"The year 2019 was different. The usual problems facing the sector – lack of funding, a variety of topics and concerns, arguments with the institutions – did not seem to be topical. The reality is that we were confronted with by far more serious issues and challenges, as we like to refer to them in the NGO slang. The questions asked (including by serious media and journalists) in the public space were: Are NGOs helpful to the society and in what ways; Don’t they just act as channels for foreign interests; Are they indeed “non-governmental”, etc. The propaganda reached an important point – an attack against NGOs as such (not against NGOs for reasons of their specific activity – green, child-oriented, gender-oriented, etc. – as it had been over recent years, but against NGOs as a public construction).
The question should not be WHY? It is obvious! Civil society organizations are the guardian of last resort for the democratic values in a state where the other actors have increasingly refused to ensure them – the court, the institutions, the media, etc. If we are real actors in defending the national interests of a state with democracy and the rule of law; if we fight to be the platform where the rights and freedoms of each individual are protected, where human dignity is a high value and the guiding principle is the rule of law; if this is our version of development – it would be a pity if we were not a target of attacks. BECAUSE we are the guarantors who will always believe in these values, and will seek ways to ensure that they are further rooted in our public culture and behavior. Are we prepared to show that we act as a guarantor? Needless to ask this question. We are ready.
As long as confrontation is imposed on us, we will aim at a constructive discussion and dialogue; as long as we are vilified, our thoughts will be about those who are really vulnerable and our minds will be devoted to helping them; as long as the divide is being deepened, we will build up communities. This will be our line of action, as we know that in a democratic society the lack of freedom for one individual implies the lack of freedom for all its members; that dialogue is the way for us to go forward; that there is space for everyone. And first and foremost, we know that those working in the Bulgarian civil society sector are individuals who volunteer and support some of the most talented people in Bulgaria, and who believe that our country is a nice place, with a lot of potential and goodness which are worth developing."