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Civil Society

Civil society includes cooperation based on independent initiative for the purpose of ensuring observation of own rights and participation in discussions and decisions concerning public affairs, as well as associations, networks and institutions enabling such cooperation.

The Ministry of the Interior analyses, plans and coordinates state policy in the field of civil society, in order to ensure more effective cooperation between state structures, local governments and citizens’ associations in the course of the development of a secure and open society.

The Estonian Civil Society Development Concept (87.44 KB, PDF) enacted by Riigikogu in 2002 is the basis for strategic development of civil society.

The Ministry of the Interior supports the development of civil society organisations through the National Foundation of Civil Society (SA Kodanikuühiskonna Sihtkapital (KÜSK)), which belongs to its area of government and the goal of which is to strengthen civil society. KÜSK arranges calls for proposals, supports activities developing civil society organisations, and contributes to the international cooperation between civil society organisations.

An important role in civil society belongs to volunteers who mostly act in the field of environmental protection, preservation of nature, sustainable lifestyle, promotion of local life, and work with the youth and children. Volunteers also contribute to ensuring internal security as assistant police officers and volunteer land and maritime rescue workers.

It is important to increase the transparency and clarity and to improve the effectiveness of using public resources for funding associations. The Guidance document on financing associations (PDF) (2013) was needed because at national level, associations are currently funded based on different concepts and principles. 



Civil Society Development Plan 2015–2020

The Government in its session of 19 February 2015 adopted the development plan prepared under the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior, which aims at the promotion of civil society in 2015–2020.

The plan is a continuation of the previous civil society development plan (PDF) that was created for the years 2011–2014. The new plan focuses on two priorities: socially active residents and acting capabilities of citizens’ associations, i.e. ensuring that citizens’ associations have sufficient possibilities for achievement of their goals.

The development plan establishes the goal of participation of citizens’ associations in the formation of policy as a natural and valued cooperation. It is also important to increase the influence of citizens’ associations in the process of dealing with social problems and improvement of well-being of people through social innovation, social entrepreneurship and provision of public services. The condition for achievement of both goals is the presence of capable citizens’ associations that have sufficient possibilities for development and influential activities.

Activities of the development plan are financed from the state budget, external financial resources and, if possible, from private and third sector financial resources. The development plan of the field shall be executed on the basis of the implementation plan prepared for the years 2015‒2018, and it shall be updated every year for the following four years. The preparation of the new civil society development plan was assisted by approximately 300 persons from different citizens’ associations, their umbrella organisations and ministries. In order to help partners to plan their time for participation in preparation of the development plan, we prepared an involvement plan and acted according to it.

An extract of the development plan is available here (PDF).

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Last updated: 18 July 2019