Móra: Requiring Hungarian NGOs to label themselves violates international agreements

January 21, 2015

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Beleaguered Ökotárs Foundation head Veronika Móra does what civic leaders are supposed to do: speak truth to power and lead through example.

In December Prime Minister Orbán expressed his desire to see non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which receive funding from foreign entities register themselves as acting on behalf of foreign interests.

Móra recently told ATV’s Egon Rónai that while the government has yet to move forward with any such legislation, judging from the prime minister’s pronouncements it is merely a matter of time.

 “What we’ve seen in the last year with respect to the government communication regarding civil society is that the government is bent on painting a picture of civil society in which there are good NGOs and bad NGOs. The good NGOs are those which pursue traditional charity-based activities that abstain from dealing with issues pertaining to politics. The bad NGOs are those whose activities go beyond this, activities that concern representing interests, raising their voice on certain issues, and, God forbid, in some cases even voicing professional criticism on the subject of public policy.”

There are numerous Hungarian NGOs that receive funding through grants provided by foreign organizations such as the Norway Civil Fund, says Móra.  The reason for this is that the culture for philanthropy in Hungary has not yet evolved to the point where civil rights organizations could rely exclusively on domestic sources for funding.

“Requiring such organizations to label themselves (as representing foreign interests) violates international agreements and the general trend in this field according to which the freedom of assembly doesn’t just mean people are free to organize, but also that a given organization is free to seek funding for its operations from anywhere it sees fit, be it domestic or foreign,” says Móra. She draws parallels between Orban’s plans and practices employed by countries such as Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Sudan.

Ökotárs is under investigation after government inspectors reported it to authorities for alleged misappropriation and fraud. Móra’s exemplary courage in the face of these false accusations caused the Budapest Beacon to name her Hungarian of the Year at the end of 2014.

Referenced in this article:

Orbán bevezetné a civil szervezetek különleges regisztrációját, ATV.hu; 20 January 2014.

Az ügyészség és a NAV vizsgálja a Norvég Civil Alap támogatottjait, ATV.hu; 19 January 2014.