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Friday, 16 November 2018

Praxis Held Community Meetings on Developing Advocacy Campaign Related to Overcoming Major Challenges in Non-Discrimination Legislation, Policies and Practices in Serbia

Within the framework of the project Improving the equality legal and policy framework in Serbia and monitoring implementation of equality norms and policies, implemented by the partner organisations The Equal Rights Trust, Sandžak Committee for Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms and Praxis, and supported by the European Union through EIDHR, Praxis held two consultative community meetings entitled Identifying the major challenges in non-discrimination legislation, policies and practices in Serbia.  The meetings were held in Niš and Belgrade, on 8st and 14th November respectively. They were attended by 106 participants.

Community meetings gathered members of vulnerable social groups, representatives of civil society organisations dealing with the protection of human rights and freedoms, students of legal clinics, human rights activists at the local level, as well as representatives of local authorities, institutions, organisations and independent institutions, but also all other stakeholders, with the aim of joint contribution to the development of advocacy campaign for addressing major challenges and shortcomings in the field of implementation of legal and strategic anti-discrimination framework in Serbia.

The following members of the project working group shared their experience with the participants: Tamara Lukšić Orlandić (independent expert), Lazar Stefanović (MDRI-S), Vanja Macanović (Autonomous Women's Centre), Milan Đurić (Gayten-LGBT), Vladimir Petronijević (Grupa 484) and Osman Balić (S-KRUG - League of Roma). In addition to them, speakers were also Prof. Nevena Petrušić, PhD, and Stefan Šparavalo, representative of the organisation that was granted the funds for monitoring and documenting the cases of discrimination (Let it Be Known!).

The meeting focused on the development of advocacy campaign to contribute to addressing the key issues in the field of anti-discrimination, bearing in mind the importance of understanding the sphere of influence and pressures coming from the local level. The meeting was an opportunity to exchange experiences between representatives of vulnerable social groups, civil society organisations involved in the promotion and protection of human rights and public authorities responsible for creating local policies and implementing anti-discrimination legislation in order to foster mutual cooperation and trust. The participants discussed the current challenges regarding the extent to which the public was familiar with the existing legal framework for the prohibition of discrimination and mechanisms for the protection against discrimination, the existing barriers to access to justice for victims of discrimination, specific characteristics of the social position of individual groups, and (non-)existence of different barriers faced by different vulnerable groups. The purpose of these meetings was also to encourage all community representatives to contribute to the advocacy campaign, based on the formulated recommendations for future activities to improve the current situation, as well as to define the space and opportunities for the performance of such activities. 

The concluding observations from the meetings were based on the exchange of experiences related to discrimination from the perspective of both right-holders and duty-holders and constituted part of the advocacy strategy at the local level. Through joint efforts during the discussion, participants defined advocacy space and measures at the local level, and substantial consensus was reached on the need for education in the field of discrimination of all relevant actors and the importance of such meetings in that respect.

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