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June 1, 2020
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Czech Govt Human Rights Commissioner: Nonprofits are irreplaceable in combating COVID-19

30.3.2020 18:30
Helena Válková (PHOTO: ANO party archive)
Helena Válková (PHOTO: ANO party archive)

In recent days the nonprofit sector has been demonstrating to all of us how important and irreplaceable its role is in our society. This is perhaps clear right now even to the biggest critics of that sector.

The widest possible range of nonprofits, from the biggest to the smallest, have been able to flexibly respond to the situation associated with combating coronavirus and began taking action immediately. They were the first to come to the aid of the most vulnerable among us, senior citizens and those who are ill.

It has been nonprofits who immediately set up helplines making it possible for members of those at-risk groups to call at any time and ask for advice, explanations or help. It has been the nonprofits that have called on many volunteers to get involved, who have trained them and made it possible for them to offer qualified aid to our fellow citizens in need.

Nonprofits also were some of the first to realize that homeless people represent a big group at risk, those who find themselves without the opportunity of remaining safely in a home. Field social workers therefore began to immediately explain to the homeless what the pandemic means, how they can defend themselves against it, why it is necessary to correctly disinfect themselves and reduce any risky behavior to a minimum.

These field social workers are providing homeless people with protective gear and doing their best to find them accommodation - irrespective of running the risk of infection themselves, which has been quite high, especially during the initial days when they were insufficiently equipped. I have to say that I greatly admire their dedication to combating coronavirus, and I am also well aware of what a good example is being set for the rest of civil society by those among us who are not afraid to risk their own health in order to benefit the most vulnerable.

These people do not just deserve our gratitude - they also deserve more support in the future. However, in that context it is necessary to draw attention to one very important matter.

The protective measures adopted currently by the Government and approved by Parliament to benefit employees, entrepreneurs, self-employed persons, firms and others doing business are naturally essential and welcomed. However, we must not forget about nonprofit organizations, as their needs to arrange for operations in the area of service provision (social services, health care services, cultural services, etc.) are also very important.

For that reason it is necessary to state clearly and loudly that the approved programs of state aid are also intended for nonprofits. It is, today, fully within the competence of the Industry Ministry and the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry to clarify the situation in that regard and to calm the nonprofits concerned.

I believe those ministries will do that as soon as possible. Naturally it is necessary to address the impacts of the Government measures on the financing of nonprofits this year, right now.

Because the schools are closed, because it is banned to organize cultural events, sports events and other events, and because a broader variety of social services are also banned from being performed, this is naturally something that has changed the schedule of the nonprofit organizations' planned activities and their implementation, from one day to the next. However, that does not mean that the nonprofits' associated costs automatically disappear.

This matter cannot be decided across the board at the central level, but there is a need to design a plan for how to proceed that will be very differentiated, one in which each organization will know, in time, which of its costs will be recognized as eligible for funding in the future and which will not. That is a current task for the state administration.

I firmly believe, despite all the burdens of these days, that we will manage to cope with this situation together. The nonprofit sector is, after all, the heart of our civil society, which in recent days has been demonstrating its strength and resilience, and I want to believe that in the future, the credit this sector deserves will not be forgotten.

Helena Válková, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Civil society, Government of the Czech Republic, Helena Válková, human rights



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