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National Freedom Institute Act: Helsinki Committee in Poland issues statement

“In our opinion, the adoption of the Act on the National Freedom Institute – Centre for the Development of Civil Society will result in a dramatic restriction of civic freedoms, in spite of the Act’s title”, reads today’s statement of the Helsinki Committee in Poland.

National Freedom Institute 

Last week, the Senate adopted the National Freedom Institute Act without amendments. The Institute is a new administrative body, whose key task will be to distribute public funds among non-governmental organisations. The Institute’s Director and the majority of Director’s Council are to be appointed by another new institution: the Committee for Public Benefit Activity, chaired by a member of the Polish Cabinet (the Council of Ministers). This means that the Council of Ministers will have broad powers to influence and control the work of the National Institute.

Many civil society organisations have presented their critical comments on the Act’s proposed text during public consultations and the remainder of the lawmaking process. According to the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the adoption of this Act is a clear shift away from the concept of the state supporting the growth of civil society and a systemic threat to the independent operation and development of NGOs in Poland.

Plea to President

“Awarding the Institute the sole power to allocate budgetary funds to social projects and organisations means that the control over this part of the public sphere is given to state political authorities rather than the people. This remains in conflict with the constitutional principle of subsidiarity and support for open society”, reads the statement issued today.

Members of the Helsinki Committee in Poland called for the President of Poland to veto the Act.

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