ACT for a Stronger Civil Society

 The space for active civil society in Serbia is shrinking. Helvetas is supporting civil society organizations throughout Serbia to increase the trust and engagement of citizens in the decision-making processes to create a better society.

  • Project Name
    For an Active Civil Society Together - ACT
  • Project Phase
    2019 to 2023
  • Funding
    This project is an SDC mandate.
  • Thematic focus
    Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

The Space for Civil Society in Serbia Is Shrinking

Democratic governance in Serbia is in decline, including media freedom and rule of law. Civil society organizations (CSOs) are one of the last defenders of democracy in Serbia, protecting citizens’ rights, freedom and equality. Yet Serbian citizens know little about the work of civil society and only 5% of citizens are engaged in activities of the civil sector.

The goal of the ACT project is to contribute to an active civil society for the benefit of all people and promote higher engagement of Serbian citizens in decision-making processes, particularly at the local level.

Civil society plays a strong role in strengthening ties between CSOs and citizens, with the aim of enhancing their participation and ensuring their voices are heard, especially outside of Belgrade. However, genuine progress towards establishing an enabling environment for civil society and citizens’ participation has yet to be made.

«We unfortunately live in times where democratic values are being questioned and the space for civil society is shrinking in a number of European countries, including Serbia. The recent downgrading of Serbia by Freedom House to a partially free country and the deteriorating civil society environment noted by the CSO Sustainability Index are evidence of this trend. In our eyes, these developments make it even more necessary to support civil society as well as to protect the space they are working in.»

H.E. Ambassador Philippe Guex, Ambassador of Switzerland to Serbia and to Montenegro.

Strengthening the Role of CSOs for a Democratic Society 

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supports the project “For an Active Civil Society – Together” (ACT), with Helvetas and Civic Initiatives (from Belgrade) as implementing partners. The support of 5.75 million CHF is structured through various grant schemes tied to three project components, which will be accompanied by tailored capacity-building programs.

1. Effective and financially sustainable CSOs are responsive and accountable to citizens; they mobilize citizens’ support and voice their interests in decision-making processes;

2. CSOs increase participation in networks and alliances to enhance influence on decision-making processes for the benefit of their constituencies;

3. CSOs and local authorities apply joint initiatives on decision making and the provision of services to citizens

Watch our story: A better future for children 

(English subtitles)

As of June 2021, ACT project has supported 130 CSOs through 74 projects under 6 grant schemes. Through these projects, over 150,000 citizens have been mobilized to take part in various activities.

© Helvetas
© Helvetas
© Helvetas
© Helvetas

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