23/02/2011

Proposals of the NGOʼs CAMPAIGN FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND INSTITUTIONS to the Greek Parliamentʼs Committee on Institutions and Transparency, relating to the regulation of volunteerism and NGOs

I come from the field of environmental organizations, namely from the association ARCHELON, which is dedicated to the protection of sea turtles. I bring with me the wide range of experiences we have acquired during our many years of operation, in the areas of 1) organizing a large number of volunteers for a long period of time (specifically, about 500 volunteers annually, mainly from abroad, for a period of at least four weeksʼ participation in field programs, 2) administration and finance management, and 3) collaboration with local government, agencies, and organizations.

Civil Society is concerned with principles and values; it does not represent individuals or private interests. Such representation is not characteristic of NGOs. The volunteers are not represented by third parties, and no matter where they are, they act directly. The size or the number of members of an organization is not important. What is important is the groupʼs dedication to achieve its goals.

For a long time now, there has been a common direction within the civil society and its organizations towards self-commitment, self- adjustment, transparency and accountability, and to identify common policy principles and practices. We recognize that transparency and accountability are essential for good management, whether in governments, public organizations, businesses, or non-governmental/non-profit organizations.

For these reasons, the NGO CAMPAIGN FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND INSTITUTIONS has created a ʽmapʼ relating to the obligations and self-regulation of NGOs. It is called APOPLOYS, which (roughly translated from Greek) means Principles of Commitment for Quality Operation and Organization to Facilitate Achieving our Goals. In addition, another group of organizations prepared a corresponding international ʽmapʼ relating to disengagement, and transparency.

Furthermore, for the past four years, members of the NGO CAMPAIGN FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND INSTITUTIONS have been studying the problems faced by Civil Society and its organizations. We have put together a series of proposals, which we are offering to the public for discussion. After that stage has been completed, we plan to present the proposals to the Greek Parliament, political parties, organizations, and at conferences and seminars.

These proposals are as follows:

1. The State and NGOs: The need for a complete adjustment of the relationship between the State and NGOs

A large number of NGOs, as well as the CAMPAIGN FOR THE CONSTITUTION AND INSTITUTIONS, have confirmed the need for changes in the relationship between voluntary service and the NGOs and the State, which should consist of respect toward the civil society as a sector of freedom, self-commitment, independence and share a feeling of solidarity with their fellow men.

The change could be brought about by civil groups (for example, by means of expressing their commitment to achieve a certain goal), by the State, or by both simultaneously. A legislative initiative by the State relating to this would be evaluated by the NGOs and the CAMPAIGN in a positive way, in the context of discussion and negotiation, which we consider to be a matter of course. The request for a modern constitutional amendment maintains its value.

Our intervention in this matter relates exclusively to the establishment of the institutional framework, organization, and operation of NGOs, regardless of sector and scope.

2. Economic aspects of the activities of NGOs: Less bureaucracy, more efficiency, transparency and dissemination of information

The most important issue facing NGOs is the need to change t status under the present system of tax regulations. Some of the most urgent problems are: 1) maintaining the non-commercial nature of their activities, 2) adjustment of FPA issues, and 3) adjustment of economic and operational regulation of NGOs, with accompanying simplification of online procedures, while 4) the improvement of funding and disbursement mechanisms are also necessary.

Promoting principles of transparency and mutual commitment between NGOs and State agencies is vital on all levels of government. This can be achieved by establishing strong NGO selection criteria on the basis of standards which are agreed upon after discussion and negotiation by sector, by the evaluation of how programs are carried out and finally, with civil and State accountability.

Furthermore, we consider the presentation of official analytical information about State/European funding to the NGOs, as well as the annual report of State funding and economic information about the NGOsʼ activities and their relationship with the State, as a matter of principle, in order to protect both the NGOs and the State from the suspicion of unlawful transactions.

The guarantee of cooperation through the finalization of contracts for NGO programs and the implementation of projects is critical, since they are undertaken in any case, but move slowly in a vague context, creating problems and accusations of improper operation.

Potential partners may be third-sector aggregate bodies, such as secondary and/or tertiary constitutions, umbrella organizations, corporate associations, local and regional networks, etc., or other NGOs.

Another important step would be the strengthening of corporate social responsibility by the introduction of regulations, while the strengthening of the sponsorship law would contribute to the much-needed independence of NGOs from State funding. At the same time, resolving the issue of donations requires a uniform effort by NGOs.

Finally, as an alternative to being funded by the State, the existence of private or public bank credit (loans) to implement projects would be a fair and important tool for improving the way NGOs operate.

3. Organizational aspects of NGO activities: The importance of volunteerism

Volunteerism is a central concept of the Civil Society. Itʼs related to the desire to use oneʼs talents to achieve broader social objectives which benefit society, nature, and cultural values, without regard for personal or political gain. The State should actively implement measures to inform citizens about the benefits of volunteerism and to provide incentives to motivate people to become volunteers, while also working to eliminate malicious, outdated thinking about volunteerism.

At the same time, a high priority of NGOs is safeguarding their right to ʽemployʼ volunteers for their activities, and consequently to receive special consideration for ʽvolunteer employeesʼ, as far as the labor laws are concerned. It is also worth noting that, in our opinion, volunteers should be provided with accident, health and life insurance (public or private), and that the head of each NGO is responsible for this. However, insuring volunteers is currently not compulsory, but should be made so by the State.

4. Collaboration between the State and NGOs: Context and Transparency

It would be an example of progressive government policy for State officials, the institutions of government, and local authorities of any level, elected or otherwise, to begin discussions and collaboration with agencies of the Third Sector (i.e. Volunteers). In addition, the Rules of Parliament should be adjusted so as to take into account the NGOsʼ opinion or view when it relates to the function assigned to them by a Parliamentary Committee. The work of the Committee could be reinforced and supported by the contributions of the Civil Society.

A basic condition for effective collaboration is the establishment of a single register of NGOs. The creation (within a specified period of time) of such a register for use by the entire public administration would solve many problems. Creating this register involves defining the criteria for registering, defining procedures for updating and adjusting the register regularly, and making it accessible to all Greek citizens.

Along with this, the consolidation of good practices for effective collaboration would be helped if key members at all levels of public administration (i.e. local, regional, national, and EU), are informed, trained, and made aware of their responsibilities regarding NGOs.

Essential conditions for effective cooperation and transparency between the State and NGOs include permanent and continuous online communication between the State and the Civil Society through the appropriate government agency, the transmission of uniform information about all the administrative and legislative changes, as well as information about NGO-related funding.

Finally, we recommend the creation of a Parliamentary Committee for NGOs, or explicit inclusion of NGOs in one of the existing Committees. The Central Committee will be charged with the institutional issues and will systematize collaboration according to area of interest.

5. Recommendations for managing the above issues: Further comments

The adoption of a uniform policy to implement the suggested changes, with the goal of clear delineating the relationship between the State and NGOs and, consequently the guarantee of the NGOsʼ independence, is crucial.

In addition, we recommend a study be made into the safeguarding of NGOsʼ legal status, taking into account EU policies.

SYNOPSIS In the first phase, we feel it is vital to take the following measures: A) Safeguarding of NGOsʼ legal status which, in turn, will result in the building of a stable framework for the relationship of the State and NGOs. B) Change of the NGOsʼ tax status, as well as issues relating to their economic and administrative regulation. C) Extension of the use of criteria and the introduction of a standard contract program for the aggregate of Third Sector funding agencies and the NGOs. D) Safeguarding of the right of NGOs to ʽemployʼ volunteers in their activities, in compliance with labor laws. Provision of accident, health, and life insurance to volunteer workers should be compulsory. E) Creation of a uniform register of NGOs to be used by all government offices with provisions for: the time period for its creation, and the definition of the updating procedures and the criteria for registering. F) Compulsory collaboration between NGOs (and other agents of the Third Sector) and public officials and Local Self-government Organizations in cases where the NGOs have knowledge, experience and proven expertise. G) Permanent and continuous online communication between the State and the Civil Society through the appropriate government agency, receipt of uniform information about all administrative and legislative changes and NGO-related funding, and preparation of an annual report relating to NGOʼs collaboration with the State.

Αθήνα, 22 Φεβρουαρίου 2011 Athens, 22 February 2011 Ραΐσης Νικόλας Nicholas Raissis Καμπάνια των ΜΚΟ για το Σύνταγμα και τους Θεσμούς NGO Campaign for the Constitution and Institutions ΑΡΧΕΛΩΝ, Σύλλογος για την Προστασία της θαλάσσιας χελώνας ARCHELON, The Sea Turtle Protection Society

(Translation by Joanne Stournara)

RECENT NEWS

  1. OUR NEWS
    02/02/2024

    Sea turtles in the Greek wetlands of international importance

    World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on February 2. These vulnerable areas of the planet are a refuge for migratory birds and other wildlife species, including sea turtles. ARCHELON is present in wetlands that play an important role for sea turtles, such as the Amvrakikos Gulf.

    Read more
  2. OUR NEWS
    24/01/2024

    Why are ARCHELON’s projects international?

    ARCHELON’s sea turtle conservation projects are organized with the valuable contribution of volunteers who come to Greece every year not just from Europe but from more distant places such as South Korea, Australia, and Colombia. Speaking English while carrying out fieldwork or public awareness activities as well as when interacting with each other in the campsites is essential to the projects.

    Read more
  3. OUR NEWS
    17/01/2024

    ARCHELON has been running a special hospital for sea turtles with tanks and impressive old train wagons for 30 years in Glyfada

    Turtles with IV and bandages, rehabilitation and recovery tanks, special environmental enrichment equipment, recovery greenhouses, and… renovated train wagons! The hospital for injured and sick turtles that ARCHELON has set up in the 3rd marina of Glyfada, next to the sea, is certainly something out of the ordinary.

    Read more
  4. OUR NEWS
    05/01/2024

    What happened in the world of ARCHELON in 2023?

    A world record for reproductive life for a sea turtle and 40 years of ARCHELON’s actions for protecting sea turtles are some of the moments we celebrated together this year. So, what happened in the world of ARCHELON in 2023? Here are some highlights of the past year.

    Read more
  5. OUR NEWS
    21/12/2023

    Assuming responsibility for the environment brings more meaning into our lives

    “ARCHELON is an opportunity, not only for the animals and the ecosystems, but also for us who participate in it and for the society in which we operate”. Thomas Arapis, President and founding member of ARCHELON, talks about the efforts of the organization and about what he aspires for the future.

    Read more
  6. OUR NEWS
    20/12/2023

    Forty years later: the world of ARCHELON has expanded

    Thomas Arapis, President and founding member of the Association gives the current coordinates of ARCHELON. "We encounter many turtles in our daily activities, and even more people, many more people actually, who help us. Amongst them are the people who work for us, they stand out for they represent the Association out there, through thick and thin".

    Read more
  7. OUR NEWS
    20/12/2023

    19 Environmental NGOs ask the Greek Government not to consent to a change in the wolf protection status in Europe

    Read more
  8. OUR NEWS
    15/12/2023

    Messages of love from the world turtle community!

    Celebrating ARCHELON's 40th Anniversary we have received warm messages from the turtle community worldwide

    Read more
  9. OUR NEWS
    14/12/2023

    When the past becomes a lighthouse for the future

    Thomas Arapis, the President of ARCHELON and one of its founding members talks about the quality and values, and the people who marked the setting up and subsequent action of ARCHELON. “Dimitris Margaritoulis taught us, not only the methodology for monitoring and protecting them, but also what it means to organize tasks, take responsibility, work as a team, evaluate our course and cooperate with each other”, he says.

    Read more
  10. OUR NEWS
    12/12/2023

    Notes of a volunteer (Part 2): Ηead trauma happens more often and is more serious than you think

    Jessica Van Damme who volunteered at the ARCHELON Sea Turtle Rescue Centre for 6 weeks in 2023, talks about what she learned while taking care of sea turtles with human caused injuries.

    Read more
  11. OUR NEWS
    04/12/2023

    Notes of a volunteer (Part 1): Jessica Van Damme was at the Rescue Centre

    “During my 6-week stay, there were more than 30 injured sea turtles being treated at the Rescue Centre. Seven of them were successfully released, but, during the same period there were five new arrivals – all turtles with human-caused injuries. We, humans, are their biggest threat!”, writes Jessica.

    Read more
  12. OUR NEWS
    30/11/2023

    Summer 2024: Come back to sea turtle conservation as a leader!

    Joining or returning to ARCHELON’s sea turtle projects as a Field Leader will give you the opportunity to lead specific activities as well as train and help others in the projects. These positions provide a higher level of experience in nature conservation/ environment protection, as well as improved communication and leadership skills. Hurry and apply now! Only a limited number of experienced and skilled volunteers are selected to serve as leaders in each project.

    Read more
  13. OUR NEWS
    23/11/2023

    The establishment of the “Amvrakikos Alliance”

    The Alliance's vision in collaboration with the local community is to highlight the unique ecological value and the natural and cultural heritage of Amvrakikos, for the most effective management, restoration, and protection of its ecosystems and biodiversity.

    Read more
  14. OUR NEWS
    16/11/2023

    Kids Beach Competition 2023: Turtles made of natural materials that stole our hearts!

    The little friends of ARCHELON who participated in the Kids Beach Competition 2023 formed turtles from pebbles, sand, water, rocks, sticks, leaves and shells, spreading the message of protecting sea turtles on the various beaches of Greece. Angeliki's (7 years old) little turtle on top of the big rock stole 694 hearts and became the winner!

    Read more
  15. OUR NEWS
    15/11/2023

    The Field Leaders of 2023 and their role

    Matthew from the UK, Noha from France, David from the Netherlands, Aris from Greece started one summer as volunteers knowing little about turtles and their protection. Their experience made them return to the conservation projects as Field Leaders to take on more responsibilities, as trainers and mentors for new volunteers.

    Read more
1 out of 0
Subscribe to our newsletter!
Learn about our latest actions and find out about our programs and how you can help sea turtles!