About the Programme

Active Citizens Fund

Following the application to the tender launched in 2017 by the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism Office (FMO), the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, in consortium with the Bissaya Barreto Foundation, was selected to operate in Portugal the Active Citizens Fund, a component of the EEA Grants specifically designed to support Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

The Active Citizens Fund in Portugal, financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, was awarded a total budget of 11 million euros. Between 2018 and 2024 it aims strengthening the Portuguese Civil Society.

Over the first half of 2018, the negotiations between the two Foundations and the FMO took place to settle more in detail the Programme content and rules. The inputs and conclusions that resulted from the wide consultation of the Portuguese NGOs in January 2018 were taken into account during this process.

The Programme Implementation Agreement (PIA), the contract establishing the rules to be complied with by the parties when implementing the Active Citizens Fund, was signed by the FMO and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation  on 9 July 2018, date from which the Programme is in force.


Diagnosis and Strategy

The Portuguese civil society sector is very fragmented and lacks strong and representative umbrella organisations to make its voice heard, and also, there is a need to bolster technical, financial and organisational capacities, and capacity building and sustainability of the sector has been of paramount concern for the FO for several years. A Survey on the NGO sector in Portugal commissioned in 2014 to a Portuguese University identified the main weaknesses: funding and allocation of resources; governance and management practices; and advocacy skills. In 2016, the independent Evaluation Study on the NGO Fund 2009-14 implementation in Portugal identified two areas deserving further support in the future (which had already been priorities in the 2009-14 NGO Fund): democratic values, citizenship and citizens’ participation; and human rights and equal treatment.

Based on the lessons learned, on the diagnosis and evaluations produced and on further analysis of key problems and challenges the Third Sector faces in Portugal, the following areas of support have been selected:

  1. Democracy, active citizenship, good governance and transparency;
  2. Human rights and equal treatment through combating any discrimination;
  3. Social justice and inclusion of vulnerable groups.

One Outcome was thus set for each of the three aforementioned areas, plus an additional capacity building Outcome, reflecting the cross-cutting priority of the whole Programme that is strengthening the Civil Society and its organisations.

You can read the full document on Diagnosis and Programme Strategy here.



The key objective of the Programme is to strengthen civil society and active citizenship and to empower vulnerable groups.

In order to promote the sustainability and capacity of the NGOs, on the long run, by strengthening their role in fostering democratic participation, active citizenship and human rights, the Programme seeks to support projects in the following areas:

  • Democracy, active citizenship, good governance and transparency;
  • Human rights and equal treatment through combating any discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity;
  • Social justice and inclusion of vulnerable groups;
  • Capacity building of NGOs.

The Programme should also contribute to the overall objectives of EEA Grants in Portugal and to the achievement of good governance and sustainable development.


Programme Structure

The Programme is organised in four outcomes, to which supported projects should contribute:

Outcome 1 – Strengthened democratic culture and civic awareness

Outcome 2 – Increased support for human rights

Outcome 3 – Vulnerable groups are empowered

Outcome 4 – Enhanced capacity and sustainability of civil society

In addition to these four outcomes, the Programme also supports cooperation projects with entities from the three Donor States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and entities from the remaining 14 Beneficiary States of the EEA Grants (Bulgaria, Croatia , Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania) through Bilateral Cooperation Initiatives and Regional Civil Society Initiatives.

The Bilateral Cooperation Initiatives require the involvement of an entity from a Donor State, but international organisations (or bodies or agencies thereof) may also be included in the funded activities. This cooperation refers to networking, strengthening of cooperation, sharing and transfer of knowledge, technology, exchange of experience and good practices with Civil Society Organisations and other entities of the Donor States.

The Regional Civil Society Initiatives aim to foster a regional network allowing the exchange of experiences to strengthen the sector, through knowledge sharing, reciprocal learning and adoption and use of up-to-date knowledge and good practices within the Civil Society.


Granting of Support

The grants will be awarded through calls launched annually, between 2018 and 2022, with strict accession and evaluation rules and criteria. The project selection is based on the relative merit of the applications taking into account the pre-set appropriations for each call.

Updated on 27 may 2022

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