How can Embassies contribute to the development of Civil Society in Greece?
I arrived in Greece as the Counselor for Public Affairs this August, and in the short time I have been here I’ve observed just how active and dedicated civil society organizations are in this country. At the U.S. Mission to Greece we work closely with a range of civil society organizations to promote people-to-people ties between our two countries and to help empower change makers. In recent years, our Embassy has focused its civil society engagement on STEM education, the refugee crisis, and women’s empowerment, among other issues. We see civil society organizations as critical partners in advancing the economic development and sustainability agenda, as well as diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility – all of which are policy priorities for the United States government.
Are there any programs or partnerships with Greek NGOs that you have supported and/or you believe are worth highlighting as good practices?
Yes! We have outstanding, collaborative partnerships with so many fantastic local organizations that it’s difficult for me to choose just one. I would say that one partnership I am especially proud of is with the NGO Mataroa, which runs a coding education workshop for young girls. This “CodeGirls” program focuses on developing knowledge of STEM while simultaneously fostering the empowerment of young women. Widening accessibility to STEM education prepares young Greek people for a globally connected and digitally powered future. I am excited to report that Google has joined forces with our Code Girls partners to create an exciting new initiative called Coding Bees, intended for both adults and youth.
What are your strategic social impact priorities? (Refugee, LGBTI, Gender Violence, Racism, Environment, Education, Culture, etc.)
My life’s work is rooted in expanding opportunities for those who need them most. Prior to becoming a career diplomat, I worked on social justice issues as a lawyer and social worker. And now, I am the parent of a child with a disability. While in Greece I look forward to working with the relevant ministries and civil society groups to ensure that education is inclusive and available to all. I see tremendous opportunity to grow the educational relationship between our two countries and to increase student mobility. I believe some of the U.S. government’s most powerful programs are those that promote educational exchanges for students that would not otherwise have those opportunities, including our Future Leaders Educational Exchange (FLEX program) which we work on with the Greek Ministry of Education.
Of course our Embassy supports a broad array of projects that further our foreign policy priorities, from economic development programs to support for marginalized populations. Following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we are diverting resources to support the high volume of migrants in Greece. The Greek people have demonstrated considerable hospitality and generosity welcoming and caring for thousands of refugees, both after the 2015 refugee crisis and today. Our Embassy is doing its part to support those refugees and the Greek state through a number of programs, including the creation of scholarship opportunities for refugees at U.S.-affiliated schools in Greece, and by helping newly-arrived migrants learn English.
Other major areas of focus include advancing gender equality and rights for LGBTQI+ individuals. Women have been fighting for equality in professional and personal life for centuries and the fight continues. We were proud to support the Inclusivity Lounge at the Thessaloniki International Fair, organized by our partners Women on Top, which carved out a space for underrepresented voices at one of Greece’s premier political and economic fora. To promote LGBTQI+ issues, we recently worked with local NGO HIAS Greece to organize capacity building workshops for refugee organizations to adequately provide support services for LGBTQI+ individuals.
This is just a small sample of the work we do to support Greek civil society while advancing our foreign policy priorities.
What are your perceptions of Greek Civil Society?
It is a real privilege to work closely with Greek civil society partners. It is clear to me even after a short time in this country that Greek communities care deeply about pressing global issues, and they take action. Seeing their dedication and commitment is incredibly heartwarming, and it’s rewarding to work together to build a better tomorrow. Our Embassy is here to support Greek civil society – organizationally and fiscally – however we can. And we are also here to learn from our partners.
U.S. Embassy Athens is proud to partner with HIGGS this year for the Green & Sustainable Development Accelerator – a unique accelerator for Greek civil society organizations and social enterprises that focus on environmental issues and sustainable development. The program will select eight organizations and will offer six months of free trainings and consultations, lectures, workshops and other presentation by Greek and American experts. It will also offer free access to online funding platforms for CSOs. The program is sponsored by the Costas M. Lemos Foundation, the Ioannis S. Latsis Foundation, and with support by the U.S. Embassy in Athens.
What advice would you give to organizations that want to approach you to ask for support (e.g., expected timeline, range of available resources)
The U.S. Embassy in Athens accepts proposals for financial support from civil society organizations on an annual basis through our Annual Program Statement. This open call is publicized on our website. For more information, please visit our Embassy website. Organizations whose work and proposals are closely aligned with our Embassy’s strategic priorities are most competitive. We are always excited to support projects that align with our national security strategy, which includes a robust commitment to assisting a diverse range of individuals and organizations. Follow us on social media to learn more about what we do!
Kristin Roberts, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy in Athens