Study visit to Latvian Platform Lapas

Three members of Croatian Platform for International Citizen Solidarity (Tihomir Popovic – CROSOL Board and Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Ela Narandja – Center for Peace Studies and Gordan Bosanac – CROSOL Board president) has visited Riga on the 4th and 5th of September, on a study visit to Latvian platform Lapas. Our host was Ms. Inese Vaivare, director of Lapas.

The first meeting took place at the office of Lapas, where Ms. Vaivare presented the development cooperation and development education in Latvia, the history and structure of LAPAS, their main partners and stakeholders, main challenges and success stories and the role of „small“ LAPAS within „large“ EU. Ms. Vaivare explained Latvias situation when it comes to development aid – they, as a country, have never had any history of giving development aid. They turned that into a plus, because now they can cooperate with other countries (Moldova, Georgia) as an equal partners in learning experience, not as teachers. She emphasized the problem that EU13 countries have when it comes to financing NGOs or platforms that are involved in development cooperation, and explains how EU13 countries can not be compared with older EU members. Lapas is mainly interested in Caucasus countries and studies conflicts in that region.

The second meeting took place at the Cabinet of Ministers with Ms.Mara Simane, former director of Lapas and current creator of Human security and development planning in Latvia, which she has represented to us. Latvia is in the middle of making National development plan 2014. – 2020. in which they analysed main threats to human security in the country, and then pointed out three macro goals for the country – GDP growth, reducing the inequality and increased natality. That is going to be accomplished through three big reforms – economical reform, territorial reform and strengthening of securitability. She also explained the way they made research in the general population about their fears regarding human security.

The next meeting took place at the latvian Parliament where we talked with Mr.Atis Lejins, Deputy Chairman of the European Affairs Committee, about NGO and LAPAS cooperation with Parliament. We explained our experience regarding post-war situation in Croatia, post-transitional justice and handling the EU integrations. A short discussion took place about the future of Ukraine and work that must be done after the conflict – it will be very important for the NGOs to build social capital there.

The last meeting that day took place in eLPA, our host was eLPAs director Ms.Inta Šimanska, and we talked about best practices of National platform for CSOs.

The second day started in Lapas where Ms. Vaivare presented us with the information on Lapas members, how Lapas works with them, what they expect and commitment of the members. The main topics that are in the focus of Lapas are development cooperation and development education. The main challenges Ms. Vaivare sees is connecting the everyday work of Lapas members with Lapas, activation of members in rural area, low attendance of members on the meetings and low possibilities for study visits and building partnership due to lack of financial resources. The future themes that Lapas is going to address are PCD, human security, development education and food security.

They put a strong emphasys on European Year of Development 2015., for which the Platform has cooperated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to get the funding. They are preparing 5 workshops in rural areas on the topic „Glocalization – key to sustainable development from local to global level“. One of the members of Lapas – Latvian Rural Forum will help with this aim, therefore Mr. Aris Adlers represented to us the work of the Forum.

In the afternoon we had a meeting in Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Ms.Anda Grinberga, Head of Development Cooperation Policy Unit, and we discussed the cooperation with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and shared the experience we have from working with Croatian MFA.

The last meeting of the day again took place at Lapas, where we deliberated about possible cooperation projects in the future between CROSOL and Lapas. We agreed on a informal coalition in Concord, and stressed out the need for closer cooperation of the platforms from EU13 countries. CROSOL is also planning to have a public event to raise awareness and discuss the issue of Russian-Ukrainian conflict, in which Lapas could participate. We se Ukraine as a question of EU13 countries, and it is of utmost importance for our governments to take a stand and not ignore the problem, and also for us to advocate peaceful resolution of conflict. There is also a possibility for a study visit in Croatia, especially between our member organizations.