to financial resources at least as much as the specific thematic orientation. And finally, one has to note that all of the covered organizations have strands in the Solidarity movement and evolve out of domestic concerns. The Helsinki Committee in Poland that founded HFHR in 1989 was established during the period of martial law in 1982. It was an underground organization, which aimed to inform the international community on the situation in Poland by publishing Human Rights reports and smuggling them to the West (HFHR 2000: 24, interview Danuta Przywara). FSLD was created in 1989 by a group of members of the Civic Committee led by Professor Regulski (FSLD 1997: 8). The group tied up to the Solidarity principle of “self-administration”. Although this principle was primarily connected to workers committees, a small group of experts inside the Solidarity movement connected the idea with the self-government of local and regional levels (see e.g. Baldersheim/Illner 1996, Benzler 1993). The think-tanks ISP and CIM are not only connected with well-known personalities but are also connected to a strong tradition of social sciences in Poland. A further example – that has not been covered here – are the strong environmental NGOs that on the one hand received massive Western support, but on the other hand can be traced back to environmentally oriented sub-groups operating under the broad roof of the Solidarity movement (see Glinski 1999; REC 1997: 55pp). We thus must conclude that these “main recipients” are rather recipient than donor-driven. It holds true that some topics are more supported by donor organizations than others. But this fact is as much due to donor preferences as to domestic concerns.The major differences among the three types of main recipients are summarized in the following table:

Table 7: Types of Main Recipients

Type

Objective

Activity

Role of donor

Democracy Promoters

Democracy and Civil Society

Civic education / service provision

Role model

Infrastructural NGOs

Civil Society and “Third Sector”

  • Service provision (information, know- how, finances to NGOs)
  • Lobbying for respective legal framework
  • Integrative measures (network building, representation / umbrella)

Supermarket of Ideas, Inspiration

Thematic Organizations

Thematic Objectives

  • Service provision (training, research)
  • Awareness raising
  • Lobbying
  • Monitoring

Sponsor

7.4.2 Sustainability of Main Recipients

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It was made clear above that the three groups of recipients evolved as well-established and highly professional organizations over the years with the help of external assistance. The question remains, however, whether they will be able to ensure their sustainability once international donors withdraw from Poland. The question of sustainability seems to be of special importance concerning “democracy promoters” and “infrastructural organizations”. What can be the tasks of “democracy promoters“ once donors decide that a country is “democratic” and that end the funding of civil society assistance activities has come? Along the same lines, how can “infrastructural organizations” make their living, once the “infrastructure” of NGOs is in place and their mission is thus fulfilled? It will be made clear in the following that in Poland the main recipients typologized above managed to sustain themselves in the period of donor withdrawal. However, they did so while pursuing different strategies.

The organizations labeled above as “democracy promoters” succeeded in ensuring their sustainability by continuing their efforts in other countries and regions. They shift their geographic focus in line with donor attention. All three organizations described above (IDEE, FED, CSDF) increasingly conduct (Western funded) projects in countries such as Ukraine, Byelorussia or Kosovo. In 1999 IDEE even managed a “Democracy support program” in Cuba. One may argue that with the support to “democracy promoters”, external civil society assistance transferred development-aid organizations. In other words, donors transferred their own images and created templates of themselves, which lack the finances and the governmental funding or the philanthropic support of their role models though.

The sustainability of “infrastructural organizations” is guaranteed at least in the short-run. This is largely due to the Batory Foundation that continues and intensifies its support to NGOs in Poland and thus aims to facilitate the withdrawal of mainly American donors. Moreover, the highly professional and well-connected “infrastructural organizations” are in a favored position to make the shift to European funding. FIP for example manages several projects appointed by the delegation of the EU Commission in Poland. The Stefan Batory Foundation that sponsors a representation of Polish NGOs in Brussels further facilitates the shift to European funds. Moreover, the socially oriented organizations such as BORIS, WROSZ or SPLOT can partially draw on indigenous support and continue their relationships with German welfare associations. Finally, the organizations do possess contacts to governmental and administrative bodies. Whether they manage to succeed in receiving domestic funding is to be seen in the future. Nevertheless the limitation of funds is felt. This is e.g. evident in the move of organizations such as FIP, WROSZ, KLON/JAWOR (and others such as Humanitarian Action, Polish Foundation) in a joint “NGO center” in Warsaw.

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As far as domestic funding possibilities for Polish NGOs are concerned, one can state that with the support of foreign aid, a number of domestic donors in form of foundations and support centers evolved that support NGOs. These are, e.g. above called “thematic organizations” such as the Children and Youth Foundation that provides grants to NGOs engaging in social projects. Moreover, the work of the Academy seems to take fruit. The Academy assisted the establishment of 13 local philanthropic organizations in Poland by 2001, including five equipped with their own capital endowment. This point is confirmed by the following insights from the DPP survey on NGOs in Poland and Slovakia conducted in 2002 and 03 (see appendix 8). Asked about their main donors, 24% of the participating Polish NGOs name a domestic foundation or fund as one of their main donors (e.g. Polish Children and Youth Foundation, Pastwowy Fundusz Rehabilitacji). Additionally, 5% draw on funds of the Academy in Support of Local Philanthropy; and 20% name the Stefan Batory Foundation as one major donor. 42% draw only on domestic sources (including governmental support) and a further 37% depend on a mix of foreign and domestic sources. Only 12% mention exclusively foreign donors as their main donors (including Batory Foundation) (ibid: question 13, 13a).

In sum, contrary to doubts that have been raised concerning the ability of “main recipients” to sustain themselves, once donor commitments came to an end, the organizations under investigation managed to guarantee their existence. However the strategies that ensured sustainability are different. “Democracy promoters” use their expertise in democracy assistance in order to conduct their projects in other countries further to the East now. “Infrastructural NGOs” succeeded in shifting to European and local funding. And “thematic organizations” managed to turn their favored stand due to early and massive external support into a comparative edge. As a result, they are reputable and well-known organizations with relatively easy access to domestic (and foreign) sources.

Moreover, a large share of Polish non-governmental organizations benefit at least indirectly via the work of “main recipients” from Western funding. In this way, the provision of material resources and institution building greatly benefits Polish civil society (see chapter 7.4.4. below).

7.4.3 Legitimacy of Main Recipients 

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So far the analysis has focused on major characteristics of main recipients and tackled the question of sustainability. The proceeding section jumped to the conclusion that main recipients succeeded in maintaining sustainability. Main recipients can therefore be classified as an output of civil society assistance. The following will go one step further and aim to tackle the question of legitimacy. Are organizations with international contacts that draw on foreign resources to a great extent accepted as legitimate domestic actors?

As regards the acceptance of “main recipients” in Polish society, one must first note that in Poland (as in most CEE countries) Western contacts are assessed as something positive rather than negative. Instead of undermining the credibility of recipients, Western assistance thus raises the self-esteem and results in reputation and standing. This point is confirmed by the DPP survey conducted in 2002. A vast majority of Polish NGOs (93%) assesses international contacts as very important (appendix 8, table 26, question 10). Thereby it makes no difference whether the questioned NGO has international contacts or not.175 In other words, also non-recipients see international contacts as something positive and not as something illegitimate. Therefore one cannot confirm that main recipients are perceived as “bridgeheads of alien influence”. Most NGOs further agree that one can profit from the reputation of the donor organization (75%) (ibid: question 12). However, the questioned NGOs largely agree that donors prefer a few highly professional NGOs; 51% agree that this is partially the case; 14% agree that this is the case with all donors (ibid: question 17). One could argue that envy is more of a problem than the rejection of recipients as westernized intruders. NGOs have further no negative image in public opinion. In the DPP survey the majority of NGOs (52%) report that a negative public opinion of NGOs is no problem of NGOs in Poland (ibid: question 12).

7.4.4 Main Recipients as Carriers of Civil Society? 

The following tackles the question whether “main recipients” contribute with their activities to an advancement of civil society on the structural and the cultural dimension. In other words, can we attribute the positive changes in civil society development identified in chapter 7.2. to the activities of main recipients? Did main recipients strengthen non-governmental structures in Poland, help to overcome the deep state society divide, and advance the relationships among civil society organizations? To answer these questions, the section focuses on three different areas of activity: service provision to small and local NGOs, lobbying for legal reform and the installment of a NGO representative. Emphasis is largely placed upon “infrastructural NGOs” for reasons given above (chapter 5.3.2.).

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Service Provision

The first indicator of the effectiveness of main recipients in advancing the structural and cultural dimension of civil society is their role as service providers to NGOs. Did main recipients contribute to the organizational capacity of small and local NGOs by the provision of services, techniques, know-how and financial resources? It will be argued in the following that this has been the case. Organizations that benefited from foreign support more often than not acted in one form or another as “intermediaries” in the sense that they passed on the gained benefits in the form of information, training and advice, but also in the form of finances. With regard to the provision of information, in particular, there are many examples, KLON published a series of issue-oriented directories176 as well as a “Know your Rights” series of brochures covering topics related to social services and legal rights. Moreover, KLON enabled NGOs to gain access to the Internet and set up an e-mail account on their NGO Internet server (www.ngo.pl). The use of modern communicative technology further facilitates the access to important information such as funding possibilities, training opportunities and legal issues. SPLOT also collects and disseminates information relevant to NGOs. It published e.g. a guidebook to American organizations offering grants in CEE as well as a brochure on selected national public funds accessible to NGOs. Moreover they have altogether six bulletins that inform about the work of NGOs in Poland. Secondly, “main recipients” contribute to the organizational capacity of NGOs and other organizations via the provision of training. Primarily ”democracy promoters” are active in this field, but the “support centers” also train NGO leaders and activists in such a wide range of issues like “strategic planning of long-term activities”, “effective self-evaluation”, or “how to establish ties with the public administration and local government” (BORIS).

To sum it up, a broad range of NGOs increased their professionalism or in the language of donors “they build up capacity” thanks to the services provided by main recipients. In this manner, the intermediary role of main recipients reduced the problem of selectivity inherent in civil society assistance. One has to note, however, that the training provided is often thematically restricted. Management techniques, questions of how to guarantee sustainability and how to raise funds stand in the forefront. The major focus is thus often placed on strengthening the organizational capacity of NGOs regardless of their thematic objective.

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Legislative Reform

Besides the provision of services, infrastructural NGOs have been very active in striving for legislative reform concerning NGO law and in campaigning for NGOs rights. In Poland non-governmental organizations either take the legal form of an association according to the associations act of 1989 (amended in 1990, 1996 and 1998) or the legal form of a foundation according to the foundation act of 1984 (amended in 1991).177 Although it is undisputable that the two laws on associations and foundations grant the freedom of association and permit NGOs to exist, Third Sector activists have been criticizing for over ten years that the acts do not sufficiently regulate the rights and duties of NGOs, and thus do not provide a framework that stimulates the emergence of a thriving civil sector. Critics point to a lack of definitions, a confusing legal situation due to a co-existence of old and new regulations, restrictive interpretations of the laws by the courts, time-consuming registration processes for foundations together with unclear tax regulations and restrictions concerning the economic activity of associations and foundations in particular (conducted with the purpose to dedicate the income to public benefit objectives).178 NGO activists were especially frustrated with the unclear tax situation, and the obstacles to contracting out public services to NGOs.

The dissatisfaction with the unclear tax regulation reached its peak when the Foundation for Polish Science was charged with overdue corporate income tax. The foundation invested its funds in treasury bills determined to use the realized gains for its core activity – the support of science. According to the Polish Corporate Income Tax Act, Article 17, this objective enjoys a tax-exempt status. Nevertheless the charge was confirmed in court (Wygnanski 2000). In response, the infrastructural NGOs described above launched a nation-wide campaign. They critically declared that “Polish law and the interpretation thereof treats foundations as if they were for-profit companies, ignoring the very fact that foundations can only register as such if its existence is deemed (by the state) to be of paramount social importance” (Lasocik 2000: 15), and that economic activities are in accordance with the law if the attained income is spend on core activities and/or public benefit activities (see also Wygnanski 2000). The case has been brought to the Supreme Court of Poland.

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The legal framework was further criticized for insufficiently regulating the cooperation between public authorities and NGOs, thus hindering the realization of public tasks by NGOs as contractors of public authorities (IJNL 1998, Iss.1). Although the Budgetary Law from 1999 on the Public Finance Act admitted the possibility that public authorities subcontract the provision of public services, there has been a serious battle between NGO activists and regional accounting chambers on how to interpret the law, a battle that ended in 1999 with the modification of the law by the Sejm in favor of nongovernmental organizations. The modified law enforces the transparency of public financing and aims at a broad access to public funds. (Lasocik 2000: 34, Gliński 1999: 19, 21).

For all these reasons, NGO activists, many of which are working for the organizations under investigation, have been fighting for years for a new law that eradicates the above mentioned restrictions. Until 1998 it was attempted to strengthen the legal security of NGOs with a “Public Utility Act”. Since then there has been an ongoing discussion on a “Public Benefits Activity Law” also called “Law on the Cooperation between Public Administration and NGOs” designed to regulate the cooperation between NGOs and government. It took six years and intensive debate between NGO activists and governmental representatives until the Sejm finally adopted the law in April 2003.

The new law regulates a variety of issues relevant for NGOs. Firstly, it defines the criteria for a new type of organization – the “public benefit organization”. NGOs that acquire this new status receive certain privileges, primarily tax benefits. This procedure ensures that not the legal form decides upon tax privileges of NGOs, rather the question whether the organization’s objectives and tasks contribute to the public benefit and whether they are non-profit seeking. A council consisting of representatives from government and NGOs will decide upon the public benefit status of applying NGOs. Secondly, the law installs clear mechanisms of contracting and subsidizing the realization of public tasks by NGOs and thus regulates the cooperation between NGOs and government. Thirdly, the law increases the possibility for NGOs to engage in economic activities that remain tax-exempt. NGOs now have the possibility to invest their financial assets tax-free and to charge fees for the provision of services. The law thus enables NGOs to raise financial resources spent on statutory activities. Moreover, the law introduces the 1% law that has long been established in other CEE countries (as e.g. Hungary, Bulgaria and Czech Republic and Slovakia) and that provides the possibility of transferring 1% of the personal income tax to public benefit organizations. And finally, the law regulates voluntary work (ICNL 2003).179 Although it is to be seen how the law will operate in practice, the law is expected to provide an impetus for NGO development, not least because it provides new funding opportunities and aims to ensure that more NGOs gain access to public funds.180

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The final agreement on the new legislation can be classified as a “success” for the infrastructural organizations under investigation but also of their aligned donors. Representatives of these organizations, mainly from FIP but also from other organizations, have been part of the legislative drafting group, and leading figures in the campaign following the court decision charging the Foundation for Polish Science with overdue corporate income tax.

The failed attempt to install a “NGO representative”

Further activities of “infrastructural NGOs” (supported by their donors) aim to develop horizontal relationships and networks among NGOs and to integrate the NGO sector. However, whereas there are several examples of regionally or thematically structured loose networks,181 attempts to install a nation-wide “NGO representative” in order to gain greater bargaining power against the government continuously failed. Efforts in this direction started already in 1991 with the establishment of the Forum of Polish Foundations, an initiative of the Stefan Batory foundation, the European Foundation Center, the Foundation for Poland and others. Since associations could become members, it was hoped that the foundation could act as an “umbrella organization” of Polish foundations and associations. However, the foundation could not live up to these expectations (Asocjacje 1991: 2; Stefan Batory Foundation 1997: xiv). A second attempt was made in 1996 with the initiative of the first National Forum of Non-governmental Initiatives (in Polish: Ogólnopolskie Forum Inicjatyw Pozarządowych - FIP), a congregation and fair of 800 NGOs in Warsaw that has been inspired by similar fairs taking place regularly in France (Cooperation Fund 1998: 23). The aim was to promote the activities of NGOs but also to nurture cooperation among NGOs. The organizers of the fair stirred a discussion on the installment of a “NGO representation”. However, the participating NGOs did not see the need for the formation of an umbrella organization. Furthermore a deep skepticism towards umbrella organizations and any attempt to “organize from above” that is rooted in communist times prevented any form of institutionalized representation (Wejcman 1999: 24). Instead of a membership-based umbrella organization, the members of the organizational Committee of the fair thus established the “Association for the Forum of Non-governmental Initiatives” (FIP), a non-profit and apolitical organization with the objective of further supporting national NGO meetings, and to act as an advocacy organization of NGOs, substituting a non-existing “NGO representative”.

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The Working Community of Associations of Social NGO’s (WRZOS), a national representation of 12 regional centers of socially active local NGOs founded in 2000, is a further attempt to install an umbrella organization, but not as a representative of NGOs, rather as a federation of thematically oriented organizations active in the social field. Whereas FIP is a typical advocacy NGO without a membership base, WRZOS emulates the German model of territorially organized “Dachverbände” (umbrella organizations) and receives various supports from regional branches of the German Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband.

7.4.5 Recipient Benefits – Did Civil Society Assistance Make a Difference?

The question arises to what extent recipients benefited from civil society assistance. Did donors assist main recipients in assuming their roles and fulfilling their tasks? The section will focus on three main benefits according to three different types of assistance that have been granted (see chapter 5.3.1.): (1) finances; (2) knowledge, i.e. the provision of information, training, techniques and know-how; and (3) moral support.

Financial Support

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A large majority of NGOs in Poland highly benefited from financial support granted by external donors. In the DPP survey, 58% of the participating NGOs report that they received institutional grants, while 64% profited from project grants. In both cases more than 90% of the beneficiaries regarded this kind of support as very important (see appendix 8, table 26, question 15). This data suggests that without external support a large part of Polish NGOs could not have carried out a wide range of their activities. Furthermore, external financial support guaranteed the existence of several Polish NGOs. This holds especially true for main recipients, as the following examples demonstrate. The Batory foundation used its institutional grants to increase the number of support centers in Poland. Moreover, the Batory foundation expanded its institutional grants to cushion the withdrawal of foreign funds from Poland. Particularly main recipients benefited from this expansion (see appendix 4, portray 8). While striving for legislative reform, the community of Polish NGO activists received backing and support from foreign donors throughout the political process. As already noted (chapter 7.4.1.), this support came firstly in the form of finances, enabling the organizations to sustain their activities.

One has to note, however, that donor preferences did not always correspond with local needs. The following observation of the Cooperation fund suggests that the vast majority of Polish NGOs in need of financial assistance did not always fit donor requirements:

The contests organized within the framework of the (Phare) Democracy Programme had considerably fewer applicants than the contests organized by the Civic Dialogue Programme and LIEN…. Such situation was on one hand the outcome of very stringent substantive requirements that the applying organizations were to fulfill, and on the other hand, it was caused by the fact that the number of organizations focused on democratic activities, no matter how broad that notion might be was notably limited….. It is worth noticing that the applications submitted to the contests organized by Phare Democracy Programme were generally very well prepared and the projects implemented with in the budget of that programme were at the highest professional level (Cooperation Fund 1998: 11).

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With their narrow focus on democracy building projects, donors seem to forget that organizations of civil society have various purposes among which awareness rising and civic education is only one.

Capacity Building

However, financial support is only one facet of foreign assistance. The transfer of knowledge, concepts and techniques as well as the provision of expertise and advice is another.

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The support centers and other main recipients profited from the training they received from donor organizations. The Civic Dialogue Program was among the first to pay much attention to the development of regional NGO support centers in order to ensure long term support for NGOs especially at the regional and community level (see table 10). DemNet trained the existing centers in management techniques and relied on the centers as intermediaries passing on information on DemNet grants and assisting local NGOs in applying for funding. Additionally, donors relied on the described organizations as intermediaries enabling them to reach small and local NGOs. For example, BORIS assisted German welfare organizations in organizing regional conferences on social welfare issues in Poland. Through this cooperation between international donors and domestic intermediaries and “multipliers”, a large majority of Polish NGOs did receive support in the form of training and expertise and highly benefited from it, as confirmed by the DPP survey. When questioned why foreign cooperation has been or would have been important, the majority of replying NGOs reported that they received benefits from international organizations in the form of expertise/consultancy (60%), and training / workshops (54%). Again more than 90% of the NGOs acknowledge these benefits as very important (appendix 8, question 15).

The value of externally granted expertise is demonstrated by the process of legislative reform in NGO law described above (chapter 7.4.). In their negotiations with governmental representatives NGO activists could draw on free expertise ordered by several donor organizations. The USAID funded International Center for Non-for-Profit Law (ICNL) accompanied the legislative process, assisted the NGO representatives in developing draft laws, and continuously provided professional legal expertise on the various proposals. The Phare Civic Dialogue Program appointed an expert group to analyze the current legal status of NGOs. Moreover, the team of three legal experts prepared a study draft of the legal act on non-profit organizations after extensive consultation with the NGO sector (Cooperation Fund 1998: 28; IJNL 1998). The result was the first draft of the “Law on the Cooperation between Public Administration and NGOs” finally adopted in April 2003.

One should further note that expertise and know-how often came as unintended side-products of cooperation with international organizations in the form of Western models that provided impetus and stirred emulation. The short history of the Polish NGO sector is full of such examples. The idea for the National Forum of Non-governmental Initiatives, an annual fair aimed at the development of cooperation and promotion of the activities of NGOs first held in September 1996 in Warsaw, originally came from France (Cooperation Fund 1998: 23). An important facet of the new “law on the Cooperation between Public Administration and NGOs” adopted in April 2003, namely the installment of legal councils that decide on a public benefit status of NGOs, follows a Scottish model. The foundation of the NGO “WROSZ” a national representation of 12 regional centers of socially active local NGOs that has enterred in a transnational partnership with the German Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband, Berlin Brandenburg, resembles the model of federation of social service oriented NGOs usually found in Germany.

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Moral Support

Besides the well-known benefits of foreign assistance coming in the form of “institution building” and “capacity building”, one should not neglect hardly visible and often unintended “side-products” such as moral support or a higher reputation and standing of the recipient. Ekiert / Kubik (1998:19) point out that “moral support” was of utmost importance for the Solidarity underground movement in the 1980s. Gestures such as the donation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Lech Walęsa in 1983 or the fact that Solidarity was formally affiliated and thus already recognized by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Confederation of Labor in 1986 increased the movement’s confidence and standing and helped to make the distinction between “illegal” and “legitimate”. Western support thus contributed to the oppositional strategy to undermine the credibility of the regime and to break up the monopoly of the leading ideology on determining the truth (see also Klein 2001: 37). Moreover, the support was important for individuals. In the words of Danuta Przywara from the Helsinki Foundation: “This moral support showed that we are important and that we should go on.” In the transition period Western backing also contributed to instead of damaging the reputation of their cooperation partners, as Western support demonstrated expertise, which was often lacking in the organizations themselves. In the words of Regulski, the president of FSDL regarding assistance from the USAID: “You can’t underestimate the psychological character of USAID’s support. It was crucial at the time to our success. People were afraid; we had no experience but we had someone assisting us” (USAID 2000a: 32).

In the survey on NGOs of 2002 most NGOs also still agree that one can profit from the reputation of the donor organization (75%) (appendix 8, question 12). Additionally, the majority of NGOs (58%) see the foreign donor as a partner that strives for the same goals, a fact that is highly valued (87%). A further unintended consequence that is highly valued by recipient organizations is the provision of “networks and contacts”. 77% of the participating NGOs report that the cooperation with Western donors is important for them as it provides networks and contacts. Nearly all of the questioned NGOs (99%) regard this form of support as very important (ibid).

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The evaluation of the Phare Democracy Program points to another benefit:

“The major overall impact of PTDP (Phare Tacis Democracy Programme) in Poland was a political one. Its pure existence on such a range and scale gave real credibility to the NGO sector as such… (projects) initiated by EU meant a clear sign to Polish decision-makers that the NGO sector cannot be ignored if Poland wants to join the EU” (European Commission 1997c: 102).

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In other words, the in financial terms rather modest support of the Phare Democracy program benefited Polish NGOs mainly by means of increasing the visibility and acceptance of NGOs. In negotiations with a government that strives to enter the EU, international cooperation translates into political bargaining power.

We can thus conclude that Polish civil society benefited from Western support in many ways. Moreover, the Polish organizations are aware of this fact and appreciate the support they received.

7.4.6 Summary

Chapter three points to the problem of donor selectivity that may undermine the credibility of donors. It became clear above that in the Polish case donors did prefer some type of organizations to others and thus supported only a small segment of civil society. Furthermore, the externally supported NGOs are not representative of the NGO sector in Poland at large. Instead some thematic issues are more supported than others. Especially NGOs declaring their core activity to lie in the area of “state, law, and policy” or “human rights” over-proportionally profit from foreign funds.182 This fact confirms that foreign donors do select recipients and prefer so-called “advocacy”, “watch-dog” or “public policy oriented” NGOs that comply with Western standards. Three main types of “main recipients” have been identified: (1) “democracy promoters” which, similar to their foreign role models, aim to support democracy and conduct civic education projects; (2) “infrastructural NGOs” that strive to install a favorable infrastructure for NGO activities including a legal framework, networks and representative bodies of NGOs and funding opportunities; (3) thematically oriented NGOs, mainly working in the field of human resources, education, the media, children and youth. These organizations received massive donor support from the very beginning often thanks to well-known leaders.

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This section aimed to tackle the question whether the organizations donors regard as building blocks of democracy and civil society really act as carriers of civil society. In other words, does donor funding translate into a variety of non-governmental organizations and a pluralistic civil society or rather in a distorted image of civil society marked by a few organizations that serve donor rather than domestic needs and remain disconnected from society?

In the Polish case, one can note that despite donor selectivity main recipients are embedded in domestic settings. Main recipients succeeded in ensuring their sustainability. “Democracy Promoters” implemented civil society assistance projects in other countries and regions. Infrastructural NGOs managed to shift to European and domestic sources of funding. And most thematic organizations developed thanks to the early and massive support for well-situated and reputable domestic actors with access to domestic and European funding. In none of the cases did Western contacts and funding undermine the legitimacy of recipients. On the contrary, Western contacts more often than not boost the reputation of the domestic organization. Main recipients additionally act in one form or another as “intermediaries” in the sense that they pass on the gained benefits in the form of grants, but also training or advice. Examples include organizations such as the Foundation in Support of Local Democracy that trains a high amount of local administrative staff via its regional branches, the Children and Youth Foundation that provides grants to NGOs engaging in social projects, or the community foundations established with the help of the Academy of Philanthropy. What evolved with the support of foreign aid is a number of domestic donors in form of foundations and support centers that continue to support local NGOs. This way a larger share of civil society organizations benefited at least indirectly from Western funding. Foreign funding thus fuelled the rise of non-governmental organizations in Poland portrayed in chapter 7.2. By these means foreign support and main recipients contributed to the structural dimension of civil society in Poland. Civil society assistance has been less successful in advancing the cultural dimension of civil society. The animosity between politicians and NGOs mirroring the state-society divide evident in Poland and the lacking willingness of the Polish people to participate in civil activities continue to be problems of civil society development. Nonetheless, changes in the cultural dimension are visible. Main recipients aimed for better cooperation among NGOs. Various activities such as the regional and national NGO meetings or regional networks of cooperation work in this direction. The attempts to install a nation-wide umbrella organization or representative for the NGO sector for the sake of effective lobbying, however, largely failed due to a prevailing distrust towards umbrella organizations among Polish civil society organizations. Main recipients further learned to understand that the rise of civic activity is difficult without cooperative ties with state administration and a respective legal environment. Their aspirations for a respective legal framework for non-governmental initiatives in Poland that facilitates the cooperation among NGOs and state administration succeeded in 2003 with the passing of a new law. Whether the law will help to overcome the animosities between state administrations and NGOs is to be seen.

We can thus conclude that “main recipients” in Poland are more than donor-driven NGOs but act as carriers of civil society. What is even more salient from the point of view of this study is that main recipients benefited from the assistance granted by their donors in bringing about the described achievements. Building the capacity of local NGOs, enhancing their knowledge base and emanating information had often not been possible without their having been trained previously by donor organizations themselves and without Western financial support. The internationally granted expertise also proved an important tool in the legislative process and enhanced the bargaining power of the NGO representative in the drafting group on NGO legislation. The transfer of foreign models and ideas that provided impetus and inspiration was an additional unintended “by-product” of international cooperation and communication.

7.5 Conclusion: Civil Society Assistance in Poland – A Success Story by Accident or Skill? 

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The proceeding analysis aimed to answer one major question: Is it possible for externally granted assistance to civil society organizations to contribute positively to civil society development in Poland after transition from authoritarian rule in structural as well as cultural terms? The initial notion guiding this research has been that civil society development in Poland after transition was highly shaped by the historical legacies of previous years, but rather disconnected from the various Western endeavors to build up civil society. Moreover, the faults evident in civil society assistance, namely its selectivity and lacking legitimacy, are bound to result at best in nothing more than donor-driven NGOs detached from society that will wither away once donor funding comes to an end. Even if this initial hypothesis were not to be confirmed, doubts can still be raised that it was external assistance that shaped Polish civil society and not the past experiences with organized forms of civic activities and a nation-wide oppositional movement that existed in Polish history. Thus, if the Polish case is a “success story” of donor organizations, it may well be a success by accident rather than skill. In order to answer these questions and to verify or falsify our initial hunch, the analysis faced a threefold task: firstly, to assess civil society and its cultural preconditions in Poland; secondly, to plausibly attribute the current state of civil society to Western assistance; and thirdly, to rule out other plausible explanations that ground civil society development in historical and cultural prepositions of civil society.

Chapter 2.3.. portrayed the historic legacies of the communist rule that are widely regarded as an obstacle to the re-emergence of civil society even after liberalization legalizes the self-organization of society. It has been shown that communist rule is obstructive for civil society to take root as it preserves an image of social homogeneity that inhibits interest differentiation and representation. The bad reputation of associations is a further stumbling block for organized civic activity. The communist patronage state that acts as a care-taker of the people results in passive citizens with extensive demands toward the state, and since the state largely failed to live up to the expectations it raised, it leads to a deep state-society divide. For all these reasons, communist rule does not provide fertile ground for civil society, but instead is quite obstructive for the cultural basis so much needed for a lively civil society to develop. However, it has been argued that communist states are characterized by as many similarities as differences, and the differences in the Polish case emanating from the oppositional movement Solidarity, is not to be neglected. The experience with Solidarity taught the Polish people that civic action makes a difference and may result in change. Moreover, the aim of achieving an evolutionary extension of civic rights (Michnik) and the concept of a “self-administrated republic” resulted in independent circles of freedom and the construction of a social infrastructure of various political clubs and organizations “from below”. This resulted in the existence of various initiatives and concepts in different issue areas such as human rights, environment, or local self-administration. Along with that, a substantial basis of political, local and professional leaders and activists has been formed that were able and willing to build up civil society after 1989. Nevertheless, it would be misleading to assume that the experience of the Solidarity movement countermands the legacies of the communist past. On the contrary, it has been argued that it particularly deepened the state-society divide. The monolithic character of the movement that was based on the myth of a “community of faith” striving for the “common good” and standing and fighting against a corrupt state preserved the image of society as the place of the “better” and the state and politics as the place of “evil”. Moreover, once the movement came to power and the differences inside the movement came to the fore citizens reacted with disillusionment and passivity. The myth of solidarity translated into an “agony of myth” (Szacki 1991).

Chapter 7.2. gave an assessment of the state of civil society in Poland roughly ten years after transition. It jumped to the conclusion that progress is visible on the structural as well as cultural dimension. The number of non-governmental organizations has been growing rapidly. Additionally, the organizations are active in a broad range of issue areas. Nevertheless it became clear that civil society development suffered from the legacies outlined above. Civic participation remained low and NGOs have first been largely restricted to urban centers. However, communication among the various civic organizations is evident, but the distrust toward institutionalized forms of cooperation is high and largely prevents the building of umbrella organizations. The state-society divide also has left its traces. Politicians continue to regard NGOs as unwelcome competitors, while civil society activists regard politicians as corrupt and politics as something dirty. This attitude has been evident in a lacking state policy, which triggers the self-organization of society and an unfavorable legal framework regulating non-governmental activities. However, throughout the period of investigation improvement was evident. In recent years, NGOs are increasingly springing up in regional and local areas. An agreement among government and NGO representatives on a new NGO law has finally been reached after a long struggle. And a process of integration of single organizations active in the same issue areas is taking place, although the attempt to establish a membership-based representative of NGOs failed.

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The key question of this chapter has been whether the depicted positive changes in the structural and in the cultural dimension of civil society are attributable to Western assistance and support, or whether civil society assistance leads to donor-driven NGOs that fail to meet local demands. The analysis of the output and outcome of civil society assistance given in chapter 7.4 revealed that the hypothesis of a supplementary stratum could not be confirmed. Although civil society assistance to Poland was selective and mainly supported by only a few specific NGOs, i.e. so-called “democracy promoters”, “infrastructural NGOs” or thematic organizations run by well-known personalities, Western assistance is neither perceived as illegitimate, nor do the main recipients fail to ensure their sustainability. Additionally, major recipients acted as intermediaries that pass on the gained benefits and supported other non-governmental organizations with the provision of training, know-how, information and access to funds. The struggle for favorable legal regulations, more cooperation between state administration and NGOs and among NGOs also benefited Polish NGOs at large. The section thus concluded that main recipients acted as carriers of civil society.

More important from the point of view of this study is the fact that while bringing about the described achievements, main recipients highly benefited from international cooperation as demonstrated in chapter 7.4.5. These benefits came firstly as material assistance in the form of project or institutional grants. Due to the lack of domestic funding possibilities especially in the early 1990s, these funds were of utmost importance as they ensured the mere existence of non-governmental organizations in Poland. Recipients also highly valued and profited from so-called “soft products” of assistance that are activities of donors usually referred to as “capacity building”. The provision of training, information and know-how increased the professionalism of NGOs and raised their operational capacity. As a result, NGOs became better in gaining funding on the one hand. On the other hand, they became experts in their respective fields. More than anything else, this expertise increased their domestic reputation and their recognition by state authorities. This was even more so the case when domestic NGOs were backed internationally. Such was the case in the legislative process on a respective NGO law. The domestic authorities could not neglect the fact that legal reports presented by the NGO representative on the draft law of the government were firstly drafted by an international expert and secondly financed by the EU. These are politically powerful arguments in the negotiations with a government that wants to enter the EU. In other words, the international support as such directly translated into the increasing visibility and acceptance of the NGO sector and political bargaining power. Applying the language of actor-centered institutionalism, donors raised the capabilities of civil society actors, i.e., “all action resources that allow an actor to influence an outcome in certain respects and to a certain degree” (Scharpf 1997: 43).

However, it would be misleading to assume that these merits and benefits of civil society assistance to Polish NGOs have been the inevitable consequences of all donor activities. One must keep in mind that the effect of foreign assistance was facilitated by several factors.

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Firstly, one must remark that although all three types of main recipients highly benefited from foreign technical and financial assistance, none of them was fully donor-driven. For the “democracy promoters” donors have been a role model that stirs emulation. “Infrastructural NGOs” used external models as a ground for inspiration rather than copying. Organizations such as BORIS or SPLOT combine features of American small lobby groups and of European intermediary organizations. Thematically oriented recipients finally use external techniques, methods and financial resources in order to pursue their own agenda more effectively. From their standpoint, donors were mainly sponsors. In all three cases the recipient organizations are driven as much by indigenous concerns as by opportunities provided for by donors. Additionally, all three types are rooted in the Solidarity movement, and they often have been founded in response to domestic concerns.

Secondly, foreign support was largely perceived as legitimate and acceptable assistance in Poland. Based on the strong belief that Poland would have been a democratic and wealthy country similar to its Western neighbors if it had not been for the Soviet occupation, Western assistance was demanded by the Polish people as a way to re-install normality. Aid was not regarded as a pittance, rather as assistance to which Poland is entitled. The credibility and esteem of the donor also played a role. American donors, in particular, are highly appreciated in Poland thanks to the massive support they had already granted during the 1980s. The civil society assistance of the European Union has to be seen in the light of the prospects for membership in the EU. The fact that Poland wants to enter the European Union provided important leverage not only for donors that aim to foster civil society development but also to NGO activists in the country who were not tired of reminding their governments of the importance of a lively civil society for EU accession. One may argue that thanks to European enlargement the adoption of a new NGO law came within the range of appropriate policy options to governmental representatives.

Finally, one has to note that the focus on main recipients that are still active and visible in Polish civil society today deliberately neglects civil society assistance “failures”, be it recipient organizations that failed to ensure their sustainability or high-priced short-term consultants whose expertise proved useless. Chapter 7.3 pointed out that the history of civil society assistance to Poland was full of such failures. The early period in particular was marked by a lack of strategy and a tremendous ignorance towards domestic contexts. Not until the middle of the 1990s did donors change their approach to civil society assistance in Poland and apply a more fine-tuned strategy. They became aware of the shortcomings of selecting a few recipients and increasingly provided small grants to a wider spectrum of NGOs active in a variety of thematic areas. Additionally, donors placed greater emphasis on “capacity building” with a focus on training, network building and a favorable regulatory environment for NGOs. Most importantly, donors learned that local knowledge and initiative was important to ensure success. They decentralized their support and increasingly relied on decentralized structures and local staff in carrying out civil society assistance. Most Phare NGO support programs were administered by the locally run Cooperation Fund. The NGO support program of USAID called “DemNet” also operated with local staff. And the Soros-funded Stefan Batory Foundation was run as a domestic foundation with domestic staff from its very beginning. The local administration of the programs ensured a close cooperation with domestic NGOs and their needs. This is even more so, as the NGO support programs and the infrastructural NGOs cultivated close personal links, which are demonstrated by the fact that staff of the former are often board members (or even founding members) of the latter or vice versa.183 Instead of strictly divided “donors” and “recipients” we thus observe a group of Polish and international activists that work together in order to advance civil society. The result are transnational networks of civil society activists that are often held together by what one may call “local donors”, i.e. donor organizations with local offices that highly rely on local expertise and local staff. These “activist networks” acted as a source of impetus and inspiration and are characterized by close cooperation. Through this intensive cooperation donors had an impact on projects and activities of main recipients. In the same vein, recipients influenced grant schemes and donor strategies. Thus, learning processes took place on both sides. One may argue that the insight that civil society is more than a collection of NGOs but also requires a favorable environment, a regulative framework and horizontal ties among the various organizations and initiatives based on tolerance and trust was the result of a common learning process of donors and recipients starting in the middle of the 1990s

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We can thus conclude that external support positively assisted the re-emergence of civil society in Poland via the mechanisms of learning and empowerment. In this process the provision of material resources, training and know-how proved as important as the type of transactions between recipients and donors. Doubts may be raised, however, whether the Polish experience is applicable to other cases, as it was clear that without the various facilitating factors described above civil society assistance may have remained without much impact in the Polish case. So what conclusion is to be drawn? Is Poland a “success story” of the combined donor efforts to “build” civil society? Or is civil society assistance nothing more than a footnote to a process that followed a path dependent on past experiences and that was highly shaped by local actors socialized in the Solidarity movement? It has been pointed out that alternative explanations are hard to rule out by looking on single cases. For this reason, the following will briefly highlight civil society assistance in Slovakia - a country whose cultural preconditions are less favorable to civil society.


Footnotes and Endnotes

117 The identified indicators are: (1) number of NGOs and associations, (2) thematic distribution of NGOs, (3) regional distribution of NGOs, (4) civic participation and volunteerism, (5) relationship between civil society and state, (6) horizontal relationships between NGOs.

118 For historical accounts of civil society including the “distant past”, see: Leś et al (2000: 2-12); Szücs (1988); Kurczewska (1995).

119 Disagreement exists over the question whether the “distant past”, i.e. experiences with non-governmental forms of self-organization and interest representation before the onset of communist rule, facilitates the upspring of civil society in countries such as Poland in contrast to the countries farther East such as Ukraine or Russia (Klein 2001: 41). Some authors point to the century-long existence of federations and especially charity based organizations in Poland (Leś et al 2000), or stress the importance of the noble democracy of the 18th century, the experience of the two partitions and the traditions of Polish national culture based on the ideas of social solidarity, egalitarianism and social emancipation (Kurczewska 1995: 44pp). Others, in contrast, argue that previous states of civil society have been demolished under communism: “Crucially, the Soviet-type revolution destroyed the civil societies that were coming into being after the Second World War. Before the communist take-overs these countries were at best semi-developed … but they were not the homogenized, simple polities that they became as a result of the Stalinist revolution. The countries of the region had embarked on their own, often rather fitful roads toward modernity, which recognized the existence of the market and the move toward greater complexity. These processes were cut short and all subsequent development took place under the aegis of the state“ (Schöpflin 1993: 226). It is, however, not the purpose of this work to resolve this dispute. Being well aware of the fact that civil society development in Poland pursues a rather different pathway after 1990 than civil society development in countries such as Russia, Ukraine or Belarus, the author concentrates for reasons of simplicity and lack of space on the “near past”, i.e. the period of communist rule, and only occasionally will draw attention to more distant historical legacies.

120 In various cases, e.g. at the time of the student protests at Warsaw University in 1968, the Catholic church openly sided with the protesters and subscribed to the demands of citizens and human rights principles (see Fehr 1996: 72p).

121 The author refrains from a detailed description of the story of Solidarność and instead points to the numerous excellent studies on the foundation and history of the movement: e.g. Staniszkis (1984), Tatur (1989), Thaa (1996: 255-271), Fehr (1996: 88-111), Matynia (2001), Carpenter (1999), Pelczynski (1988).

122 After the strategies of “revolution from below” and “reformation from above” failed in 1956 and 1968, “reformation from below” based on an “anti-political” movement seemed to be the last available option. For the oppositional strategy of solidarity and the moral concept underpinning it see: Klein (2001: 38pp); Ogrodzinski (1995), Thaa (1996: 163pp), Fehr (1996:78pp).

123 Examples of liberalization measures before 1987 include the legalization of local braches of the Polish Ecological Club (PEC) as early as 1983, the foundations act of 1984 or the amnesty act for political prisoners in 1985. The legalization of parts of the PEC allowed not only the development of a state-critical and effective environmental movement (still strong in Poland today), but the local ecological clubs also functioned as a training facility of independently minded activists that supported underground “Solidarity” and often took local political posts after 1989 (Ekiert / Kubik 1998: 20). The legalization of foundations facilitated the transfer of Western financial aid to Polish oppositional groups, usually under the auspices of the church.

124 See Fehr (1996: 111-154) for a detailed description and classification of these initiatives.

125 It is worthwhile to note that Staniszkis assessment of the form the transition took, thus what has been called the “mode of transition” (Karl/Schmitter 1995) is rather different than the assessment of others. Karl and Schmitter (1995) regard a pacted transition as a promising start for democratization and pose the hypothesis that a pact will support the consolidation of democracy. It is not the time and place here to delve deeper into the question what “legacies” are to be expected by the mode of transition. However, one may risk the suggestion that a pacted transition contributes to the stabilization of new political institutions, but may amper the emergence of civil society. This is due to two factors. Firstly, a pacted transition may be followed by “a new social vacuum” (Stanizkis 1991) as a result of the disillusionment of the mass population, as was the case in Poland. Secondly, a pact leads to the “decapitation of the oppositional elites by success” and thus demobilizes the emergent civil society of the liberalization phase for the simple reason that it deprives civil society of its leaders (Bernhard 1996: 323). This effect may be short-term, which was the case in Poland, because Solidarity members of the middle ranks and people activated by solidarity ‘s civic committees quickly filled the gaps.

126 It is worthwhile to note that the paralleling of state structures in Poland already had its roots in the time of partitions: “…. during the partitions the society demonstrated that it was capable of enduring for more than one hundred years without its own state, thanks to unity of culture, religion, and language. As a consequence, informal institutions ensured the continuity of the social bond. This made it possible in the 1970s to articulate the notion of a “substitute society”, a self-organizing society that was supposed to take over the functions of the state” (Staniszkis 1991: 182).

127 The analysis greatly profits from three independent studies on NGOs in Poland: The Klon/Jawor surveys, the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, and the DPP survey (see chapter 5.4.).

128 The difference in the figures is partly due to differing report years and partly to different definitions applied. Leś et al employ an encompassing understanding of “nonprofits” including any type of associations and foundations, including voluntary fire brigades, plus labor unions, professional, business and employers’ organizations, church-based social institutions and political parties in line with the definition of the Johns Hopkins nonprofit project. In contrast Klon/Jawor focuses mainly on the legal form of associations and foundations and consequently neither on trade unions, professional organizations and unions of employers nor on political parties or church-based nonprofit organizations, as they are all three subject to other legal regulations. The difference in numbers already points out the unclear legal situation of non-governmental organizations that are subject to various legal regulations and registration procedures. A fact that impedes statistical inquiry (see Leś et al 2000: 13pp).

129 Examples of such organizations that reformed their statute are: the association of Polish Lawyers, the Polish Historical Society, the Polish Sociological Society (Kurczewska / Bojar 1995: 166). One should note here that several organizations existed throughout the communist period. Examples for organizations that were established before 1945 are: the Polish Women’s League, the Union of Polish State Artists, Children’s Friends Society or the Polish Red Cross (see e.g. Bordo 1998: 27).

130 One has to note that these findings of the Klon/Jawor survey correspond with the results of the DPP survey. According to the DPP survey conducted in 2002/03 the largest share of NGOs is active in the area of social services (30%), followed by youth, culture and education (24%), decentralization / regional development (17%), and economic development (10%). The differences in percentage are due to the fact that in the Klon/Jawor survey more than one answer could be given (see appendix 8).

131 This fact is most evident in the following numbers: one paid employee in labor unions or professional associations in Western Europe opposes 3.7 salaried staff in similar organizations in Central Europe. In recreation and sport the ratio is 1:3.5 and in environment and advocacy 1:2. In contrast 1 paid employee in organizations dedicated to social service provision in Central Europe equals 2.3 employees in Western Europe, one employed in the health protection in Central Europe faces 2.8 colleagues in Western Europe, and the ratio in education is still 1:1.6 (own calculation based on Anheier/Salamon 1999: 18).

132 One has to note that the figures above refer to a country sample which Poland was not part of. However, there are sufficient grounds to believe that the findings equally hold true for Poland. Gliński points out that NGOs established during the communist period in Poland have not only a tremendous property at their disposal but further benefit from “access paths” to public funds, mainly in the form of personal and informal contacts (Gliński 1999: 12). On the other hand, “new stances” of non-governmental activities in Poland are well-established and equipped. For more on the well-established environmental movement in Poland see: Gliński (1999: 20).

133 Examples include: the Polonia, Jagiellonie, Union of Catholic Youth, League of Polish Women.

134 Examples include: Society of the Friends of the Małopolska Land, Wielkopolan Society, Friends of the Mazowiecki Land, Unions of Silesians, Kaszuby Peoples, People of Podhale.

135 Examples include: Lions Club, Red Cross Club, Rotary Club, Zonta , Soroptmist, YMCA.

136 Quoted from the working document of the fifth meeting of the EU-Poland Joint Consultative Committee, Warsaw, May 13th-14th 2002 on “NGO Sector in Poland and its Role in the Process of Accession into the European Union”.
www.esc.eu.int/pages/Enlarg/ccm/pologne/meeting5_13_05_02/di_ces47_2002_di_en_original_.pdf

137 This judgment has been confirmed by interviews conducted by the author. The disillusionment with politics as much as with the new political elites is also due to the fact that many civil society organizations were founded by people that had been active in the civic committees of Solidarność. These committees whose major purpose was to mobilize voters for the first election were dissolved by Walęsa after this aim had been achieved. This practice cause tremendous frustration among people involved. One could argue that a split occurred between the Solidarity activists that dedicated their time to civil society organizations and those that went into politics whereby the latter have been perceived by the former as “giving up their ideals”.

138 The preservation of the moral myth of Solidarność inside civil society organizations is evident in statements such as the following : “In a difficult situation of the country’s transformation, we represent environments and places, where the meaning of human life is regained” (Statement of the Regional Forum of Non-governmental Organizations in Poznań April 1995 cit. in Asocjacje www.ml.com.pl/asocjacje/217.htm).

139 See e.g. Regulska (1998: 45), Leś et al (1999: 333), Lasocik (2000).

140 See Asocjacje: Polish NGO Review – History of the Third Sector 1989-1999.
wwww.ml.com.pl/asocjacje/215.htm.

141 See Asocjacje http://www.ml.com.pl/asocjacje/2191.htm%20and%20/2192.htm.

142 see e.g. Lasocik (2000), Regulska (1999: 67), Regulska (1998: 45), Gliński (1999: 8), Wygnanski (2000), Leś et al (1999: 333).

143 This is evident in the following figures: In 1999 only 8% of all counties (powiats) contracted social services out to NGOs while another 12 % offered grants (Leś et al 2000: 22).

144 This fact has also been confirmed by the DPP survey (see appendix 8, table 26, question 10).

145 The equation of civil society assistance with NGO assistance is also evident in the Polish case: The evaluation of the NGO support program of the Stefan Batory Foundation points out: “…(the foundation’s) understanding of ‘civil society’ includes an institutional concept of the civic sphere…. The Foundation turns its strategic look towards civic activities that have already obtained an institutional form.” (Open Society Institute 2000: 10). The basic objective of the Phare Civic Dialogue Program was to “provide support for civil society by means of help for NGOs that are recognized to be the manifestation of civic activity and the inevitable part of any modern democratic society” (Mendza-Drozd 2000: 31).

146 In line with the account given in chapter six, the following is based on an analysis of the activities of some chosen large donors: the EU, USA, Germany, and the Stefan Batory Foundation (founded by George Soros).

147 This favored status is illustrated in the following numbers: Nearly half of all the commitments provided by the Group of Twenty-Four Industrialized Countries between 1990-1993 (16.871.7 million ECUs), and 45.2% i.e. 2346.8 million ECUs from the IMF went to Poland (Quigley 1997: 47). From 1990 to 1998 Poland received 1732 million ECUs, that is 25% of all PHARE money assigned to 14 country programs (European Commission 1998a: 92). The USA also assisted Poland with more financial aid than any other CEE country. Until 1996 Poland benefited from 34% of the finances earmarked for the SEED program. Until the year 2000 USAID spent a total of US$ 960.5 million in Poland via its SEED program (USAID 2000a). By contrast, the German involvement in Poland is rather modest. Until 1997 Poland received 11.3% of the German Transform money which translates in 181 million DM (BMWi 1998: 23). The German political foundations spent a further 45 million until 1994 (Quigley 1997: 124). To sum it up, especially in the first half of the 1990s Poland received more Western assistance than any other country. An estimated 10% of the aid consisted of grants (Wedel 1998: 29).

148 For example, USAID spent 1.3% of its total allocations on direct aid to NGOs (see appendix 5, table 11). Phare remained with an estimated 1.7% to civil society assistance below the average share of 2% of total Phare allocations (see appendix 3, table 6, and the European Commission 1998b: 31).

149 The research project collected data on support to democratization from 17 donor countries, the UN, the EU and private foundations in the years 1990-1998, and is thus the most comprehensive databank on donor support to democratization up to date. The collected data have been classified into three broad categories: (1) Civil Society Strengthening (incl. assistance to democracy advocacy groups, human rights advocacy groups, trade unions and business associations, women’s organizations, organizations representing ethnic minorities, generic support for non-governmental organizations, media); (2) Institution Building (incl. assistance to legal and judiciary institutions, local governments, (public administration, legislative bodies); (3) Political Process (electoral assistance, political party assistance). The category “Democracy Promotion General” refers to projects or programs that could not clearly be put into the above categories. In CEE the project covered the following countries: Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. The data includes projects from the following donors: (1) nation states, such as Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, and USA, (with Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland as minor contributors); (2) international organizations such as the European Union and several agencies of the United Nations System such as UNDP, ILO and UNESCO; and (3) political foundations such as the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), the British Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), and the publicly funded and privately managed American National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The only “private” donor to contribute enough to be included in our database is the Open Society (Soros) Foundation – which does not exclude occasional efforts by others such as the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, etc (see Gbikpi 2002).

150 Cit. from the homepage of the USAID mission to Europe, Decade of USAID assistance, http://www.usaid.gov/pl/decadeof.htm.

151 The primary emphasis of donors on the economy and on national political institutions has been highly criticized. Regulska (1998) argues that the lack or delay of foreign assistance worked against civic initiatives and NGOs: “..the delayed focus on local initiatives and NGOs put them structurally in a disadvantaged position to negotiate space within the local community development process. Citizen’s initiatives and NGOS have often found themselves marginalized and in confrontation with a growing small business sector … and with restructured local governments that are gaining stability..” (Regulska 1998: 44p). This assessment cannot be confirmed by the author in her interviews with Polish recipients.

152 See Asocjacje – the Polish NGO Review, Find out about the Third Sector in Poland, History 1991: http://www.ml.com.pl/asocjacje/213.htm 

153 For example the large-scale USAID project supporting Polish NGOs in 1989-1994 equipped with 7.25 million US$ was largely spent for the re-establishment of the Polish YMCA providing funding for youth leadership to address problems of social, environmental and economic concerns (USAID 2000a: 77 and 106).

154 Examples of organizations enjoying this status are first and foremost the trade union NSZZ Solidarność. Another example is the Foundation in Support of Local Democracy (FSLD), an organization whose major aim is to advance the territorial decentralization and local democracy in Poland. FSLD was a major grantee of USAID and Phare and also received assistance from all other donors. Another example is the Warsaw Journalism Center that had been established with USAID funding, or several think tanks or associations active in the economic field. Finally, the “Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe” (IDEE), the successor of the US based “Solidarity in exile” served as a bridge of US-American funds to Poland (see appendix 7, table 23, see also chapter 7.4.1.).

155 “We were moving from macro to micro” that is how USAID Mission Director Donald Pressley described the USAID activities in civil society assistance after its arrival in 1993. Quoted in USAID (2000a: 28).

156 To give an example: The Cooperation fund awarded grants in almost all of Polish voivodships (regions) in 1996/97. NGOs in Warsaw received 27% of the awarded grants, and over 70% of the awarded grants went to regional centers and local areas (see appendix 3, table 9).

157 This point holds not only for civil society assistance but for assistance in general. USAID, for example, underwent a process of decentralization and regionalization transferring its operations from Washington to Poland in 1993-1995. This process went hand in hand with an increasing use of Polish consultants and organizations as implementers of USAID funded projects (USAID 2000a).

158 Examples of such “successor” organizations are the European Institute for Democracy (evolving out of the USAID political party building program), or FIRMA 2000 (successor of Business Support Program).

159 In 1999 Polish NGOs could still apply to some Phare projects. However, in line with the streamlining of Phare as a primarily pre-accession instrument, support was exclusively assigned to activities with a European focus. For example, Polish NGOs that engaged in joint projects with their local governments could apply for financial support within the Pro-European Initiatives Project (Phare 1997) for activities related to the promotion of European integration (Mendza-Drozd 2000: 33).

160 Whether NGOs can apply for these funds depends, however, on their government. The Polish state has to contribute partly to respective programs which they are not willing to do in all fields. As a result, NGO activist are eager to participate in the discussions preceding the EU integrations. The question is the subject of several working groups between NGO representatives and representatives of respective governments.

161 Doubts have been raised, however, whether ACCESS is suited to replace the Phare civic dialogue, democracy and LIEN programs. Firstly, ACCESS is “accession-driven”, i.e. its aim is to facilitate the adoption of the aquis communautaire in the respective countries. Along the same lines, the range of eligible projects is limited to certain key areas. In Poland those are environmental protection, socio-economic development especially the promotion of worker’s rights and social dialogue, and activities in the social sector (ibid). Moreover, ACCESS firstly provides macro-grants only. Small grant schemes similar to the previous programs that operated with micro-grants between 3000 and 10,000 Euros were only established in 2001. Macro-grants, however, exceed by far the capacity of the majority of small NGOs in Poland.

162 See: http://www.eu.ngo.pl. Since 2001 the Polish NGO Office in Brussels has been fulfilling the following tasks: (1) distributing information on issues important to European network NGOs and civil dialogue at the EU level, back to Poland for wide and rapid dissemination through Poland’s NGO website (http://www.ngo.pl/) and the media; (2) bringing Poland’s Third Sector closer to the decision makers and participants of the European civil dialogue in the run-up to EU enlargement through provision of news and data; (3) bringing Poland’s NGOs into the discussions on social and political issues important to European network NGOs and the future development of the European Union; and (4) assisting in bringing Poland’s NGOs into contact with similar organizations in the 15 member states, as well as providing resources to host Polish interns and visitors in Brussels.

163 The following typology is based on the field research of the author in Poland. The sample includes examples of large recipient organizations that sometimes even directly evolved from donor programs and that are still visible in the Polish civil society sector today. The “main recipients” of each group have in common that they received assistance from at least three of the main donors covered by this study, i.e. the EU, American donor organizations (NED; USAID), the Stefan Batory foundation, and the two largest German political foundations. Additionally, the chosen NGOs are frequently supported by Western funds, and their budget relies to at least 30% on foreign sources (see chapter 5.3.1). The selection was based on a systematic analysis of available project lists of the four donor organizations (see appendix 7) and was the result of a “snowballing process” (see in detail chapter 5.4). Emphasis was placed here on “infrastructural NGOs” for reasons given above (see chapter 5.3.2). As a result, one has to note that the described organizations provide no exhaustive list of “main recipients” but are only typical examples.

164 The following is based on information given on the respective websites of each organization, on personal interviews, and on annual reports and other materials: FED (1999), IDEE (1999), CSDF (1997), CSDF (1999), CSDF (2000).

165 For more information see the website of Dan Siegel and Jenny Yancey who were the founding Co-Directors of the Civil Society Development Program: www.newvisionsprd.org/index.html

166 Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Stefan Batory Foundation, Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, Open Society Institute, Partners for International Education and Training, Phare Civic Dialogue Program, Phare Democracy Program, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Trust for Mutual Understanding, Winston Foundation for World Peace.

167 The following is based on information given on the respective websites of each organizations, in personal interviews, in Wejcman (1999) and in annual reports and other materials: BORIS (2001), BORIS (2000), FIP (2000), FIP (1999).

168 The organizations aim to “support broadly understood civic activity” (BORIS); “to promote the participation of NGOs in creating the civil society” (FIP); “to strengthen the civil society and encourage citizen participation in solving social problems at local community level” (WROSZ), or to “support the development of civil society through rendering help to associations, foundations, support groups and other civil initiatives” (SPLOT).

169 BORIS and the different organizations of the network SPLOT (of which BORIS is part of) engage in training activities, the organization of conferences, but also in consultancy. KLON/JAWOR compiles reports on the NGO sector in Poland and provides relevant information for NGOs via a special Internet platform (http://www.ngo.pl/). WROSZ also provides services in the form of information and know-how to its members. FIP, too, emanates information relevant for NGOs (funding possibilities, conferences, legislative alterations etc.).

170 See Asocjacje “the association supporting social initiatives” Review on the Third Sector in Poland; http://www.ml.com.pl/asocjacje/index-e.htm.

171 The following is based on interviews by the author, on respective websites (http://www.hfhrpol.waw.pl/; http://www.csm.org.pl/; http://www.isp.org.pl/, and the following material: FSLD (1999); FSLD (1997); HFHR (2000).

172 The Helsinki Foundation was founded in 1989 as an independent institute for education and research in human rights. The HFHR engages in legislative monitoring in the area of respect of human rights in Poland and other countries of CEE. The Foundation in Support for Local Democracy aims to advance local self-government in Poland. It implements its mission primarily though training and educational programs via a network of 15 Regional Training Centers, a College of Local Government and Administration and three Higher Education Schools of Public Administration. Besides the provision of training, consulting and technical assistance to local governments, the FSLD supported the state system reform introducing the powiat level in 1999. The Institute of Public Affairs as well as its offshoot the Center for International Relations are think- tanks in the area of public politics and international relations launched in 1995. They evolved out of a program of the Batory foundation (see appendix 4, table 10).

173 For example the FSLD budget in 1999 was 5.1 mio Euro (http://www.fundersonline.org/). In 1999 FSLD employed 186 people (FSLD 2000: 44).

174 The Helsinki committee in Poland that acts as the Program Board of the HFHR consists mainly of professors and known figures of the Solidarity movement (Jacek Kurczewski, Zbigniew Holda, Ewa Letowska (also advisory board of IPA), Janusz Grzelak, Marek Nowicki, Teresa Bogucka, Stefan Starczewski …). The advisory council of IPA consist for example of Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz (former Prime Minister), Bronisław Geremek (former Minister of Foreign Affairs), Tadeusz Mazowiecki (former Prime Minister). CIM has been founded by Janusz Reiter (former Minister of Foreign Affairs). FSLD is headed by Prof. Jerzy Regulski (also advisory board of IPA).

175 Approximately half of the questioned NGOs hold international contacts, half did not. Both groups equally assessed international contacts as very important. It is important to note that the survey covered a substantial share of local NGOs. 44% of the questioned NGOs are located in cities with less than 100.000 inhabitants. Only 19% are located in the capital.

176 These included among others: A directory on NGOs working in the field of disabilities (1997), a catalog of non-governmental environmental initiatives in Poland (1998), directory on organizations working for the advancement of rural areas and agriculture (1998).

177 See for a discussion of the different acts regulating non-governmental organizations in Poland Lasocik (2000); Wygnansiki (2000), various contributions in the International Journal for Non-for profit law (IJNL).

178 Critics point out that instead of a coherent legal framework a patchwork of new and old regulations is in existence that applies to different organizations. Besides the two fundamental regulations on associations and foundations a number of legal acts are still in effect which apply to “social organizations” (Lasocik 2000: 9), a term that referred to quasi-voluntary organizations during communism. Moreover, some organizations have special regulations such as the Law on the Polish Red Cross, The Law on the Polish Allotments Union, or the Law on the Polish Hunting Union (Leś et al 2000: 16). Sports clubs are subject to the law on Physical Culture of 1996 (ibid: 14). The legal situation is consequently “somewhat complex and confusing” (IJNL 1998, Iss.1). A further problem is the lacking definition of foundations. Associations have been defined in the law as a “voluntary, self-managed and permanent union with non-profit aims (which)... defines its own aims, programs and structure (and) ... bases its activity on unpaid work of its members“ (Lasocik 2000: 8p). The foundation act, however, fails to give a clear definition of foundations but only stipulates that the major features of foundations include legal personality, a non-profit-making purpose, and a declaration of aims stated in the founding act (Leś et al 2000: 14). In consequence of this unclear legal situation, foundations engaging in business operations have often been treated as companies although they dedicated their income for common benefit purposes (see for a critical assessment of the legal situation in Poland e.g. Lasocik (2000), Regulska (1999: 45); Gliński (1999:8); Wygnanski (2000); Leś et al (1999:333).

179 See ICNL 2003. For the ongoing discussion preceding the adoption of the law, see: Gliński (1999: 8pp), Lasocik (2000: 11p).

180 One has to note, however, that it is too early to jump to a concluding assessment of the effects of the new legislation. Anheier/Salamon (1999: 34) make the point that the legal framework is not the only factor that determines the relationship between civil society and the state. Referring to other CEE countries that were much faster in coming to terms with the legislative issue of NGOs they indicate: “Indeed, in many ways, the new legal frameworks emerging in the region appear to be superior to those in the West…. Nevertheless public attitudes still lag behind this legal development and the public at large seems disillusioned with the promise of the sector.”

181 BORIS for example initiated a coalition of about 20 Warsaw based NGOs (GRIN Initiative group of Warsaw Pro Bono Organizations) with the aim of developing and coordinaing cooperation among the members and with local administration. The aim is to strengthen contacts among NGOs.

182 28% of NGOs active in the area “state, law, politics” declare that they frequently draw on foreign sources, more than NGOs active in other thematic fields. The second biggest “receivers” are human rights NGOs. 24% of these draw frequently on foreign sources (average: 16%) (BORDO 1998: 44). See also table 6.

183 Some examples can illuminate this point. Kuba Wygnański is Board Member of BORIS, the Batory Foundation, FIP, Council member of CSDF, and head of KLON/JAWOR. The Project Director of DemNet Paweł Łukasiak who is now heading the Academy, is the former president of BORIS, now a Council member, and additionally a member of FIP. The Director of the Deutsch-Polnische Verständigung e.V., Krzysztof Balon, is a board member of BORIS. Further examples are: Paweł Jordan (president of BORIS, member of FIP); Zbigniew Wejcman (employee BORIS, board member of WROSZ) and others.



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