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Prepared by The Századvég Institute Hungary, 2003

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Local governments and civil society organisations (NGOs) in social care

in Hungary

Prepared by The Századvég Institute

Hungary, 2003

Project supported by

Open Society Institute, Hungary


Local governments and civil society organisations (NGOs) in social care
in Hungary 1

I. Development of the non profit (NGO) sector in Hungary 3

II. Basic regulatory issues of the NGO sector, within it social care 7

III. Organisation level of the sector 18

IV. Role of the civil society sector in social services 43

V. Contracted relations and their features 48

VI. Possibilities for the NGOs to participate in the decision making processes of local governments 58

A few thoughts of summary 74

Literature 77

I. Development of the non profit (NGO) sector in Hungary

In East European comparison, Hungary has had considerable traditions in the civil society sector, though no summary has been prepared on the history of civil organisations. Available studies1 indicate that the first period when civil society started to get organised in Hungary could be estimated at around 1825-1840. The atmosphere of the Reform Era had a very positive impact upon all forms of community life. Before 1848, the sovereign had the exclusive right to issue licenses as to the operation of associations and societies, which was exercised by the local government council and later, between 1848 and 1867, by the joint Ministry of the Interior (Pavluska, V. 1999: 101). Most of the organisations in this period (85%) worked around three groups of activities. Cultural-religious, leisure and charity organisations carried more or less the same weight; these latter ones were mostly self-help organisations (Pavluska, V. 1999: 105.). Furthermore, institutions such as the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Hungarian National Economic Association and the Hungarian Horsing Association were established.

A more pronounced development can be seen in the Era of Dualism. Especially after industrialisation gained more momentum, large numbers of artistic, scientific, charity and self-help organisations as well as interest advocacy organisations were established. Professional trade organisations joined the former three activity groups by the turn of the century.

The period of 1920-1932 brought a real shift in the development of associations. The number of organisations tripled, their numbers reaching over 14 000 (Kuti, É. 1998: 33.). The number of associations per hundred thousand inhabitants was 165; a higher value could be seen only in the most industrialised and most urbanised settlements (especially in towns with legislative powers: 251) and in the capital city of Budapest (222). Should we compare these figures as for the order of magnitude with those of the most comparable city, Vienna, we can see that while 2236 associations were registered in Budapest in 1932, there were 16 244 of them in the Austrian capital (Huszár T. 1997: 40.).

The “leap” in the growth of the number of organisations was caused, besides the interest representation organisations, most of all by fraternities and patriotic societies, as well as sport clubs. 80% of the organisations were still characterised by the four earlier activities though proportions among them shifted. The largest of them in 1932 was the organisations of leisure activities (32.6%; Pavluska, V. 1999: 106.). The political environment in Hungary then played a significant role in the growth in the number of patriotic and fraternity societies and to some extent sports clubs, because the Peace Treaty limited the size of the Army and this had a significant impact on the growth of paramilitary organisations (most of the fraternity societies were founded in 1920-1924.) A positive development was the slow, yet stronger growth than the average of the previous years of cultural, artistic, literary and scientific societies.

Tibor Scitovsky characterised Hungary in the period just before Word War II as having a strong association sector, where voluntary organisations covered the entire society and organisations established by the different social strata which provided to their members not only leisure activities, but also an opportunity to identify with others (Scitovsky, T. 1990). However, Tibor Huszár spoke of a period of development in the association culture in pre-War Hungary which even though created the environment for self organisation supporting the development of the middle class, still, legal regulations and étatist actions hindered the development of a strong civil society sector standing face to face with the state. (Huszár, T. 1997: 44-45.).

We have little data available on association life in Hungary after 1945. The Hungarian National Archives has a list of 6448 associations in the period of 1945-1949 (Huszár, T. 1997: 45.). Act I of 1946 still considered the right of association as an unalienable civil right, and a Decree of the Minister of the Interior referred the supervision of associations to the Minister. The Constitution of 1949 provided the right to association only with the added remark of “as corresponds to the interest of the workers” (Pavluska, V. 1999: 107.; Kuti É. 1998: 41-44.) The introduction of the Soviet type of state socialism played an important role in the number and types of associations, which made a great number of historical trade, interest and welfare organisations disappear (e.g. Nemzeti Segély (National Aid), NÉKOSZ, DOKOSZ, KALOT, KALÁS, etc.). KALOT (Katolikus Legényegyletek Országos Tanácsa – National Council of Catholic Boys’ Associations) and KALÁSZ (National Council of Catholic Girls’ Associations) still had 631 and 576 organisations, respectively, in 1946, when they were discontinued (Ágh, A. 1989: 313.) Under a single party system the political, national security and financial restrictions significantly reduced the environment in which civil sector organisations could function, only sport, fire brigades, hunting, fishing and animal husbandry organisations were allowed to operate. Thus the number of associations in 1970 was just a bit more than half of that in 1932. SZOT (National Council of Trade Unions) and the principle of democratic centralism of the sectoral trade unions reduced all possibilities of real interest advocacy, representation of grass root initiatives and opportunities for autonomous decisions.

The increasing economic, political and social crisis in Hungary resulted in a “revival” of associations. At the beginning of the eighties, new types of civil society organisations appeared on the scene starting from peace movements to environmental ones, which were later joined by students’ organisations, dormitory self-governments and club movements within and outside of universities, as well as a “new wave” of politically oriented associations and forums (Szabó, M. 1989: 74.). After the Act of 1989 on the freedom of association was adopted, the number and structure of associations and organisations grew continuously, making use of the historical opportunity and the erosion of the political system. In 1982, 6570 organisations were registered, but by 1989, their numbers reached 8514 (Harsányi, L.-Kirschner, P. 1992). The internal structure of the NGO sector also changed: in the period of 1987-1989 the number of art, urban and cultural associations grew seven fold; the number of the other typically voluntary organisations increased ten fold (environmental, social, pensioners’, economic [trade], interest organisations (Huszár, T. 1997: 47.).

Just as the non profit organisations started to revive after the changeover of the system in Hungary, statistical observation in the sector also started. The richness of time series analyses and the depth of the surveyed population make it possible to make a few important remarks on the development of this sector in Hungary. Questionnaires are filled every year by the NGOs, thus the major trends in recent periods can be seen. The annual studies were extended by KSH (Central Statistical Office) to cover local governments as well in 1996 and in 2000. However, the two studies differ in as much that in one of them they collect data from the NGOs, while in the other one the subject of the survey is the local government/municipality.

I took a few elements from the 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000 data bases of the Central Statistical Office2 (Bocz, J.-Emri, I.-Kuti, É.-Mészáros, G.-Sebestény, I. 1998; 1999; 2000; 2001) which, in my opinion, are suitable to justly indicate the processes which took place in this sector in the last few years. I think this is necessary in order to get an overall picture, though not a totally complete one, of the entire sector, not only of the organisations I studied.

I do not want to dwell on the methodology issue of to what extent the KSH data base could be considered exact3 and complete4 because even with all the disadvantages, they provide us the most authentic picture of the NGO sector. I focus my analysis mostly on the numbers of civil organisations, foundations (from 1994) public corporations and associations of public interest (kht’s) and on their revenues and finances.

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