The Solidarity Fund PL supports democracy (including local democracy) in countries undergoing political transformation, by offering assistance in bringing about democratic changes to societies which cannot, under the incumbent regimes, co-decide their fate, and by supporting observance of human rights worldwide.
The Solidarity Fund PL (known until 2013 as the Polish Foundation for International Cooperation for Development “Knowing How”), a State Treasury Foundation, was established in the late 1990s at the initiative of the President of the Republic of Poland. The objective of the Foundation was to provide aid to countries which were in the period of transformation towards a market economy and private entrepreneurship, as well as to support their economic, social and political development. The Foundation has implemented a range of projects to the benefit of Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan and Georgia, among others. It drafted and published a range of publications dedicated to the Polish transformation experience. The Foundation suspended its operations in 2005.
In connection with the Republic of Poland’s growing participation in development cooperation and pro-democracy work, the Minister of Foreign Affairs decided to revive the “Knowing How” Foundation in 2011. The initiative came also as a response to numerous demands from the NGO community to set up a Polish support agency, and addressed the institutional limitations the public administration encountered when trying to support projects carried out by Polish NGOs in countries such as Belarus. The new Council for the Foundation and a temporary Board of Directorswere appointed. According to the amended statute, “The Foundation achieves its objectives by offering grants.”
In 2013 the Foundation changed its name to Solidarity Fund PL.
The Foundation soon became an important spot on the map of Polish development support as the institution responsible for democratization projects abroad. Under the Act of 16th September 2011 on development cooperation (amended on 20th November 2013), the Minister of Foreign Affairs may commission the Foundation to carry out tasks in this respect in countries with specific political circumstances. The main geographic areas of activity of the Foundation are, at the moment, the countries of the Eastern Partnership, as well as the countries of Central Asia, Tunisia and Myanmar/Burma.
The directions of the Foundation’s operations are set by the Council, which represents the entire spectrum of political, social and expert circles. The Foundation submits annual reports to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Sejm on the implementation of tasks related to development cooperation.
The graphic mark of the Foundation is the logo of the Polish presidency in the EU. It was designed by Jerzy Janiszewski, who is also the author of the logo of Solidarity (NSZZ Solidarność).
The Foundation achieves its objectives mainly through the support of projects carried out by Polish NGOs in cooperation with local partners from abroad (regranting). Since 2012, the Foundation has supported more than 180 projects of total value of nearly PLN 30 million. Both the supported projects and the Foundation’s own work focus on five areas:
- support of local democracy, self-governance and agency of citizens;
- support of independent media;
- elections observation;
- helping victims of oppression, and supporting the monitoring and advocating activity of organizations which defend human rights;
- cooperation of public and civic institutions in the implementation of good practices related to the work of public institutions.
The operations of the Foundation are financed from development funds of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland. The Foundation also relies on the support of USAID, the Canadian government and other donors.
Apart from planned operations, as part of its statutory objectives, the Foundation also carries out ad hoc actions, responding flexibly to the changing situation in the countries concerned. Since the end of 2013, the Foundation has actively supported pro-democratic and pro-European changes which the Ukrainian citizens fought for on Maidan in Kiev, and on many other maidans in the entire Ukraine. Among other areas, the Foundation has been involved in the creation and work of the Civic Committee of the Solidarity with Ukraine; it has helped independent Ukrainian media (including re-buying their destroyed equipment for journalists); it has participated in expert missions; and it has supported the arrangements for providing medical aid to the injured on Maidan.
Since 2012, the Foundation has been responsible for the recruitment and participation of Polish observers in the election missions of ODIHR/OSCE.
The Foundation has its branch in Moldova at the Information Centre for Local Authorities, situated in Ialoveni, just outside Kishinev.