Local voices leading common action in the south of Serbia

Published: Feb 28, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
In cooperation with the British Embassy in Belgrade and the Civil Initiative, PIN organized the Civil Society Fair titled Local Voices on the central square in Bujanovac, Serbia. Twenty local civil society organizations and informal groups of citizens from Bujanovac, Vranje, Leban and Preševo participated in the Fair, presenting their mission and results. The event was organized on August 25, 2022, in the scope of the project ALVED (Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development), funded by the British Government (CSSF).
© Foto: Art Media Vranje/PIN Serbia

Good things for local communities can only be done consistently and qualitatively if the civil sector, local self-government and citizens come together and act in coordination - this is just one of the conclusions of the conference "Local Voices for Joint Actions", held in South Serbia at the beginning of February. 

The event was organized to wrap up off this successful phase of the project, "Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development (ALVED)", which has been implemented in three local self-government units in South Serbia – Vranje, Bujanovac, and Lebane – for almost three years.

The ALVED project succeeded in bringing together participants from local communities – civil society, local authorities, and youth activists – and they will continue to work together to support positive change in their communities. The full house at the event, with over 100 participants, proved that the support provided through the Project to improve the delivery of social services, strengthening the capacities of local organizations, and activate youth, were indeed needed.

“Today, all of you will have the opportunity to learn more about the results achieved in participatory social services program (PSSP), a program developed by PIN. In three local government units in South Serbia, during a global pandemic, the consortium managed to successfully secure support from local governments, form and provide capacity building to advisory groups, develop and secure adoption of local social inclusion action plans, and provide grants to local organizations to implement the action plans,” said Leslie Hess, Regional Project Manager for the ALVED project at People in Need. She continued to thank the project partners, particularly Civic Initiatives, for their hard work and dedication in successfully achieving impact in the three target local self-government units.

“Additionally, to our counterparts in the local governments – mayors and their staff, departments of social welfare, project officers, and centers for social welfare –I also want to extend PIN’s appreciation for contributing to the success of the PSSP program in South Serbia,” said Ms. Hess.

Active citizens for change 

The representatives of the local self-governments from Vranje, Bujanovac and Lebane recalled in their speeches the activities done under the project, such as adopting the local action plans to improve social services, as well as the instalment of solidarity pantries, where citizens continue to donate food, clothing, and other items for their neighbours in need. Even the nearby city of Aleksinac, which did not participate in the project, was inspired by this action and set up its own solidarity pantry.

Highlighting the synergies created by the ALVED project, Ksenija Nikić, Project Manager at our partner organization Civic Initiatives, stated that one of her strongest impressions was how willing and open the people involved were and how much they cared about making actual changes.

“We cooperated really easily with organizations, local self-governments, centers for social work, and young people. I am especially proud of the number of young people who participated in various actions, trainings, workshops and events that we jointly organized with them.”

Ms. Nikić pointed out that it was always a priority to hear the voice of youth and support them in making their own decisions about what is important to them.

“Despite the fact that today we will look back at the results and successes, I hope that we can draw some lessons and guidelines about what we should do in the future, and what we should focus on when it comes to this part of Serbia," she concluded.

The voice of youth was heard in the panel discussion on youth activism, where the young participants spoke about the importance of the support they received through the project. They mentioned the potential of local youth organizations and initiatives that have sprung out of the project, and called out for more structured government support in order to continue to engage in youth activism to bring about the positive change in Serbia.

The project Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development (ALVED) is funded by the Government of the United Kingdom, and implemented by a consortium led by the Peaceful Change Initiative (PCi) together with People in Need, Civic Initiatives, Peer Educator Network, and NGO Aktiv.
Autor: Masa Zivojinovic

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