The NGO sector in Cyprus is fragmented in many ways. Firstly, there is no single legislative framework in place defining NGOs, and placing the framework of their establishment, operations, purpose etc. Rather, multiple types of legal vehicles may be regarded as NGOs in Cyprus, i.e. foundations, sports and cultural unions, associations, community volunteerism organisations etc.
Further, the levels of public participation in organised forms of volunteering through NGOs are low. There is a higher concentration of NGOs in urban areas, and mainly in Nicosia (capital region). Civil society's impact on governance and society is assessed to be rather weak, especially when considering the marginal role in the overall budget process. Civil society has some impact through information campaigns, and potentially in building capacity for collective actions. However, in the last few years civil society has developed in a very positive way. This includes impact in society, cooperation between the different sectors, empowerment of human resources in the NGOs, as well as a larger amount of bi-communal projects (both through UNDP programmes and the previous EEA/Norway Grants NGO Fund 2004-2009).
The NGO sector in Cyprus is also fragmented on the operations aspect, as there may be more than one NGO established and operating with the same purpose island-wise. Cyprus is very small to fit multiple NGOs operating for the same cause and purpose which is currently the norm for many areas of activity. On top of that, there is very little cooperation between them to develop synergies and cooperation for the same cause, and in most cases, each NGO is operating independently. Cooperation between NGOs and the development of networks and representation structures are important for the continuing development and strengthening of NGOs and civil society in Cyprus. In some cases tensions exist in leadership of networks due to the competitive nature of the NGO sector which may hamper effective network developments.
There is also a lack of a funding framework for NGOs in Cyprus, and NGOs, depending on their cause, attract funding from other sources, not based on their nature as NGOs, but based on their cause. Cypriot NGOs therefore face challenges receiving funding for their activities.
Due to its size, the Cypriot society is considered a rather closed society, which has however made significant steps forward in modernising in the last 30 years. This rate of development however, may be regarded as slow in comparison to other countries in the EU. There are many NGOs in Cyprus who move forward societal norms and values and carry out advocacy activities. Such NGOs can be considered as a significant force for changing and moving forward societal values in Cyprus.
The NGO sector has traditionally not had the closest links with the government with the exception of some types of NGOs such as Community Volunteerism Councils which make part of community/ municipal councils and usually operate support facilities and services for children, the elderly etc. Such NGOs however still are not strictly related to the government and public administration but are (sometimes) related to local administration authorities such as community councils and municipalities. These are not the majority of NGOs however in Cyprus. There is a clear need for NGOs to be heard by the public administration on issues of their activity. There is also a clear need to develop dialogue, consultation, and open communication between the government structures and the NGO sector.
As regards bi-communal contacts, a large number of NGOs and their activities are of bi-communal character. Many NGOs were established by members of both communities, and many NGOs carry out activities involving both communities. The NGO sector in comparison to the general Cypriot society has been moving forward bi-communal contacts for many years now.