Joint statement on sustainable funding for health civil society organisations (CSOs)


Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) across the EU are facing barriers in the implementation of their ativities, as outlined in the 2022 and 2023 European Commission’s rule of law reports, and a European Civic Forum report. In addition to a shrinking civic space, CSOs are facing difficulties in securing safe, regular, and sustainable funding. Access to sustainable and regular funding allows CSOs to plan their activities, advocate in the public interest in policy-making processes, and give a voice to the citizens, in particular vulnerable groups. Operating grants from the European Commission are a vital source of funding for European CSOs that allows them to efficiently and sustainably support EU policy-making while guaranteeing their independence from vested interests. The discrepancy in the availability of sustainable funding for CSOs across policy sectors is currently putting health civil society organisations in a particularly disadvantaged position.

In 2021, health CSOs faced the prospect of losing access to Operating Grants from the European Commission via its health programme. Operating grants were only reinstated after an advocacy campaign by health CSOs, supported by 50+ MEPs and several Member States.

To discuss these challenges and ways forward to ensure sustainable funding of civil society across sectors, the EU4Health Civil Society Alliance organised an event in the European Parliament on June 26th, 2023, gathering representatives from CSOs from different sectors (the European Environmental Bureau, Civil Society Europe, SAFE Food Advocacy, Healthcare Without Harm, EuroHealthNet and FEANTSA), who shared insights from different European Commission Operating Grants programmes such as the LIFE, CERV, ESF+/EaSi, and EU4Health.

Calls for stronger funding mechanisms are part of the EU4Health Civil Society Alliance manifesto, which ENSP fully supports.

In line with these, and based on our joint work with CSOs from the health as well as from other sectors we call for:

  • The European Commission Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) to reinstate a multiannual framework for Operating Grants for health CSOs to correct the current imbalance health CSOs are facing compared to other sectors.
  • The European Commission to take clearer and more coherent action to support civil society in accessing sustainable funding and to protect civil society from existing threats. For the future of democracy, Operating Grants must be secured and improved to strengthen civil dialogue and representation, including that of citizens, patients, and marginalised groups.
  • The European Commission to organise a dialogue between different DGs, the European Parliament and civil society to discuss and review the funding programmes, with the aim of breaking silos and supporting CSOs with more sustainable funding.

Read the joint statement here

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