“Active work in the NGO sector, in the past 10 years, gave me competence in the study of mechanisms for citizen involvement in decision-making in the democratic changes in Serbia. I gained my experience within CeSID – Center for free elections and democracy – http://www.cesid.org, which is a non-partisan and non-profit organization, composed of citizens to contribute to the establishment and promotion of democratic values and institutions in Serbia, I worked as a member of many observation missions in Serbia, than Kosovo voter registration, and as an instructor in training observers, which was designed for 2000 elections. CeSID was established primarily in order to organize an impartial observation of elections in Serbia, including media monitoring and research, observation and parallel vote counts, analysis of the electoral process and procedures, training of observers and voters, and turnout campaign in the elections.
Citizen’s participation in public life of the community is considered one of the main prerequisites for the establishment of full democracy and an important mark of quality of life. In transition countries, like Serbia, it is far more important for citizen participation to educate them in order to empower them to comprehend, promote and ‘‘consume’’ citizen’s participation in the decision-making processes.
One of the major concerns of modern democracy, including democracy in Serbia is the alienation of citizens from political processes. In this context, as in many others, civil society is an important element in democratic processes. Civil society offers to the people of Serbia an alternative way, besides the one offered by political parties and lobbies, so that they are able to channel a different view of things and at the same time it provides a diversity of interests in decision-making processes. Increasing awareness should be the foundation of the national policy of Serbia and requires development of formal education (civic education), creating programs for education, particularly the elderly population, through seminars, educational campaigns, internet online free education, social networks and other communication with citizens, and wilder cooperation with the organizational forms of civic activism, such as NGOs.
Non-governmental organizations in Serbia are to support avoiding the existence of passive citizens and to give them the prospect to say what they consider important for the development of local communities. In addition, non-governmental organizations are also noteworthy for the general education of citizens and intensifying their awareness of the importance of their participation in public life, as well as informing them about important issues in the local community.
Besides the legal framework for direct citizen participation, which is presented in the Serbian Constitution, the Law on Local Self-Government Act, the Referendum and Initiative, the Law on Free Access to Information, Statutes of cities and municipalities, NGOs and organized civil society are important contributors development and civic participation, realization of democracy and respect of human rights.
The contribution of the NGO sector for public participation in decision-making processes is reflected in public advocacy. Triggered issues are related to interests and needs of specific user groups, diverse viewpoints or general public interest, which are not covered by legislation or other policy documents, mechanisms or measures.
Informing and increasing awareness on the Millennium Development Goals, belong compatibly to NGOs and public authorities in order to share information, together with representing members, users and key groups of citizens and more to act as channels through which citizens are accessible, and can respond, be heard, listened, and informed.
In competence and education, there are experts with knowledge of particular issues who play crucial roles in determining the political agenda. Their analysis and research identified the current and future needs of society and provide important perspectives in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
In innovation, there is the development of new solutions and approaches, along with revealing how they can come in into the political agenda.
In distributing services, they are key players in shaping policy, also in creating alternative services, or those that do not exist for certain groups of users.
On the other hand the responsibility of public services include: sharing information with others, which must be updated, truthful and well-timed information in a format that is accessible to all interested parties.
Develop and follow procedures, which must be transparent decision-making processes, so as to afford clear, open and accessible procedures for participation.
Afford funds that will be empowering the active participation of civil society through, for example: budget allocations, supported in the form of tangible aid and administrative services.
To provide rapid response and active involvement of representatives of relevant public authorities, in order to listen, respond and deliver feedback.
Poverty and low living standards, honestly speaking everywhere, accordingly in Serbia, lead people generally, but then again especially youth, to unenviable position and situation, where they are not able to go on face to face seminars and other courses outside Serbia. They cannot travel without money. They are also deprived of e-learning, which is very suitable kind of education, and so common in developed countries. I must admit that I belong to privileged minority to have the opportunity to attend oniline trainig course Citizen Engagement and the Millennium Development Goals.” – Dragana Sreckov Djakovic – Novi Sad, Serbia