From October 2021 to December 2022, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network has been implementing the project “Improved CSO responses to pandemic and post-pandemic challenges in the Western Balkans”, with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy. The project aims to contribute towards enhanced civil society resilience in facing COVID-19 and post-pandemic challenges through regional cooperation.
As the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the crisis of democracy in the Balkans, it has become evident that our societies face a turning point for their sustainable and democratic development. With the EU less impactful in pushing for change, and the governments in the Balkans more resilient to the pressure, the role of civil society is now more important than ever. But for civil society to maintain and strengthen its role in driving positive change in our region, it has to find new ways of working in the (post-)pandemic world and responding to the numerous challenges amplified by the economic and social recession. In such a situation, CSOs need to come up with innovative and responsive advocacy approaches for reaffirming the role of civil society at national, regional and EU levels in the pandemic and post- pandemic reality, by working more together. They should join forces to defend the civic space by grounding their work on mobilizing citizen support and civic engagement, improving the capacities for evidence-based advocacy. They should also invest in building partnership and coalitions for common goals, especially when using the international fora as a venue for pressuring for government accountability.
To this end, on 30-31 May, BCSDN organized the Regional Workshop “Joint Action for Promoting Civic Space and a More Resilient Civil Society” in Belgrade, with the aim to discuss new and effective advocacy approaches and CSO actions to address the challenges brought about by the recent crises. The workshop gathered over 50 representatives from national and international CSOs, donors, journalists and interested individuals. Starting from the idea that such events and discussions are more worthy if shared and public, instead of being exclusively accessible, our regional workshop took a hybrid format. The event was live-streamed through social media, making the topics of public interest – publicly available.
With this document, we aimed to reflect on the work we have conducted within the project and summarize the lively Belgrade discussions and valuable exchanges, hoping to share knowledge and inspiration as widely as possible. The document offers a wealth of information and resources to support the work of anyone who cares about civic space and shares the same values and motivation for advancing it.
The document is available for download HERE.