International Civil Society Week starts in Belgrade

The International Civil Society Week (ICSW) was officially opened in Belgrade and will last until April 12th.  The conference, that takes place in Belgrade from April 8th to 12th, is a global gathering of some 1,000 civil societies’ leaders, activists and citizens from different walks of life who want to take part in finding a common solution for the global crisis.

The conference’s programme includes 30 sessions with topics ranging from curbing media freedom, an urgent aid to the organisations suffering attacks and the rise in the civil society’s responsibility.

This year, the International Civil Society Week conference in Belgrade will host a myriad of influential public figures and civil society activists including the Head of the Delegation to the EU, Sem Fabrizi, the US Ambassador to Serbia, Kyle Scott, the Council of Europe (CoE) representative in Serbia Tobias Flessenkemper, the head of the OSCE mission in Serbia, Andrea Orizio, the Swiss ambassador to Serbia, Philippe Guex , the Dutch Ambassador to Serbia, Henk van den Dool, member of the controversial Russian music band Pussy Riot, Masha Alyokhina, Dragan Popović from the Centre for Practical Policies, Nenad Milosavljević from Njuznet and others.

The Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Sem Fabrizi said yesterday, at the conference, that the Delegation would continue to support the development of the civil society since it was important in cooperating with institutions and putting pressure on them.

Fabrizi also said there were many areas in which the EU and Serbia’s civil sector cooperated very well, like in the environment protection, investigative journalism and minority rights among other topics.

“The EU supports the civil society’s role across the world, including Serbia and the Western Balkans. That is a part of (the Union) foreign policy,” Fabrizi said at the opening of the International Week of Civil Society, organized by the Civil Initiatives with the international CIVICUS network.

Addressing the gathering, the US ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott said that during the entire history of his country the civil society enabled every significant step forward including the abolition of slavery, labour and consumer rights, as well as the general voting rights.

“Thank you all on your courage and dedication. You are real heroes,” Scott told the representatives of civil societies from different parts of the world.

Andrea Orizio, the head of the OSCE mission in Serbia, said civil society was “the driving force behind reforms,” whether the issue at hand was safety, fighting corruption, protection of minorities or empowering women.

The Council of Europe (CoE) representative in Serbia, Tobias Flessenkemper said that the CoE was trying to be a laboratory of ideas for civil society, focusing on defending the fundamental rights and freedoms and advocating a world without discrimination.

The Swiss ambassador to Serbia, Philippe Guex said the civil society was the central pillar of democracy and that active citizens were the foundation of a healthy state.

He pointed out the importance of civil society’s role in those days when, as he said, the democratic processes were regressing.

The Dutch ambassador, Henk van den Dool said The Netherlands “will undoubtedly side with civil societies across the world.”

Zarko Stepanovic, the acting director of Serbia’s Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, said Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and her cabinet had supported the organization of the International Week of Civil Society, as well as that they were open for cooperation with civil sector.

He described as “exaggerated” the criticism of the cooperation between the Serbian government and civil society, adding the Government “will continue to listen to the civil society voice in adjusting the regulations to the European legislative.”

(Danas, Vecernje Novosti, 08.04.2019)

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