The 11th edition of the Black Sea NGO Forum, with the title “Building a more resilient civil society in the Black Sea region” was held between the 12th and 14th of November 2018, in Brussels, Belgium. The event was organised by the Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND Romania, with the financial support of the European Commission and in partnership with the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This year’s edition aimed at bringing more visibility on the importance of the Black Sea Synergy as a policy framework both for the European level, as well as for civil society active in the Black Sea region, especially in the current context of Romania’s Presidency of the European Union Council, which is due to start in the first semester of 2019.
The event gathered throughout the three days 128 participants from 13 countries, the majority from the Black Sea Region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey), as well as from the EU (Belgium, Poland, Finland).
This year’s agenda was built around the added value of civil society in terms of building resilience in the Back Sea region and for this reason, the first Plenary Session on the first day of the Forum, with the title “Putting CSOs in the Spotlight – Stories of Society Resilience” was dedicated to inspiring speeches from leading activists and NGO representatives from the region, who stressed the importance of partnerships among NGOs and other stakeholders, discussed about main opportunities and challenges, and shared both personal and professional experiences and motivations when working in and for the non-profit sector. The discussions were moderated by Ms. Natalia Budescu, Director, The Association for Cross-border Cooperation “Lower Danube Euroregion”, having as main speakers: Ms. Haykuhi Harutyunyan, President, Protection of Rights without Borders, Armenia; Mr. Mihail Sirkeli, Director, Piligrim-Demo, Republic of Moldova; Ms. Cristina Rigman, Secretary – General, ChildPact – The Regional Coalition for Child Protection; Ms. Ilyana Nikolova, Executive Director, Workshop for Civic Initiatives Foundation, Bulgaria; and Mr. Volodymyr Sheyhus, Executive Director, ISAR Ednannia, Ukraine.
The Formal Opening of the Forum, having the title “The Black Sea Synergy – The Power of Regional Cooperation” was moderated by Mr. Ștefan Cibian, PHD, President, The Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND and we were very honoured to have as main guest speakers Mr. Călin Stoica, PSC Permanent Representative, Permanent Representation of Romania to the European Union; H.E. Amb. Michael B. Christides, Secretary-General, Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC); Ms. Audrone Perkauskiene, Head of Division Eastern Partnership, Regional Cooperation and OSCE, European External Action Service (EEAS); and Mr. Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, PHD, Director, Center for International and European Studies (CIES), Kadir Has University Istanbul. At the beginning of the session, a special video message for the participants of the Forum was delivered by Mr. Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.
In the second part of the first day of the Forum, discussions were centred around the Black Sea Synergy, which represents the EU commitment to promote cooperation and regional development among the countries surrounding the Black Sea and to facilitate open dialogue between EU and the region. Following a brief introductory intervention from Ms. Diana Tase, Black Sea Synergy and Eastern Partnership Policy Officer, Division for Eastern Partnership, regional cooperation and OSCE, European External Action Service (EEAS), the entire interactive session was facilitated by Ms. Svitlana Kuts, Independent NGO Consultant. Participants were asked to find common answers to questions such as: What are the main crosscutting thematic issues that can bring an added value to regional cooperation among CSOs within the framework of the Black Sea Synergy? or How can the Black Sea Synergy support mechanisms for fostering civil society regional cooperation and strengthening resilience?
In the last part of the first day of the Forum, participants had the opportunity to attend one of the four parallel thematic workshops organised on topics such as: protests and civic movements; role of networks in advocating social inclusiveness; social innovation and social entrepreneurship; the Common Maritime Agenda and ways of engaging CSOs.
In the evening, a special Welcoming Cocktail was hosted by the Permanent Representation of Romania to the EU and participants were invited to network and socialise.
On the second day of the Forum, Ms. Cristina Rigman, Secretary-General, ChildPact – The Regional Coalition for Child Protection facilitated two interactive sessions dedicated to ways of fostering CSO resilience within the Black Sea region and the contribution of the Black Sea NGO Forum in this process.
One of the conditions for fostering CSO resilience is also ensuring an operating enabling environment and the interactive plenary from the second day of the event focused on this subject. Entitled “Improving Civil Society Environment: Sharing Expertise & Building Solidarity”, the session was moderated by Ms. Biljana Spasovska, Policy & Advocacy Officer, Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN) and presentations were held by Ms. Zuzana Sladkova, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, CONCORD; Ms. Giada Negri, Campaign Officer, European Civic Forum; Ms. Carlotta Besozzi, Coordinator, Civil Society Europe; and Ms. Sînziana Poiană, Acting Team Leader, DG NEAR Civil Society Support, European Commission.
After this, Ms. Volha Karach, Director, International Centre for Civil Initiatives “Our House” (Belarus) gathered participants within a special side-event, organised under the form of an informal discussion on ways of tackling emotional burnout in the day-to-day life of a civil activist.
As the previous year, the agenda for the third day of the event included an interactive Regional Café with donors – a methodology applied for the first time at the Forum last year, in Chișinău, and very much appreciated by the participants. Civil society representatives were thus encouraged to interact freely with representatives from donor organisations active in the Black Sea region (European Commission, European Endowment for Democracy, Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, ENI CBC Black Sea Basin Joint Operational Programme, and USAID) and to ask questions on each other’s activities, priorities and needs.
The last plenary session, as its title suggested (“Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals in the Black Sea Region”) focused on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the Black Sea region and Ms. Heghine Manasyan, CEO, Caucasus Research Resource Center-Armenia, together with Mr. Eden Mamut, Secretary-General, Black Sea Universities Network and Mr. Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) shared their best practices, as well as common challenges and opportunities in a discussion moderated by Ms. Monica Prisacariu, Board member, The Romanian NGDO Platform – FOND / International Program Coordinator, New Horizons Foundation.
For more detailed information about this year’s edition of the Black Sea NGO Forum, we invite you to consult the final agenda, concept note and descriptions of the workshops here: http://www.blackseango.org/update-the-11th-edition-of-the-black-sea-ngo-forum-building-a-more-resilient-civil-society-in-the-black-sea-region-12th-14th-of-november-2018-brussels-belgium/ .
Photos taken during the event are available at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/pg/BlackSeaNGOForum/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1921957951174573 .
The Power Point presentations made during the event will be uploaded shortly on our website, and the final report of the event will be available in the upcoming weeks.