Swiss Government Allocates 4.8 million EUR to Support the Development of Civil Society Organisations in Serbia

In the next four years, 100 civil society organisations will receive support to better connect with the citizens, boost civic activism, improve cooperation with local self-governments for better public services, as well as increase networking and efficiency of Serbian CSOs.

Building a more democratic, transparent and inclusive society that involves civil society in a dialogue on reforms is among key priorities of Serbia’s European integrations. Civil society plays a strong role in strengthening ties between civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizens to enhance their participation in public dialogue on the development reforms and ensure their voices are heard, especially outside Belgrade. With that goal, Switzerland uses its long history in participative democracy and citizens’ participation at the local level and gives support to the civil society organisations in Serbia.

Through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC, the Swiss Government supports the Programme “For an Active Civil Society Together – ACT”, implemented by a consortium of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and Civic Initiatives, Belgrade. The goal of project ACT is to contribute to an active civil society for the benefit of all people and higher citizens’ engagement in decision-making processes, particularly at the local level.

At the opening ceremony held at the House of Activism in Belgrade, H.E. Ambassador Philippe Guex, Ambassador of Switzerland to Serbia and to Montenegro, emphasised the conditions in which the civil sector in Serbia operates:

“We unfortunately live in times where democratic values are being questioned and the space for civil society is shrinking in a number of European countries, including in Serbia. […] In our eyes, these developments make it even more necessary to support civil society as well as to protect the space they are working in.”

Project ACT will support CSOs in Serbia through different grant schemes, capacity building, and constituency building.

“Through the ACT programme we continue with our core work, which is strengthening the civil society. Institutional grants will be one of the key ways to accomplish this, as the organisations will be able to make long-term plans and truly contribute to the democratisation of our society. We are grateful to our partners, SDC and Helvetas, for recognising the need for this type of support.”

Maja Stojanovic, Director of Civic Initiatives

At the event, the results of the survey “CIVIL SOCIETY SECTOR IN SERBIA 2019 – Assessment of the Situation in Civil Society Organisations in Serbia, 2019″, conducted by IPSOS Strategic Marketing for the needs of the ACT project were also presented. This is the most comprehensive study so far that covered respondents from all over Serbia on 15 most relevant research topics. In addition, the survey also included citizens’ opinions on civil society organisations and the extent of their participation in the decision-making processes. The study revealed that only 11% of citizens participated in the decision making on the local level, while only 4% participated at the national level.

“We at Helvetas firmly believe that sustainable, inclusive development only happens where the state, the private sector and civil society listen to each other, cooperate, and develop joint solutions. Governments can only profit from a vibrant, constructive civil society – as an inspirer, counterpart and corrective.”

Jens Engeli, Regional Director of Helvetas for Eastern Europe

The Swiss Government, through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), allocates CHF 5.3 million for the project “For an Active Civil Society Together – ACT” for the period 2019-2023.