Being cognizant of the fact that is it crucial time for protecting fundamental rights, such as freedom of assembly, on June 21st, 2016, the European Center for Non-for-Profit Law hosted an expert conference on freedom of peaceful assembly in the Western Balkans “Right to Free Assembly: Making Democracy Work” in Skopje, Macedonia. The event gathered 30 representatives of national and regional civil society organizations, intergovernmental organizations and relevant state institutions from the countries in the region and beyond, including, Tanja Hafner Ademi – BCSDN’s Executive Director, Sanja Bogatinovska – BCSDN’s Junior Policy and Advocacy Officer on Civil Society Development and colleagues from BCSDN’s members Partners Albania for Change and Development (PA), Kosovar Civil Society Foundation (KCSF) and Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC).
ECNL and its partners have recognized the recent significant rise in civic activism and assemblies, and a contested political climate in Macedonia, along with polarizing political issues in other countries of the Western Balkans. Observing the significant setbacks in the area of freedom of assembly, they have found that there is a lack of awareness and understanding of the legal framework, related international standards and continuous monitoring of their implementation. Moreover, political turmoil in the countries of the region produced numerous and contested assemblies, with massive civic response on one hand and unanswered questions about their management, consequences for participants of assemblies and appropriate implementation.
Under the Civic Space Initiative funded by SIDA, the conference aimed at presenting the pilot research projects of ECNL and its local partners on monitoring of the legal framework and practical implementation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in five Western Balkan countries (Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia), share knowledge and practices, as well as explore how different actors can further raise awareness and knowledge about this fundamental right.
The participants were presented the key findings, conclusions and recommendations from of the pilot research of ECNL and its partners shared, the key, most contested issues from the region, but also practical tools and examples for how to enhance advocacy and awareness. Upon the lively and in-depth discussions that developed during the conference, the participants come to a joint conclusion that legislative frameworks need to be adjusted to fully meet international standards, and more importantly, their practical implementation needs to be strengthened.
To read more about ECNL and its local partners’ monitoring activities on enabling environment for civil society development issues, click here.