NGOs are intensively continuing their GOTV campaign concentrating on areas identified by CESID and based on results from the first round.
The biggest event for NGOs was a two days conference "New Beginning" of FENS (Federation of NGOs of Serbia) and Civic Initiatives. More than 250 organizations sent their representatives. A great satisfaction was expressed with the contribution of NGOs to voters turn out in the first round of elections. Some participants said it revived their activism and feeling of being part of large group with a common goal: democratic Serbia.
The main discussion on the Conference was on three declarations: Declaration on Poverty reduction and role of NGOs, Declaration on youth participation (drafted by Students Unions) and Declaration on European integrations (Drafted by European Movement in Serbia). All three documents were thoroughly analyzed as priorities for the sector. They will be available in English after the elections.
The challenges of current political events were present in all discussions. A need for more pressure on Government for finally changing the NGO law and defining financial frame for the sector were set as priority activity of FENS. Creating a body for institutional relations between NGOs and State and a necessity of a Strategy for development of third sector were also enhanced.
As part of possibilities in the future European Agency for Reconstruction and Balkan Trust for Democracy announced their new programs.
Mr. Pavol Demes, Director for Central and Eastern Europe of the German Marshall Fund, gave an inspiring speech on importance of election participation sharing good and bad experiences from Slovakia.
At the request of participants we invited both presidential candidates to come to the conference and present their policies towards NGOs and citizen participation and to answer to some questions from participants.
Tomislav Nikolic did not answer even after several reminders. When asked about it at his press conference he said he never got the invitation and even if he did he sees no reason to talk to NGOs. FENS issued a statement giving all details on (lack) of communication and finishing with "We are not surprised by his refusal of the dialogue and by the fact he did not say the truth."
Boris Tadic accepted the invitation and spent one hour answering the questions. He stressed the need for continuous contacts with citizens, for necessity of NGO contribution to many areas where the state has no capacity and for his readiness to consult with NGOs and consider their projects for joint actions. All electronic media reported on his meeting with NGOs.
As an independent impression of a guest to the Conference we attach the text by Chuck Hirt from CEE Citizens Network.
Reflections from a guest at the FENS conference, 19-20, June 2004
I was invited by Civic Initiatives, the organizers of the FENS conference to attend this year. I knew of the formation of FENS from last year\s origins and had heard stories of their activities but this was a chance to see it for real. The annual meeting of FENS was a most impressive event. The size of the delegation with over 250 participants was remarkable in itself and an indication of the interest in the NGO community to work together. The second striking thing upon entering the group was the diversity. This was noticeable in many respects, but particularly the participation of disabled and of youth.
After spending some more time with the group, it was clear that the diversity extended beyond this. The leadership of the group also reflected the geographic and ethnic makeup of the country. It was most impressive that they have been able to form such a large organization and that it operates in line with its values of reflecting the differences in the country. They "walk the talk". It is important for the future of Serbia that such groups already exist and operate effectively.
The other significant aspect of the conference was the level of sophistication of their agenda. Their time together was not focused on the needs of the NGO sector but primarily on several important issues affecting the civil society in Serbia. They developed resolutions related to Poverty Reduction, Citizen Participation (especially youth) and on EU integration. Often when NGO leaders come together they are not as well focused. The inclusion of presentations on access to information and how technology can support their work were also impressive.
The invitation of the two Presidential candidates to their session also reflected the political sophistication of the group. They realize that there is a significant and yet non-partisan role. FENS is clear about their issues and realize the importance to engage candidates for political office to see where they stand in relationship with them. If this step is not taken, it is much more difficult to hold them accountable later. There is a realization of the need to ensure that people vote to express their opinion as well. The presence of one of the two candidates was confirmation of the importance of the work of FENS.
It was an honor to have been invited. It is clear that there is reason for hope in Serbia. NGO's are leading the way to help build a true civil society. FENS is most definitely a critical part of ensuring a better future.
CEE Citizens Network
First Assembly of FENS
The Sixth Annual Conference of Civic Initiatives, titled as "New Beginning", which will also be the First Regular Assembly of the Federation of Non-Government Organizations of Serbia (FENS), was held at the Faculty of Law and in Hotel Metropol, on June 19-20, 2004.
The Assembly analyzed first year of FENS, and adopted the strategy for future joint action in relation to the state, business, the media and the public in general, in keeping with the new social and political circumstances. Changes in the bodies of the Federation were adopted as well, and new strategic papers are being adopted following the inputs from NGO representatives:
- Programmatic Declaration
- Declaration on Poverty reduction and role of NGOs,
- Declaration on youth participation
- Declaration on European integrations
President of Serbia, Mr. Boris Tadic, being still presidential candidate at that time, accepted the invitation and spent one hour answering the questions. He stressed the need for continuous contacts with citizens, for necessity of NGO contribution to many areas where the state has no capacity and for his readiness to consult with NGOs and consider their projects for joint actions. All electronic media reported on his meeting with NGOs.
Mr. Tomislav Nikolic did not answer even after several reminders. When asked about it at his press conference he said he never got the invitation and even if he did he sees no reason to talk to NGOs. FENS issued a statement giving all details on (lack) of communication and finishing with "We are not surprised by his refusal of the dialogue and by the fact he did not say the truth."
Detailed Assembly's report is in finishing phase.