Regional Civil Society Conference opened in Sarajevo16. April 2012 - 0:00 — Dejan Georgievski
The Regional conference "Bringing Civil Society in Western Balkans", organized by the Center of Transatlantic Studiesof the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Relations (SAIS), in partnership with the American-Bosnian Foundation, CEI CSO Network, TACSO BiH, the City of Sarajevo and the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, opened on Sunday, April 15, with a ceremony held at the Sarajevo Town Hall.
Vedran Džihić, Austrian Marshall Plan Fellow and organizer of the Conference, expressed his gratitude to the partners and co-organizers of the Conference which, in his words, "intends to offer a venue and opportunity for substantial discussion and deliberation on several problems and dilemmas faced by civil society in the Western Balkans".
"This conference and this effort is a part of a joint U.S.-European-Western Balkans venture that was launched and initiated at a conference held in June 2011, organized by SAIS and the American-Bosnian Foundation. As a result of that conference, we decided to act in three main directions. One of those directions is civil society action, which is the topic that brings us here to Sarajevo and will occupy us for the next two and a half days", Džihić said in his opening address.
Mak Kamenica, Executive Director of the American Bosnian Foundation, Mevlida Rovčanin from the Central European Initiative, Remzo Bašić from the Association of Employers of BiH for TACSO BiH, and Deputy Mayor of Sarajevo Miroslav Živanović addressed the audience on behalf the co-organizers of the conference and expressed their continued dedication to the development of civil society and cooperation with the civil society in the region.
Nerzuk Ćurak, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, gave the preliminary address, in which he raised several important questions and issues faced by the civil society in the Western Balkans today, questions that this conference needs to answer.
"For more than 20 years now... we have a major deficit of democracy in these countries of ours which, to put it simply, treat civil society as a banal matter. There are many reasons for that, but I believe that we need to repeatedly raise in the public sphere that question of the role and capacities and potentials of civil society in the region of Western Balkans", Ćurak said.
He added that one of the major tasks that stand in front of the civil society is to stop the "field of negative energy that has renamed this 20-year long agony 'peace'".
"We simply have to produce new thinking matrix, new engagement for the civil society that will not be reduced to mere actions of the non-governmental organisations. Rather, we need a, de facto, reawakennning which, in the absence of a revolutionary agent, is the only reasonable thing to do", Ćurak said, adding that too much energy has been wasted without a real purpose and results.
"If the idea is to create the conditions that would prevent renewal of violence, I than plead of you to create a culture of non-violence, having in mind the fact that political elites know absolutely nothing about that culture", Ćurak said.
The Conference gathers more than 60 participants from the countries of Western Balkans, and will attempt, through its plenary sessions and series of workshops and debates on the process of EU reforms and the role of civil society; political participation of the youth and education system; the open society and its opponents - corruption, nepotism and clientilism; and ecologically sustainable development, lead to the adoption of a Manifesto of the Civil Society of the Western Balkans. The conference concludes on Tuesday, April 17.
EuroDIG Remote Participation
EuroDIG Remote Participation Hub, Sarajevo, June 21, 2013. More info to follow soon...