portugalflagNGO Programme 2009-2014
Total allocation: €57.95 million
Allocation to NGO Programme:  € 5,800,000


The NGO Programme in Portugal is to operate in a context of serious financial, economic and social crisis. Two opposing dynamics arose in recent years: on the one hand, greater social needs, and, on the other, a reduction in social benefits, which have been the State's responsibility until now, threatening the Welfare State and instigating debate about the need for repositioning the role of the State.

Against this backdrop of crisis, with its medium and long-term effects, civil society organisations have increasingly been called upon, not only to cooperate with the State (particularly with local authorities) to meet social needs, but also to question the way they themselves are organised and work in the field, in order to maximise human, technical and financial resources and infrastructure and guarantee quality and efficient intervention. In addition to this, organisations and society in general are being asked to respond creatively to the crisis through greater involvement and accountability in the design and implementation of new initiatives and solutions.

However, in Portugal, NGOs lack the right skills in terms of management and leadership, partnership work, empowerment of their target groups, as well as their staff and volunteers. By placing major emphasis on capacity building for NGOs, by demanding or giving priority to projects developed in partnership (with other NGOs, local authorities, public bodies), as well as projects which incorporate the empowerment of target groups in its activities, the Programme represents a major opportunity in Portugal's current situation, meeting urgent needs.

The NGO landscape in Portugal is not particularly innovative, and most organizations are heavily dependent on the State. Furthermore, people and organisations in Portugal have yet to take on board the notion of active citizenship in their daily lives as something to be achieved and practised, which is why the Programme should make an important contribution in this sense. On the other hand, further stress should be put on anti-discrimination, minority rights and tolerance in a responsible civil society.

Empowerment encourages the autonomy and accountability of beneficiaries and leads to new competencies and new ways of learning, particularly, in this case, in those in responsibility for the NGOs. Empowerment strengthens citizenship and the quality of democracy to the extent that it focuses on people's active participation in the processes of change (their own or their community), on the rights and obligations of citizens and their contribution to the collective management of resources.

According to the findings of a research project, part of the John Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, the workforce involved with Portuguese civil society organisations included around 29% of the economically active population in 2005, compared to a 37% average for developed countries. The share of volunteers in the civil society organisation workforce was around 4.0%, compared to a 7.4% average for developed countries. Portuguese NGOs are heavily concentrated in social services, compared to developed countries in general, and have little intervention in health and education services – two areas strongly dominated by the State today.

The overall objective of the NGO Programme in Portugal is "Strengthened civil society development and enhanced contribution to social justice, democracy and sustainable development."

  1. Participation of NGOs in public policy design and instruments implementation: The Programme supports NGO initiatives leading to a greater involvement of the civil society in decision-making related to public policies and in implementation of policy instruments at national, regional and local level.
  2. Active role in human rights, minorities and anti-discrimination: The Programme supports NGO initiatives which are aimed at shifting public attitudes and values in society by focusing on underrepresented, marginalised or otherwise vulnerable groups. Projects should open up space for wider discourse and action on targeted needs of selected groups or communities. Activities should foster active citizenship and participatory democracy, raise public awareness for general value development, and support mutual learning and dissemination. Multicultural dialogue activities and integration of groups at risk of exclusion are supported, together with activities needed for capacity building of potential project beneficiaries.
  3. Effectiveness of NGOs action: The Programme aims at contributing to sustainability of NGOs, at increasing its role in searching for appropriate democratic responses to societal issues and at raising awareness of issues of concern by civil society organisations. The Programme intends to support a more active role of NGOs in the management of public affairs, not as a substitute of the State but rather as a partner who might bring civil engagement, openness, innovation and transparency to the way public policies are run.
Bilateral cooperation
The NGO Programme in Portugal will both organise match-making events and set up a seed money facility. For receiving support from the bilateral funds, applicants need to submit a justified application, which will be assessed on its merits. Seed-money is employed in an initial matchmaking event and in subsequent matchmaking events taking place before subsequent rounds of calls. A seed money fund, for which project applicants can apply, will be available to further develop partnership projects. Resources shall also be disbursed through an on-going open call for relationship building contacts, whereby Portuguese entities eligible for support and Donor State entities will be able to apply for funds to undertake study tours and attend conferences, as well as other initiatives to promote bilateral cooperation and foster the creation of new partnership projects.
Call for proposals
1st call: July 2013
2nd call: March 2014
3rd call: February 2015
Programme operator
Programa Cidadania Ativa
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Luís Madureira Pires, Programme Manager
Av. de Berna, 45-A
PT - 1067-001 Lisboa
+351 217 823 645
Resources and more information  
Website of the Portuguese NGO Programme
Latest news on Portugal
Further information on the EEA Grants in Portugal