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OSCE/ODIHR Opinion on Poland’s Planned Central Body for Civil Society Development

Update: Despite appeal from international human rights organizations and a federation of Polish CSOs, on October 13 Poland’s President  signed the bill into law. The National Freedom Institute will be established under the prime minister’s office, and will distribute public funds from the government and the European Union among Poland’s 100,000 CSOs.

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The latest OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Opinion on the Draft Act of Poland on the National Freedom Institute – Centre for the Development of Civil Society details numerous concerns regarding a newly proposed, centralised institutional set-up for civil society development in Poland. The draft Law seeks to establish a central body within the executive branch to lead civil society development and distribute funds, influenced and dependent on the highest government officials.

With contributions submitted from our senior legal experts, ECNL supported the preparation of the opinion.

Concerns:

OSCE/ODIHR points out in their opinion there are not enough safeguards for transparency, independence and meaningful participatory and consultative approach within the procedures of the new body.

Moreover, it is not entirely clear how the work of a centralised, government-lead body will design programmes to contribute to civil society development. Such centralisation and executive dependence could have a negative impact on the functioning of the civil society sector, including access to funding, democratic pluralism and freedom of association.​

You can read the full opinion at the links below: