Norwegian – Greek cooperation in the asylum field 

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A Greek and a Norwegian organisaton have been working together for many years, and are now hoping that the EEA Grants will provide them with the opportunity to continue their partnership. Below they share their experiences on how to build a successful partnership.

The Greek NGO Programme «We are all Citizens» was launched in Athens in January 2014. Two organisations that were eagerly awaiting this opportunity were Aitima and NOAS.

Founded in 2008, Aitima is a Greek-based organisation that offers support, in terms of legal aid, social assistance and material help to vulnerable people in particular to asylum seekers and refugees.

The Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) is an independent membership organisation working to protect the rights of asylum seekers in Norway. NOAS’ main activities are to give information and legal aid to asylum seekers, and advocacy.

The two organisations established cooperation already in 2008 due to a common interest in asylum issues. Together, they did a survey and wrote two reports and this experience resulted in a stable cooperation. With the launch of the Greek NGO Programme, they share some of their advice and lessons learnt from working in a partnership.

“The main benefit of cooperating with a Norwegian partner is that the civil society in Norway is very well developed,” says Spyros Rizakos from Aitima. The field of human rights and protection of vulnerable groups is well-established in Norway, and as a partner I can draw on the extensive experience of the Norwegian partner. But Norwegian organisations can also learn from Greek organisations. It is important to become familiar with countries that constitute the external borders of the European Union and get a better impression of the administration of the asylum and migration policies by the EU. “In that way, the bilateral cooperation will be beneficial for both organisations,” explains Spyros Rizakos.

In order to make the partnership as solid as possible, Ingvald Bertelsen from NOAS recommends creating strong ties at the beginning of the project. “Make sure to make the partnership project concrete, individual and personal,” he recommends. Arrange planning meetings to discuss the project and to get to know eachother. It could also be an interesting exercise to produce something together at the beginning of the project, for instance a statement, or to include common research as part of the project. For instance, the bilateral fund in Greece can fund study trips. “If the partners do something together from the beginning of the project, you can develop a deeper and mutual understanding and knowledge of each other’s working methods and build a more personal relationships,” Ingvald Bertelsen explained.

He also recommends giving the Norwegian organisations an understanding of the relevance of their participation in order for them to realise the value and importance of their work in the project. However, an EEA Grant project partnership may also develop the Norwegian organisations, widen their activities and even help attract funding from other sources. It may develop their skills and working methods, and lead to new ideas and knowledge. Working with partner organisations that are facing a very different reality might stimulate creativity and lead to new solutions to common problems.

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