The 13th edition of the Black Sea NGO Forum: Advancing Civil Society Cooperation in the Black Sea Region in Times of Uncertainty took place between the 23rd – 27th of November 2020, in a unique online format, and was organized by the Romanian NGDO Platform (FOND) in partnership with the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the financial support of the European Union.
This year’s edition aimed to contribute to identifying the common challenges that the civil society organizations and facing in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as opportunities for addressing them together, with specific focus on: raising awareness on success stories of CSOs in the Region; underlining donors’ response for supporting CSO development and resilience in this new challenging context; presenting the progress made and next steps for the implementation of European Union’s policies in the Black Sea Region; and strengthening the importance of engaging in regional multistakeholder partnerships.
The 13th edition of the Black Sea NGO Forum started off with Welcoming Remarks delivered by Mr. Ștefan Cibian, the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND, Mr. Bogdan Aurescu, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, and Mr. Vassilis Maragos, DG NEAR, European Commission.
As a tradition already, the first Plenary Session: CSO Resilience in Times of Uncertainty. New realities, new challenges, new policies was dedicated to inspiring and successful stories and lessons learned from civil society representatives, with the aim to raise awareness on the work, the challenges and the partnership opportunities of the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Angela Grămadă, the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND, presented the main findings of the Policy Paper “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Civil Society Sector in the Black Sea Region” (July 2020). After this, Mr. Professor Dimitrios Tryantaphyllou, Center for International and European Studies (CIES), and Mr. Veaceslav Tofan, Amnesty International Moldova took the floor, in a discussion moderated by Ms. Ingrid Marinescu, the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND.
The second Plenary Session: Advancing EU policies in the Black Sea Region during the COVID-19 pandemic was moderated by Mr. Ștefan Cibian, the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND, and focused on progress made in advancing the Black Sea Synergy European Policy, as well as on the implementation of the Common Maritime Agenda, the Black Sea Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda and the European Green Deal, highlighting opportunities for CSO involvement and contribution. The sessions benefited from the presence of and interventions from H.E. Ambassador Traian Chebeleu, Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, Ms. Olivia Toderean, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania, Mr. Vassilis Maragos, DG NEAR, European Commission, Mr. Radoslaw Darski, European External Action Service, and Ms. Patrizia Busolini, DG MARE, European Commission.
In the third day of the online Forum, the third Plenary Session: Achievements of the Black Sea NGO Forum in 2020 was organized, under the moderation of Ms. Cristina Rigman, ChildPact – The Regional Coalition for Child Protection. The session aimed at presenting the main results of the project “Building CSO Capacity for Regional Cooperation within the Black Sea Region”, implemented by FOND with the financial support of the European Union (2019 – 2021). In this regard, Mr. Gabriel Brezoiu, Group of the European Youth for Change – GEYC, Ms. Mariana Trifonova, Economic Policy Institute, Ms. Marina Sarli, Fundraiser, trainer and Consultant for CSOs, Ms. Natalia Budescu, Association of Cross-Border Cooperation “Lower Danube Euroregion” and Mr. Zviad Eliziani, International Business Development and Investment Promotion Center highlighted the opportunities for learning and sharing provided throughout the activities in which they were involved.
The fourth Plenary Session: Building Partnerships in the Black Sea Region in Times of Crisis was moderated by Ms. Angela Grămadă, the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND and welcomed the interventions from Mr. Professor Nicolaos P. Theodossiou, PhD, Sustainable Development Solutions Network Black Sea, Ms. Emma Gileva, Black Sea NGO Network, Ms. Iryna Soltys, Association of Ukrainian Regions “EU Strategy for the Danube Region”, and Ms. Elena Vasiliu, Close to You Foundation, in which they strengthened the importance of the cross-thematic cooperation, for tackling regional challenges and moving forward together.
The last Plenary Session: Advancing Sustainable Development in the Black Sea Region in 2020 was organized in the fifth day of the online Forum. The Session was moderated by Ms. Angela Grămadă, the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND, who invited Ms. Luminița Bălălău, Head of Office, Department of Sustainable Development, the Government of Romania, Ms. Franziska Tadé, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Mr. Georgi Kldiashvili, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information Georgia, and Ms. Biljana Spasovska, Balkan Civil Society Development Network, Secretariat of the European Region, CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness – CPDE to present the role of the civil society cooperation for achieving sustainable development in the Region.
The last day of the online Forum also included an interactive world-café with donors, organised by the Black Sea NGO Forum since 2017, which allowed donors and civil society representatives to interact openly, ask questions on each other’s activities, priorities and needs. The session was attended by the following donors: European Commission, Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, Romanian Agency for International Development Cooperation (RoAid) and Romanian Ministry of Public Works, Development and Administration.
All throughout the 5 days of the online Forum, special slots were organized, dedicated to facilitating discussions for the members of the 14 Black Sea NGO Forum Working Groups, according to the new Strategic Framework for Civil Society Cooperation in the Black Sea Region (Istanbul, 2019): Knowledge Networks for Development, Anti-Corruption, Civic Engagement, Youth, Culture & Education, Sustainable Development, Youthbanks, Human Rights, Networking, Media & Communication, CSO Sustainability & Resilience, Environment & Climate Change, Sustainable Development & Corporate Social Responsibility, and Volunteering Development.
The online event gathered participants from countries, from the Black Sea Region, as well as from the EU and the Balkans Region.
The final report of the event is available here.