On November 18, the team at ISC Serbia organized a closeout conference to mark the completion of the two-year USAID-funded Civil Society Forward (CSF) project. The event served as an opportunity not only to showcase the results of our partner organizations and recognize the progress that Serbia’s civil society has made, but also to discuss the present and future challenges facing civil society in Serbia.
In the vibrant open-space workshop environment at the Mikser House in Belgrade, colleagues and representatives from the civil sector, the business community, government, international donor organizations, social enterprises, and journalists joined us for a high-energy celebration.
Our agenda showcased the accomplishments of our 11 partner organizations: Trag Foundation, Zaječar Initiative, Autonomous Women Center, Belgrade Center for Security Policy, Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA), Association for Development of Children and Youth – Open Club, SHARE Foundation, SMART Kolektiv, National Coalition for Decentralization, Center for Democracy Foundation, and Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation.
Additionally, as part of CSF’s Human Rights Sustainability Initiative program component, the following human rights organizations were recognized: Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Humanitarian Law Center, Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM), Lesbian Human Rights Organization–LABRIS, Urban In and Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR).
The main message, shared and agreed on by all participants at the event, was that these 17 organizations are ready to be equal partners in the processes underway to strengthen Serbia’s European perspective, to support rapid development of all social segments based on a sound grounding of European values, and to transfer knowledge and experiences to citizens and other relevant stakeholders.
ISC’s board chair Richard Paisner spoke at the event – you can read his some of his remarks here. Some of the quotes from our other engaging speakers:
“…just as bridges, roads, legislative reforms, growing markets, and a thriving private sector are key to a successful and thriving European Serbia, so is a strong and vibrant civil society.” – Azza El-Abd, USAID Mission Director in Serbia
“Civil society activists are business owners of socially important issues.” – Žarko Šunderić, head of the government’s Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit
At every closeout conference there comes a time when we, in some way, have to say goodbye to our partners. But we are not saying goodbye to the work they’ve done or to the improvements we have collectively made in strengthening civil society in Serbia.
The final tally of the USAID-funded Civil Society Forward program, implemented by the team here at ISC, was worth close to $8 million USD. In the end, we are particularly pleased and honored that going forward USAID will continue to support Serbian civil society to encourage and promote local civic activism and advocacy, advance Serbia‘s Euro-Atlantic integration process, improve prospects for local Serbian philanthropy and strengthen its capacities, networks and linkages.
Blog post by Bogdan Gavanski, Chief of Party for Civil Society Forward and head of ISC’s office in Serbia