From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Eastern Partnership countries have been at the forefront of the mitigation efforts, helping the most vulnerable groups and filling gaps in the governments’ responses. At the same time, the lockdown restrictions and the worsening economic situation in the region pose a serious risk to the survival and continuity of these organisations.
In this extraordinary situation, IREX Europe has just launched the European Union funded project ‘COVID-19: Civil Society Resilience and Sustainability’. This emergency-response effort will be implemented in partnership with Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights House Tbilisi, Human Rights House Yerevan, and Transatlantic Foundation/Black Sea Trust, and will give €2.4 million of grants directly to the CSOs most impacted by the pandemic.
The project will foster the resilience and sustainability of civil society organisations and independent media in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, enabling them to mitigate the immediate and longer-term impact of the pandemic. The project will support organisations providing protection and assistance to the most vulnerable groups and will also seek to level the playing field between organisations from the regions and the main cities, giving special focus on grassroots organisations and initiatives.
CSOs will benefit from grants for: emergency core support; psychosocial and legal support; digitalisation to shift some of their work online; and capacity development training to adapt to the fast-paced pandemic and post-pandemic environment.
Considering the impact of misinformation about COVID-19, independent media outlets will also be supported to run media campaigns, advocacy and awareness raising activities. These efforts aim to counter the devastating effect of the false information on COVID-19 which the World Health Organisation has called an ‘infodemic’ for its quick spread and wide circulation.
The public in the region will thus be able to access fact based crucial information about COVID-19 and their respective governments’ efforts to handle the pandemic. Stronger public oversight throughout the pandemic will in turn help the Eastern Partnership societies to better overcome the COVID-19 crisis.