MANDATE and background
Praxis is a national non-governmental organization (NGO) established in 2004 in Belgrade, Serbia. We developed as an extension of the Civil Rights Project (CRP) that was implemented by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Serbia from 1997 to 2004. The goal of the project was to enhance the protection of the civil rights of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), both in their places of origin and of temporary residence/exile. Preceding the withdrawal of the NRC from the region, Praxis was registered as an NGO in June 2004 as a part of the NRC/CRP exit strategy. In September 2004, it started its work as an independent domestic NGO. The strategic partnerships with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that were developed under the NRC have continued throughout Praxis development.
In the following years, in addition to providing free legal aid so that refugees and IDPs may exercise their status and property rights, Praxis also provided protection for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Praxis expanded its free legal aid services to other marginalized and socially excluded communities, particularly the Roma population. This legal aid helped these individuals to exercise their right to be recognized as a person before the law, the right to a nationality, the right to adequate housing, the right to health care, the right to social protection, the right to education and the right to employment. Praxis also took positive action to fight against discrimination, for respect for human rights and for the removal of systemic obstacles to access rights. We have been particularly focused on the reduction, prevention and protection of statelessness.
In addition to providing free legal aid, Praxis has also monitored, researched and analyzed public policies, advocated for the removal of systemic obstacles that prevent access to rights, and been engaged in awareness raising campaigns about the problems faced by marginalized and socially excluded communities who are attempting to integrate. We have also participated in educational outreach, published reports and provided expert support for legal reform.
Praxis collaborates with both independent institutions such as the Commissioner for Protection of Equality and the Ombudsperson and with representatives from relevant Ministries and institutions. Through our activities and engagement in the field, Praxis has also established very good cooperation with representatives in many cities, local government authorities and members of the Roma community themselves.
Strengthening cooperation through networking with multiple stakeholders has been a goal and leading principle in our work. Our interest in being engaged with all actors has led to our membership in several coalitions and networks established at the national level. Praxis is a member of the Network of Organizations for Children of Serbia (MODS) and our Deputy Executive Director serves on the Board of Trustees, and represents MODS in Eurochild’s National Partner Networks Group. Praxis is also a member of the Coalition for Access to Justice, Coalition against Discrimination, Platform for the Right to Adequate Housing and thematic committees for personal documents and housing of the Standing Conference of Roma Associations of the Citizens (SKRUG).
At the regional level, Praxis is a member and one of the co-founders of the Western Balkan Legal Aid Network (WeBLAN), an independent network of civil society organizations devoted to the protection, promotion and improvement of human rights and social inclusion, the prevention and reduction of statelessness in the Western Balkans and the elimination of discrimination. In addition, Praxis is a member of the network MIGRATIONS, which deals with the issue of exile and displacement in the Western Balkan. Praxis joined the regional initiative “Skopje Declaration of Asylum, Migration and NGO Cooperation”, which gathered organizations from FYROM, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia.
Praxis is a member of the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), which urges the countries in the region to adopt policies to prevent and reduce statelessness and to provide protection to stateless persons. Our Executive Director serves on the Board of Trustees and advisory committee. Also, Praxis is a member of the European Roma Integration Office (ERIO) and a member of the Network for IDPs established by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC).