Partnership and Structural Funds: from the principle to the reality
Social NGOs demands to make partnership a real instrument for better
delivering Cohesion Policy
Organisations active in the fight against exclusion have for many years engaged with
structural funds, which we believe can make a concrete impact in the integration of excluded
groups and the promotion of a more cohesive European society.
Partnership with civil society can play a key role in this view. However, we are highly
concerned that no major step forward has been taken in the direction of strengthened
partnership despite the mainstreaming of EQUAL and new provisions in the structural funds
To make partnership in the European Cohesion Policy a reality, social NGOs ask for:
Ensuring mutual learning on partnership between the Member States
1. Developing and disseminate common guidelines on partnership, building upon
positive experience of the EQUAL programme
2. Encouraging transnational projects on partnership
3. Strengthening the Community of Practice on Partnership and ensure its follow-up
Ensuring the right conditions for partnership from planning to evaluation in the
4. Ensuring participation of social NGOs in monitoring committees at the national level
as requested by article 11 of Council Regulation 1083/2006
5. Ensuring that Member States open up the consultation on National Strategic
Reference Frameworks and Operational Programmes to civil society organisations
6. Ensuring that Member States include a specific section on partnership within their
reports on structural funds.
7. Based on such reports and input from civil society, addressing specific
recommendations to Member States
8. Encouraging Member States to commission specific evaluations of partnership
9. Ensuring monitoring and reporting of partnership in projects through specific
indicators and check lists
Using the funds’ potential to support NGO capacity-building
10. Following-up and capitalising on past and current initiatives in the field of
strengthening civil society (e.g. by ensuring real mainstreaming of EQUAL aims)
11. Providing guidelines and good practices on how structural funds can be used for
social NGO capacity-building
12. Providing technical assistance and capacity building opportunities to enhance
structural dialogue between civil society organisations and national, regional, local
authorities, especially in formulating and implementing social policies
Better dialogue at EU level
13. Setting up a regular dialogue between the ESF and ERDF coordination committees at
the EU level1 and social NGOs
14. Setting up a biannual dialogue between the ESF and ERDF coordination units and
15. Ensure that social NGOs are better involved in the follow-up of EQUAL
16. Ensuring access to all agreed English versions of all National Strategic Reference
Frameworks and Operational Programmes to civil society organisations
Better transparency and access to information
17. Setting up of a mailing list of NGOs active on structural funds, to ensure that key
information reaches out to those concerned
18. Providing access to programming documents in current EU procedural languages.
Referred to in title VIII of the structural funds’ general regulation.
1. Partnership with social NGOs recognized as success factor for ESF and ERDF
The added value of partnership with NGOs in structural funds can be summarised as follows:
more transparency, democracy, better circulation of information towards potential
beneficiaries and better spending.
A formal recognition in the structural funds’ regulation
Building upon such recognition, the new Article 11 of the structural funds regulation makes
explicit reference to partnership with NGOs. Article 3.1.e and 5 of the ESF regulation mention
it explicitly as a priority of ESF funding, putting structural funds in line with EU good
governance principles (as expressed in the White Paper on Governance, Minimum Standards
on Consultation, and the Transparency Initiative).
EU NGOs as a channel for transparency and information
National, regional and local NGOs involved with structural funds receive an important amount
of information from the EU NGO networks of which they are members. This is complementary
to national channels: better information to EU level NGOs is therefore crucial to reach out to
2. Lack of significant steps forward
Increased subsidiarity for this programming period has resulted in an absence of EU
guidelines on partnership with NGOs, although Member States can learn a lot from each
other in this field. This absence of level playing field is all the more worrying given the end of
EQUAL which had been an important catalyst for better governance.
Concrete steps were taken to support dialogue with social partners and their access to ESF .
Yet nothing comparable happened with regard to NGOs, despite their important role in the
fight against exclusion and to promote active inclusion in the labour market.
EU level technical assistance (Article 9 of the ESF regulation) could be used to improve
partnership with NGOs at EU level, promote networking and thus help NGOs channel the
information back to their constituencies. Yet this potential has not been used so far (while
similar approaches do exist for social partners).
It is quite unlikely that transnational projects under ESF will address this gap.
Rachel Buchanan, Policy Officer, AGE, email@example.com
Julien Dijol, Policy Coordinator, CECODHAS, firstname.lastname@example.org
Elodie Fazi, Policy Officer, European Anti-Poverty Network, email@example.com
Javier Güemes, Policy Officer, European Disability Forum, firstname.lastname@example.org
See for example http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/esf/docs/sp_fiche_en.pdf