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Charter PDF Print Email

C H A R T E R
On the Foundation and Development of the First Democratically and Directly Elected, Party-Independent Network of Representative Bodies of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia



We, the signatories below, members of the first directly and democratically elected but party-independent network in the Republic of Serbia – such as tenant assemblies (TA), high school and university student parliaments – invite all tenant assemblies to join us and contribute the necessary effort and energy towards the forming of a socially responsible network, with the goal of significantly increasing their direct influence on policy making.

In addition, with our signatures below, we absolutely and integrally support the petition that seeks increased influence and frequency of referendums, and other forms of direct democracy in the constitutional, judicial and political system of Serbia.

Our primary goal is to ensure a far more influential position and role within the state frameworks of Serbia for instruments of direct democracy, such as people’s initiatives, popular assemblies and referendums, as well as party-independent forms of representative democracy, such as TA’s and high school and university parliaments.

The prevalence of the problem

We, the creators of this initiative:

Have for years been united by the feeling that there is no great difference in the level of responsibility towards constituents among political parties, and that they see them only one – during elections campaigns, and with the sole purpose of gaining votes. Later, they tend to treat their electoral promises similarly – they do not recall them. Moreover, in line with modern takes on politics, professional politicians endeavor to establish business relationships with their constituents, meaning money and power for parties and small offers to citizens, if necessary. The most obvious and blatant example of such practice was the City of Belgrade administration led by Dragan Đilas, though the current administration under Siniša Mali is by no means any better. Similarities can be found in comparing the preceding and current government. The government has changed, but the possibilities for direct participation of citizens on policy making remain almost as inaccessible as they were before. The ‘almost’ refers to several minor shifts made by the current government in its struggle against corruption and increased responsibility of political officials, however these shifts do not represent a change in public policy.

Consequently, instead of politicians with integrity, the political scene of Serbia is muddled with essentially similar politicians, ideologies and party programs. They hold only one thing important: power at all costs, regardless of how imaginary their credibility or integrity may be, as it sits atop a mere few percent of constituency.

Contrary to the politicians, as responsible citizens we felt the obligation to research and test this sentiment, and not resort to generic and unfounded claims. In order to increase its strength and credibility, our research was focused on locating a target group that is most similar in its position vis-à-vis citizens to political parties, but more capable of evaluating public administration due to their everyday interactions.

That is why the SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE NETWORK ANLI held an opinion poll involving 259 presidents of TA’s, with the goal of evaluating the quality of the cooperation they have with higher instances of power (at the municipality, city and republic level). Of the total 259 surveyed, 233 of them considered the cooperation level as “weak and insufficient”. On the question “have they so far felt betrayed by the authorities’ behavior towards their proposals,” 157 of them answered “many times,” while 79 claim “too frequently for a well regulated state that we are striving for.” It is due to this that we have recognized insufficient access of citizen initiatives at all levels of government and authorities that do not listen to and answer the needs of citizens as one of the main problems that stunt the development of a democratic society in Serbia.

This is also one of the main causes of the citizens’ apathy, loss of trust and will to in any way contribute to solving any social problem. The result of such a state is that the position of TA’s is being rendered senseless ever more by the state authorities in all public policy spheres. This further leads to most residential buildings not even having elected a TA, while others that have do not have a functioning TA in practice. Many TA’s are working illegally and semi illegally by having residents informally exercising their jurisdictions but not registering themselves, despite the nature of TA’s as legal entities. In this sense, current regulations do not sufficiently distinguish buildings that have a formally elected TA from does that have not, demotivating those buildings that have not from formally registering. They do not give attractive enough incentives for the establishment and development of TA’s, in addition to lacking in severity when sanctioning those who do would not want to use these benefits. As a result, citizens do not care if they have a TA established in their building, especially since formally electing a TA entails registering and running costs.

There is ongoing reform in public administration but it is being done in reverse, top down, without substantial differences when it comes to increasing citizens’ influence on public policy, even at the lowest levels. Groups of TA’s in a local community used to form assemblies of TA’s, with their own budgets, that were an unavoidable factor when reaching decisions on the local level; today they are sidelined and near worthless.

However, this is not the only sphere of public policy that is severely opposed to the interests of citizens. For example, in the New Belgrade municipality, some residents of taller apartment buildings do not dispose of their trash properly, instead opting to throw them out the window to rooftops of lower buildings. Why? It is not only a question of lack of decency and awareness of the environment, as the policy makers do not distinguish between exemplary citizens that recycle waste from those that throw it out the window, i.e. they do not give enough incentives or sanctions respectively. All of this is happening in an economy where every dinar is vital for recovery; with a stricter fining policy, the state budget would be filled with an additional 100 million Euros in just a year, the environment would be cleaner and more regulated, and the citizens more responsible towards the protection of their surroundings.
In the reform of publicly owned companies, which are all indistinguishable bottomless pits that we financially support, changes are ongoing, but again without the key elements without which efficient management cannot be achieved in these companies. These elements include the institutionalized influence of the end users of services, i.e. consumer influence on decision-making, and the categorization of consumers on the basis of social, consumer and technological criteria.

There is a long list of failed public policies that are deepening the budget deficit, that can be fixed with simple solutions if only the ministers and other fictional experts, who in most cases can only boast about their party member’s card and not any real political result, would listen to the citizens. However, they are inaccessible to the everyday citizen, locked in their offices and ‘tight expert circles’. The transparency and accessibility of plans and programs of ministries is non-existent, while ministers and their cabinets only face responsibility for failed policies if they volunteer to or if the prime ministers arbitrarily decides they should. The consequences of such policies are nevertheless borne by the citizens.

This further leads to the heaviest forms of abstinence, such as the widespread lack of use of voting rights. Besides this, it is necessary to educate citizens about their rights and possibility of influencing public policies, which all governments up to now have done little to nothing about, indicating clearly that state authorities are primarily interested in prolonging this agony of responsibility of those who are in power. This is why we have citizen initiatives, popular assemblies and referendums at the municipal and city level. At the state level, various technical and financial hurdles hamper the rights of the citizens of Serbia to organize and hold referendums and citizen initiatives. It is in this way that the influence of citizens on public policy in Serbia is being reduced and halted. We, the creators of this initiative (hereinafter The Network), have never accepted or come to terms with this image of Serbia, but rather we fight show that unity and mass participation are the only way for citizen initiatives to prosper, and for the citizens to become a respectable partner to authorities as they are in many European states, which have at least to a certain extent made efforts to encourage cooperation, the result being frequent direct democratic participation of citizens that is embedded in their culture and mentality.

Reasons for forming the Network

Through many proposals, the Council of Europe (CoE) has advanced and solidified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in a way that pays a great deal of attention to direct citizen participation in policy making. Article 4 of the Charter states that public responsibilities will be assigned to authorities closest to the citizens; additional proposals by the Committee of Ministers of the CoE further operationalized this document. Proposal Nr. 19 calls for all member states of the CoE to actively participate in the encouragement and implementation of direct participation of citizens in decision-making processes. Alongside this, the proposal calls for authorities to incentivize citizen participation and also enhance the legal regulations and mechanisms of decision-making on the local level to allow for wider participation of citizens in the process. Furthermore, proposal Nr. 96 highlights the importance of referendums and initiatives as the most important mechanisms for citizen participation.

Many member states of the CoE, namely Switzerland, have taken these guidelines very seriously, and using different mechanisms like citizens initiatives, constitutional and financial referendums allowed citizens to directly and actively participate in the designing and implementing of public policies.

The results of a recent survey reveal that the Swiss are the happiest nation in Europe, and that this is mostly due large citizen influence they have on public policies. This is because every citizen of Switzerland knows that he/she makes the final decision and that a mistake that may have consequences to bear was made with the best intention in mind. Direct citizen voting is an everyday occurrence deeply rooted in the mentality of the people. A comparative study from 2002 done in 32 European states shows that Switzerland is considered an avant-garde state with a wide set of mechanisms for direct citizen participation in the proposing and decision-making processes, which is one of the main reasons for their aforementioned satisfaction with the regulation of the state and society. It is in such a way that citizens in Switzerland control the work of parliament and public administrations, preventing politicians from making decisions based on personal or capital interests that are damaging to society. Such a regulated system has today evolved into a state with a highly developed civil society, with a highlighted and distinct political culture. Though a member of the CoE since 2003, Serbia has not gone further than formally accepting and ratifying several documents of the institution, since their political, i.e. party elites have not, and still do not, consider the regulation of civil society in such a way as priorities.

Unfortunately, all of this is non-existent in Serbia, but it is possible to achieve them if we are all consistent and dedicated in the realization of our goal.

Together with the aforementioned reason, the forming of The Network is of strategic importance to the sustainable development of Belgrade and Serbia for many reasons. It is a unique social resource that can be used for the realization of all aforementioned and unmentioned community-useful activities. These are just some of the examples show why this kind of networking is crucial. The Network grew rapidly and spontaneously because of the revolt and disdain of citizens with the inaction and reluctance of public administrators. It is because of this that citizens are becoming poorer, with unjustifiable taxes being dumped on them by the tens, as well as hundreds of illegal dumps and tons of waste.

Organization of the Network

The Network has built a model that has proven itself as the most suitable in organizing members that number in the hundreds of thousands. At the municipal level, the Network is divided into several quarters that are located in an area that once belonged to a local community. Every quarter or block consists of miniquarters that join around 20 TA’s together (depending on practical needs and building sizes). Every building in the Network has its own TA, schools and universities have student parliaments (SP), and quarters and miniquarters have coordinators that manage and direct the activities of the TA’s and SP’s they are in charge of. This is how activities are brought from higher levels to the lower ones, ensuring that every citizen gets a chance to protect the interests of their building, street, local community or municipality in line with the law and with this Charter.

Primary reason for forming the Network

The creation of conditions for the continued development of civil society and the strengthening of citizen influence on the decision-making and realization of public policies.



 
About us PDF Print Email

Learning on the others’ best practice experience we know at the very beginning what we want and what we don’t. This “WE WANT” means “Being different”. That “WHAT WE DON’T WANT” means:

  • To be fierce opposition to the modern conception of politics where nowadays the widespread belief of professional politicians establish business relationship with voters, which means power and money for the parties and that something, if it has to, is offered to the citizens. We want to make citizen's initiatives more obligatory for our deputies and other political officials.
  • To make belonging to this or that party not to ever grant the amnesty from responsibility for violation of the Constitution and the law, and certainly not our local government and public communal enterprise, that daily omissions endanger the health of all of us and, at the same time, are not responsible for that to anyone.
  • To turn the media partocracy into the media, serving the interests of citizens. Because for this kind of partocracy, media have lost all sense of the citizens’ interests and become almost exclusively reserved for politicians. That is easy to identify by simple comparison of the space dedicated to the politicians and those dedicated to the citizens in any of them.
  • Not to be small but the organization with numerous members and experts in the various fields sustainable development according to the UNSD standardization.
  • Not to be elite and weak but mass and strong organization with enough intellectual but also the living strength to induce people going towards to the changes modern civil society needs.
  • Not to be organization limited on the only one field of expertise, because the living doesn’t obey this rule and living challenges have never been in only one field. This decision was motivated also by dilemma: “How can you respond to the living challenges unless you approach them from many but not from the only one angle.”
  • Not to be limited on the one or two target groups. For the instance, we are not an organization specialized to work with children, but are dealing with them also, because we think the participation in theirs journey to the adults’ world is too much important to miss it. Whether we’re still going to live t in the partocracy or not depends on our today work with them.

Non-government organization, ANTIMONOPOLY RIGHT NOW – LUSTRATION IMMEDIATELY, was founded by free will of its founders, in Belgrade on March 25th 2002.  At the very beginning of its activity Organization was focused on antimonopoly policy and lustration, but in the last five years it transform itself in the multi disciplinary organization working in all three areas of the sustainable development according to the UNSD standardization.  This is impossible mission without much bigger citizens’ influences related the public policies than it is now. This is particularly concerning the all activities and public policies in the public health improvement such as primary waste selection and other aspects of the environment protection, poverty reduction, justice accessibility, possibilities of the participation in political decisions making and so long.

Key services and skills
Our priority is the synergetic concept for management and creating a center of sources for “tailor made” professional solution of any kind of sustainable development’s activities without copy paste variants. We believe in the power of direct citizens’ decisions making, public initiatives and referendum kinds of making decisions, teamwork and strength of various knowledge of our members and consultants. Ours experts and associates are ready to meet any project, from idea, to the implementation, mentoring, training and development and in a lot of cases, mentoring the whole procedure of business closer and practical project implementation, but always and only if it for the general society benefits and for the empowerment of citizens’ influence on the public policies.