16. května 2016 | News

Lenka Deverová: Hysterie okolo neziskových organizací

President Zeman has said that he views “most nonprofit organizations, bar a few bright exceptions, as leeches sucking the national budget and I would deem it prudent if subsidies to these organizations were paid proportionately to what they can earn themselves”. Sociologist Petr Hampl has described them as companies trading in human naïveté and ideals, and the people behind them have lost the last vestiges of conscience. Some other politicians were eager to pitch in.

Never before have I encountered such naked and focused expressions of intolerance for NGOs. It goes to show that something is rotten in the Czech society. Any summary dismissal of anything is just too bad. There are many organizations that indeed pitch in for a state that doesn’t quite deliver. They provide space for activities ranging from volunteer involvement to highly professional assignments. Close to half of the social service providers in this country are not-for-profit organizations. They are just as visible in the fields of education, after-hours activities, charitable work, and humanitarian projects. NGOs use the skills of many professionals, who would perhaps better assert themselves in business, but devote themselves instead to the not too private mission of the not-for-profit organizations. The general public often does not know it is dealing with an NGO: I doubt if the audience of Dejvické or Činoherní klub theatres realizes these are NGOs, or if those calling the Mountain Rescue Service as their last hope are disgusted to find out it’s an NGO. I hope most people are wiser than their political leaders and judge organizations by what they do and not by the legal status they exist in. A word about those public budgets: few politicos mind the fact that public budgets saturate almost 100 percent of activities of their “funded organizations”, which in turn feel no need to save money or to fend for them. They are docile! The NGOs that attend to maters of public concern and openly criticize wrongdoings lack such finesse.

Maybe the general public is sometimes irritated by the NGO thing: most people assume that NGOs don’t and can’t make profit and must be financed by the state or public donations. But it’s a big mistake that even the Czech president might be making. Many NGOs earn their means through their activities and public budgets are not the sole source of their financing. “Not-for-profit” means that profit is not distributed among their founders or statutory body members; no dividends are paid and they must use their profit for the purpose for which they exist.

I have no expectations from political figures. They need to be re-elected, for they suck from public budgets. But I believe in the common sense of those who can tell right from wrong, in the NGOs and the political circles. By the way, the President and the First lady run their respective endowment funds, which must be nonprofit by definition. But these must be one of the bright exceptions the President talked about as he condemned those leeches.     

P.S.: The Anticorruption Endowment (NFPK) is an NGO and we don’t get, or want to get one penny from the national budget.