Hot July in Belgrade
“The Corona virus has been defeated!”- these are the words that the authorities in Serbia used to address to their citizens, at the beginning of May, when almost all measures in the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic were relaxed in order to continue the election campaign and the holding of parliamentary and local elections on 21 June. After the elections, the situation with the pandemic “suddenly” worsened in terms of the increasing number of new infected and dead people. Ironically, the authorities accused the irresponsible citizens for pandemic spread. In the meantime, there were doubts regarding the credibility of official data on the number of infected and dead persons in the country. Thus, the trust of citizens in the members of the Government’s Crisis Staff vanished. The announcement of Serbian President about the possibility of introducing a new curfew to bring the epidemic under control caused justified anger among the citizens, and it was the immediate reason for the several days of protests that followed.
Montenegro: Lost in Restrictions
On 28th of February, the Government of Montenegro started implementing its first measure intended to combat the novel coronavirus epidemic by prohibiting flights from and to the north of Italy. From this day on, the Government will through the National Coordination Body for Communicable Diseases (NKT) publish a number of decisions that would amount to 83 measures and 19 recommendations usually adopted in late sittings of the now infamous body. However, as time has passed and as the danger from COVID-19 has been more worrying, so did the measures of NKT. In fact, the measures and the approach of NKT became more extreme and, according to many, more authoritarian. These new behaviors, show us how fragile the democratic system really is and should force us to create preventive mechanisms for misuse of it in any future crisis.
Enabling Environment in the Western Balkans and Turkey: Growing Pressure on Civil Society and Future Challenges
On 10 December 2019, the world celebrated the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Through public gatherings, press statements and social media campaigns, the media and the CSO activists in our region celebrated the 71st anniversary of the human rights day. Despite the fact that the Universal Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights stands for “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, unfortunately the WBT region cannot testify for a comprehensive level of enabling environment for civil society. However, in the New Year, we hope for a more stable, thriving and enabling environments in the region, where the respect of basic freedoms will make significant progress, instead of the backsliding we have been witnessing. In the New Year, we want to see the start of a positive chapter in the decade that comes!
Civil Society Role in Participatory Democracy in Times of COVID-19 in The Balkans
The Balkan Civil Society Development Network (BCSDN) and European Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ECNL) organized a joint online conference on 13 July 2020 about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the public participation in the region, and the ways to promote participatory and multi-stakeholder approaches in the relief of the crisis. The conference gathered more than 25 participants to discuss how to enhance civil society’s involvement in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, together with the two keynote speakers: Anna Rurka, President of the Conference of INGOs at CoE, and Paul Maassen, Chief, Country Support at Open Government Partnership (OGP). As the conference delivered some though-provoking points, BCSDN and ECNL will deliver a series of blogposts on the topic, to explore them in more detail and to encourage further discussion on the topic.
CSOs Reflections and Lessons Learned from GAW 2020: On What Future We Can Hope?
From 12-16 October, CIVICUS’s group of national network organisations (AGNA), celebrated Global Accountability Week 2020 with other CSOs around the world. Participants joined the online exchange activities focusing on accountability, transparency, and legitimacy within CSOs, many organized by AGNA members, working and advocating on greater accountability practices. Facilitators and participants from Skopje, Berlin, Montevideo, Washington, Zurich, Buenos Aires, and New Delhi discussed the digital age, in times of crisis, multi-stakeholder engagement, self-assessment mechanisms, etc. On the second day of GAW 2020, BCSDN led a session on CSO Accountability in times of COVID 19.
The Future of the Enlargement Process and Civil Society Support
Not opening the negotiations for Albania and North Macedonia sent a clear message that there is a need to change the Enlargement process, but such a decision shows no regard to the citizens of these countries. The enlargement is not only a technical procedure, but it has a real impact on the people, and the citizens of the Balkan countries are the ones that are losing the most. Citizens of the Western Balkans, as future EU citizens, need to be able to participate in the future processes of the EU and therefore they should be involved in the Conference on the Future of Europe discussions.
Global Accountability Week Ends – Our Work is Only Beginning
BCSDN celebrated the Global Accountability Week form the 1st till the 4th of October together with our counterparts on national level and with our partners on the global civil society scene. The Global Accountability Week seeks to gather civil society organizations around the world to promote how we are accountable to our constituencies but also aims to put the topic of accountability at the forefront of civil society development by promoting of our standard for work and ethics.