SongE (Soutien aux ONG à l’Est/Suppport for NGOs in the East) was created at the beginning of the 1990s in the euphoria of the transition to democracy taking place in different Eastern Europe countries.
At this time, SongES was a project run by Médecins Sans Frontières-Belgium, which hoped to explore new fields of action in order to provide appropriate support to the emerging democracies in Eastern Europe.
In Romania, in Russia, in Slovakia and also in Poland, this took the form of collaboration with national NGOs and civil sector associations.
SongE remained part of the MSF-Belgium structure until 1994. At this point, it then became a non-profit association (Association Sans But Lucratif, an ASBL).
Little by little, in 1994 and 1995, requests began arriving from African civil sector associations. As in Eastern Europe, some countries appeared to be in transition: the end of communism, the arrival of multipartism, a policy of decentralisation and an opening towards democracy. Freedom of association began to be acknowledged from that time onwards, leading to the formation of thousands of associations.
SongE found that these socio-political similarities provided reasons for investing in Africa so that the actors in this sector could participate in the emergence of civil society in their countries. In 1996, SongES adopted its present name: SongES, Soutien aux ONG à l’Est et au Sud (Support for NGOs in the East and in the South). SongES opened offices in Chad (April 1997), in Algeria (from July 1998 to June 2000), in Guinea (December 1998) and in Niger (July 2000).
Conforming to the original objectives, the projects developed in Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Russia have evolved progressively towards the autonomy of the respective actors. In addition, the level of development among civil society associations, the democratisation of the Eastern European countries and, for the most part, their approaching membership of the European Union have prompted SongES to review its intervention policy in this region and gradually wind up its activities there.
Since 2002, SongES has been focusing its action on Africa. Given the socio-economic problems facing most African countries and the inability of their governments to take overall charge in all areas, civil society associations offer an original and responsible response to the social development needs of their citizens. It is this effort that SongES has decided to support and is therefore currently developing programmes in Chad, Niger and Guinea.