2021 was heavily marked by the COVID-19 pandemic that impacted lives and societies in unimaginable ways. With this global and historical health crisis, Europe is faced with unprecedented socio-economic challenges. Poverty, social exclusion, challenges in the labour market and gender inequalities are among the many issues that the pandemic has exposed and even accelerated – and these need to be tackled on a European level.
Recent figures show that by the end of 2021, over 2.8 million youth were unemployed. It also shows that one in five people in Europe are at risk of poverty and social exclusion – that is over 96 million people who need support. By amplifying inequalities and vulnerabilities across Europe, the pandemic has demonstrated the urgency of creating a more resilient Europe – and that starts with inclusion.
Through the EEA and Norway Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are committed to reducing social and economic disparities and further strengthening bilateral cooperation, with a focus on empowering communities, fighting exclusion and protecting fundamental rights and common values. The Donors’ cooperation with the Beneficiary States can help Europe face some of its most pressing issues and help pave the way for a stronger Europe.
Learn how the Grants tackle the marginalisation of Roma in the city of Cluj - one house at a time.Read more
Making Europe more inclusive is at the heart of the EEA and Norway Grants. This is reflected through many of the Grants’ priority sectors, such as Social Inclusion, Youth Employment and Poverty Reduction, Culture, Civil Society, Good Governance and Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, as well as Justice and Home Affairs.
"By supporting over 170 organisations to strengthen civil society, promoting active citizenship and empowering vulnerable groups, the Active Citizens Fund is a landmark for the development of a strong and independent civil society in Greece".
Dr. Jennifer Clarke
Active Citizens Fund Greece
All these programme areas aim to break the cycle of disadvantage. This is done through social inclusion and empowerment of vulnerable groups, supporting equal access to education, employment, health care and culture, and building the capacity and accountability of institutions and key players such as civil society organisations.
By empowering communities, fighting exclusion and protecting our fundamental values, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway hope to drive inclusive development and sustainable growth - for the benefit of all. These priorities are translated on the ground through concrete programmes.
Social and economic cohesion is key to reducing poverty and promoting equality. A cohesive society values diversity and includes all citizens regardless of sex, race, ethnic or social origin, language, age, disability, or sexual orientation and identity. This programme responds to the need to promote increased social and economic cohesion in Romania by addressing local development, poverty reduction and enhanced inclusion of Roma communities.
The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) supports the programme by advising on the bilateral dimension and donor partnership projects while also providing input on aspects related to local development and good governance. In the 2014-2021 funding period, the programme, funded by both the EEA Grants and the Norway Grants, will invest €74 million1 to strengthen social and economic cohesion in Romania.
A robust civil society is a fundamental building block in a vibrant, well-functioning democracy. Non-governmental organisations play a vital role in promoting democratic values and human rights and fostering civic participation. However, civil society organisations face legal, financial and sometimes even physical threats in several European countries. Through the Active Citizens Fund, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway aim to strengthen civil society, encourage active citizenship and empower disadvantaged groups in the Beneficiary States. The Fund is managed by national operators independent of local, regional and central governments, political parties and religious institutions.
The Active Citizens Fund represents over €210 million from the EEA Grants dedicated to strengthening civil society. As of the end of 2021, over 1 7002 projects have been supported through the Active Citizens Fund.
By the end of 2021, the EEA and Norway Grants had supported over 2 3003 projects contributing to a more inclusive Europe (with over 90% of the completed projects having positive effects likely to continue beyond the current funding period).
Below are a few numbers that showcase the focus that has been put so far on supporting inclusive projects through the Grants. In the current 2014-2021 funding period, the total allocation for inclusive Europe is over a billion euro.
Social Inclusion, Youth Employment and Poverty Reduction4
|4 programme areas|
|12 Beneficiary States|
|Culture, Civil Society, Good Governance and Fundamental Rights and Freedoms5|
|4 programme areas|
|14 Beneficiary States|
|Justice and Home Affairs6,7|
|3 programme areas (out of six)|
|11 Beneficiary States|
The EEA and Norway Grants focus on people and societies before anything else. An Inclusive Europe refers to the commitment to the shared European values of freedom, democracy, human rights, dignity, equality, and the rule of law.
Making sure younger generations are equipped for the future, inequalities are reduced, and no one is excluded or left behind is at the forefront of the Grants’ programmes. Below is a snapshot of the results so far that help build a more inclusive Europe.
To ensure that the EEA and Norway Grants programmes address critical challenges and achieve their results, programmes are designed with results-based management principles in mind. With some projects just starting, and implementation running until 2024, we are only now starting to see results towards our targets for the current funding period.
By the end of 2021, the following has been achieved:
See how Latvians are creating a child-friendly centre for abuse victims, with the expertise of their Icelandic partners.Read more
|Number of people reached by awareness-raising campaigns||18 570 000||9 447 6708|
|Number of vulnerable people (including Roma) reached by empowerment measures||5 670||139 8229|
|Number of national policies and laws influenced||322||19310|
|Number of students educated in civic and human rights||25 270||8 67811|
|Number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors receiving services||3 750||26712|
|Annual number of cases of domestic and gender-based violence officially reported||88 097||111 49313|
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the United Nations’ shared commitment towards prosperity, protecting our planet and its resources, and fostering inclusive societies based on respect for human rights.
The agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended to apply universally to all countries and through which they can contribute to addressing our shared global challenges.
The SDGs recognise that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address social needs such as education, health and social inclusion, just to name a few.
Many of these goals resonate strongly with the objectives of the EEA and Norway Grants. With inclusiveness at the forefront of both the Grants’ programmes and the SDGs, they complement each other. That is why Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway encourage and empower public authorities, civil society, the private sector and academia in the Beneficiary States to take concrete actions to deliver on the shared commitments mapped in the SDGs to build a better future.
Below are examples of a few areas where the Grants support the SDGs’ inclusive focus.
When Lithuania and Norway come together to tackle hate speech and promote equality.Read more
Sustainable development relies on healthy living and people's well-being. That means eradicating many diseases and addressing numerous, different persistent and emerging health issues. By focusing on providing more efficient funding of health systems, improved sanitation and hygiene, as well as increased access to physicians, significant progress can be made in helping to save the people’s lives.
Through the Grants' health programmes, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway seek to achieve more resilient, accessible, effective and inclusive health care systems.
The CEDICROM 2 project in Romania focuses on preventing cervical cancer through screening tests and vaccination. Over 3 000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, leading to over 1 700 deaths. ‘The project is designed for women who have no access or have difficult access to medical services – for most of the cases, it’s about people who are not part of the public health insurance system,’ explains Dr. Florian Alexandru Nicula, project director. So far, the project has had a major impact in all the communities where it is implemented, and has helped thousands of women prevent cervical cancer, free of charge.
This goal focuses on reducing inequality within and among countries. This SDG calls for reducing inequalities in income as well as those based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status within a country. Combatting inequalities and social exclusion lie deep in the heart of the Grants. From reducing poverty, fighting discrimination, protecting children and youth at risk, empowering vulnerable groups and safeguarding our fundamental rights, the Grants help pave the way for less inequalities and a more inclusive Europe – one project at a time.
An example is the RePower project, funded through the Active Citizens Fund, which supports the integration of refugees with disabilities in Greece through Paralympic Sports. Through RePower, Paralympic Sports are used as a life-improving tool, smoothing the integration for refugees with disabilities – on all levels. This project enabled Alia, a 20-year-old athlete, to become the first-ever female competitor to be part of the Refugee Paralympic Team at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
‘Watching Alia in Tokyo was extraordinary. With the RePower shirt outside the stadium shouting “RePower – we did it!”. It was an amazing feeling. We created a project and we sent to Tokyo the first female member of the Paralympic refugee team ever,’ explains one of the organisers behind the RePower project.
Find out more about this project and Alia’s empowering journey.
During COVID pandemic, a project in Bulgaria kept the hope alive without leaving anyone behind.Learn how!