Post-2015 National Consultations

Serbia We Want

In June 2014 the UN Country Team in Serbia, led by UNESCO, UNFPA and the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia, initiated a new round of national consultations on culture for development. This second phase of the Post-2015 consultations was implemented in close cooperation with the Government of Serbia, through a working group led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A structured dialogue with NGOs was also held during the process.

The general objective of Phase 2 of the Post-2015 Consultations was to integrate culture into the Development Agenda, including its role as a critical element of a human rights based approach. Serbia is characterized by ethnic and cultural diversity, with almost 18% of its population belonging to ethnic minorities (Hungarian, Bosnjak and Roma being the largest three) and migration flows are very intensive (internally displaced persons from Kosovo* , Serbian refugees from Croatia and BiH, immigrants from Asia and Africa). For this reason, identity formation in Serbia is complex and often contradictory. Understanding these identities, and consequently the practices framed by them, is inherently linked to the understanding of cultural heritage, normative frameworks and value orientations.

Serbia is a country with an institutionalized cultural policy and diversified cultural production. However, the relation between culture and (sustainable) development has not yet been widely recognized and institutionalized. As stated in the National report on implementation of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in Serbia, the principles of cultural development defined by the Law on Culture (Article 3, item 5 and Article 3, item 10, respectively). These principles include the integration of cultural development into the socioeconomic fabric, the political long term development of democratic society, as well as fostering the sustainable development of culture as an integral part of the living environment. According to the database of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities of Serbia, 85 out of 145 local self-governments have their own strategies of local sustainable development, but culture is not represented in these documents in a viable way. On the other hand, there is a growing number of cities and municipalities which start initiatives, create local plans for culture development or already implement them (Pančevo, Valjevo, Niš, Užice, Zrenjanin, Pirot, Novi Sad, Vranje, Sombor, Kragujevac, Šabac)

The methodology of consultations was designed to allow the gathering of opinion and recommendations from a wide range of stakeholders. Besides ‘traditional’ methods, such as surveys and focus group discussions, more innovative ways of opinion polling were used, including World Café discussions and debates on social networks. Consultations tackled many important issues relevant to the relationship between culture and development, including the relevant actors, resources, policies, creativity and use of technologies, but focus was sharpened on 6 specific subthemes: culture and poverty reduction; culture and education; culture; gender equality and women’s empowerment; culture, sustainable cities and urbanization; culture, environment and climate change; culture, inclusion and reconciliation. The consultation methodology was comprised of the following sub-components:

 a) Opinion poll on a representative population of Serbia, age 15 and more;

b) Web survey

c) Social media consultations (Facebook and Twitter)

d) Face-to-face consultations (focus group discussions, workshops, World Café sessions, indepth interviews)

The impact of the consultations was highly positive. As in the previous round (2013) the number of responses to various consultation events and tools was very high, reaching over 300,000 contacted individuals by the end of October. Besides that, a significant number of other important actors were mobilized: dozens of CSOs (NGOs, Trade Unions), several artists, entrepreneurs, representatives of academia and, last but not the least, representatives of different governmental institutions and bodies. Concerning the later, it should be emphasized that the issue of “culture and development” was brought to the attention of not only people from institutions dealing with culture, but also of those who primarily deal with education, social inclusion, urban planning, health and economic development. The level of readiness of various actors, and in particular the citizens of Serbia, to participate in the process and provide their voice was impressive. Finally, the issue of culture and development was widely promoted through media, social networks and on several other occasions (a session with representatives of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, a United Nations Day celebration, International Day of Eradication of Poverty, etc.).