26 June 2008
Discussion Forum in Belgrade, Serbia
During the past ten years, the transition to democracy has brought dramatic developments to the countries of the Balkans in southeastern Europe. Forms of governments in the region have definitely changed for the better yet there is still a crucial need: that is to involve citizens in advocating anti-discrimination initiatives that can generate legislative transparency, government accountability and civil society engagement.
UNDEF is supporting a project entitled “Promote Democratic Practices
in the Balkans by Facilitating Government Accountability, Citizen Participation
and Anti-Discrimination Policies”. The two-year project which
started on February 2007 covers three geographic areas: Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Croatia and Serbia. The project is being implemented by Global Rights
and a core regional partner Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, B.a.B.e.
(Be Active, Be Emancipated) and Voice of Difference. Purposes of the
project are to promote human rights, enhance citizens’ participation
and establish strong foundations for sustainable peace through improved
democratic processes and effective CSO advocacy at the national and
Discussion Forum in Zaghreb, Croatia
The project has been conducted with effective cooperation among the three implementing partners and has generated enthusiastic responses from 60 CSOs throughout the region.
Research on legislative processes and civil society participation was completed during the first year of project implementation. The implementing partners conducted face-to-face interviews with CSO representatives. This research (1) highlighted specific experiences of CSO participation in the legislative process; (2) identified the positive impacts of those efforts; and (3) produced best practices in citizen engagement and legislative advocacy. Throughout the research process, the implementing partners also collected case studies highlighting best practices from the EU democratic mechanisms and results of the media monitoring process. Documents from the research and selected anti-discrimination directives, policies and best practices in EU member countries were utilized to produce the “Guide for Legislative Advocacy.”
During the second year of project implementation, a discussion forum entitled “Participation and Impact of Civil Society Organizations on Legislative and Policy-Making Processes in the Balkan Region” was held in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. A large number of CSOs representing marginalized populations, human rights groups, anti-discrimination groups, youth organizations and groups representing persons with disabilities participated in the forum.
Discussion Forum in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Key issues discussed at the forum were: advocacy developed through sharing regional experiences; identification of various reform practices; development of future action plans in relation to capacity-building of other CSOs and mobilization and sustainability of the project through cultivation of a political climate sensitive to the voices of citizens.
The remaining phase of the project explores various options in engaging parliamentarians of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. Global Rights, together with Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, B.a.B.e. and Voice of Difference will participate in this process.