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  Interview

   

Interview: Melina Ivanova, project-manager of the Programme for eight NGO support centres 

I believe in this country and its people

Debar, Delcevo, Kratovo, Negotino, Gevgelija, Resen, Struga and Strumica are hosts of the eight new centres for NGO support. Until recently, these towns were not in the interest focus of the donors’ community, so we have decided to correct that “mistake” and give support for development of the capacity of the civil organizations, to initiate regional NGO networking and to improve the communication and cooperation with the local authorities

Melita Ivanova is one of those few young people who, after several-year work abroad, has decided to return home, wishing to bring and implement in her own country what she has learned abroad.

Melita worked for the Regional centre for environment in Hungary for 5 years. Her experience of coordinating 15 national offices in Central and Eastern Europe was an important moment when the European Agency for reconstruction and the Foundation Open Society Institute Macedonia selected candidates for the position of coordinator of the eight new centres for NGO support in Macedonia. 

These centres started to work in the past two or three months and they joined the four existing centres of FOSIM. We are talking to Melita about the centres and their role, about her experience of one-year work in her country, and how all these fit in her previous experience abroad.

In which cities were the centres for NGO support opened and why were they opened there? What is their role?
In June 2003 FOSIM and EAR started the project “Support of the civil society – Strengthening the NGO: Centres for NGO support in socially and economically undeveloped regions in Macedonia”. Debar, Delcevo, Kratovo, Negotino, Gevgelija, Resen, Struga and Strumica are hosts of the eight new centres for NGO support.  Until recently, these towns were not in the interest focus of the donors’ community, so we have decided to correct that “mistake” and give support for development of the capacity of the civil organizations, to initiate regional NGO networking and to improve the communication and cooperation with the local authorities. The centres’ beneficiaries are NGOs, informal groups, communities and municipalities. The centres offer logistic support, library, information, financial support, information on the donors, tender announcements, applications etc. We are planning a serial of trainings for NGO skill and knowledge improvement on different topics. The centres will work on netting and connecting the NGOs at local or regional level, as well as with the authorities, the media and the business sector. Through the grant programme, grants are planned to be given for institutional development of the NGOs. In this project, 18 local coordinators are employed (2-3 at each centre).

How did the public – the NGOs, the citizens, business sector, local authorities and institutions and the other subjects, accept the opening of the centres?
From very first meetings, the project was accepted positively. Local authorities were satisfied because their town had been chosen and they showed readiness to cooperate, and the organizations pointed to the need of this kind of centres and were looking forward to their official start. At the openings came representatives of all potential beneficiaries of the centres; we had the honour the centres to be opened by the mayors and the representatives of FOSIM and EAR, and the local and national media informed on the events.

What needs were identified in the preliminary activities?
In the beginning phase, we identified the needs and the problems of the NGOs in these communities: insufficient information on the financing, trainings, campaigns; limited trainings; need for informal place for meetings, for a strong NGO net and for better coordination with the sector; creating grounds for successful lobbying and mediation. It is planned to overcome these problems with the functioning of the centres.

In what ways can the experience of the four centres in Prilep, Veles, Stip and Kicevo be applied or transmitted? 
Since 2000, four centres for NGO support, financed by the Swiss agency for development have been working within the FOSIM. The experience of these centres appeared to be a catalyser for the development of the civil sector in these cities and regions. Their experience in the development of the civil society was used in the formation of the new centres and further cooperation between the centres and the coordinators is planned with organizing mutual meetings and connecting the NGOs of these 12 cities.

In what way was your experience from the work in REC in Hungary applied in this project? 
For five and a half years, I worked in the team for coordination of 15 national offices of REC, first as a project-coordinator of 5 national offices, and the last two years as a head of the coordination team. Before Hungary I had worked as a representative of REC for Macedonia, so I am familiar with this work from all aspects: organization, implementation and coordination of the activities at local level. The human factor, as in every kind of work, is the most important – motivating team that works with great enthusiasm, capability and devotion. I am glad that our team and all of the 18 local coordinators have accomplished that achievement.

Do you regret that you came back?
I had the privilege and the pleasure to live in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and to work for an international organization that gave me the opportunity to develop myself not only as a person but as an expert as well.  Those five years and all the friendships that I made there will remain as one of the most beautiful periods in my life. However, Hungary has never been my home. It was my decision to come back and I have never regretted that I did, because I deeply believe in the qualities and the future of my country and its citizens.

M.I.

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