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FRIEDRICH EBERT STIFTUNG - Office in Skopje

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Home REGIONAL PROGRAMS
REGIONAL PROGRAMS

Regional Programs/MINORITIES

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The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung with its offices in South Eastern Europe besides its national projects of democracy building and conflict prevention is also working on different issues on a regional level. The

aim of these regional activities is mainly to 1) interconnect people, institutions and already existing networks 2) to promote best practices and lessons learnt 3) develop strategies and policies for the region and its specific needs 4) get the region as a whole closer to the EU. One of the topics that are dealt with on a regional level is the question of national and ethnic Minorities. For all countries of the former Yugoslavia and also for the neighboring countries, the Minority question is crucial for internal stability and their approach towards the EU.

The Skopje Office of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung dedicated the last two years in further developing the regional project regarding minorities and minority participation. The project initially began as a joint project between FES and Ethnicity Research Centre from Belgrade as a collection of reports that have compared the existing legal framework for the protection of Minority Rights in SEE and the reality on the ground. The project was further developed in 2005 when it began gaining a defined form and directions of development.

At the moment there are two interconnected directions that the Regional Project on Minority Rights is growing in:

1. Monitoring of Implementation of Minority Rights on Local Level
2. Minority Participation

Monitoring of Implementation of Minority Rights

The evident lack of implementation of minority rights, even when legislation exists in the country, has produced the need to come up with a functional model that will provide an appropriate approach to minority rights for both citizens and public administration. The idea behind it was to increase, in a bottom-up approach the implementation of minority rights on the ground and to make the local public administration and the citizens an active part of the process. The main goal of the decentralization process – to bring the state administration closer to its citizens – is one of the motivating factors to guarantee success to the model. The aim is to raise awareness of people acting inside the local public administration and of the citizens and to increase local ownership at the same time.

The activities of this part of the Minority project included two workshops in 2004 preceding the pilot projects in 2005. The workshops were dedicated to forming and agreeing upon a specific model for monitoring that was to be used as basis for the pilot projects for monitoring of implementation of minority rights. Discussed was the existing model of participative local democracy was discussed as the basis for a monitoring model for SEE, which provides local ownership and an opportunity for both sides, the administration and the citizens, to assist each other in reaching the same goal. This model was modified to become applicable to the specific question of Minority Rights and the region of SEE especially for the countries where a pilot project was carried out (Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania).

More detailed descr

iption of each pilot project is available at the web-sites of our partners:

- Romania: Ethnocultural Diversity Research Centre
- Bulgaria: International Centre for Minority Studies and International Relations
- Serbia: Ethnicity research Centre
- Albania: Albanian Helsinki Committee
- Macedonia: Macedonian Helsinki Committee



Minority Participation

While the part of Monitoring of implementation of minority rights has taken a more practical and distinctive form, the Minority Participation activities have developed a more academic air and are more directly connected to the idea of the fostering the debate on an academic level.

The first event was a Conference “Minority Participation – Striking the Balance” that created the basis for Minority participation in terms of regional, national and local level in SEE. Present were representatives of international organizations, academic and research community, Ngo activists and government officials. One of the main ideas was to create a core group on a academic level that will pursue the debate on minority participation and will eventually produce written materials to aid it. One of the results of the conference was a publication with some of the proceedings available here.

The following event was a Workshop with a more focused subject: “Minority Participation at the Local Level”. Present were experts and academics, NGO activists and representatives from municipalities. The discussion was dedicated to the monitoring model, among the discussion regarding public administration and the role of institutionalized interethnic bodies. The researchers were asked to agree on a research agenda for 2007 and to write analytical reports during the year of 2007. These reports shall be presented on a follow up workshop in 2007. The topic agreed upon is The role of political parties for minority participation.

Monitoring the Implementation of Minority Rights on Local Level

A model proposed by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, elaborated by Stefan Dehnert and Harald Schenker and including expert opinions as discussed on a seminar on 24-26 June 2005

Background
The rights of minorities have been subject to the work of a variety of institutions, international organisations and NGOs. Monitoring their implementation however is an exercise that can still be considered in its incipient phase, especially when it comes to a systematic approach, taking into consideration the sometimes substantial differences on local level within one country or even within one region.
In Southeast Europe, monitoring of minority rights and their implementation has been so far conducted in two (or almost three) different ways, namely through the Council of Europe's Monitoring Mechanism of the Framework Convention on National Minorities, through so-called “shadow reports” to the CoE reports, generated by civil society and finally through the EU's accession mechanism, in the form of a variety of reports.
Although all these mechanisms actively seek and are based on local input from both government institutions and civil society, they provide for the overall picture and do not challenge authorities on other than central, state level. Experience however has shown that a variety of problems related to minority rights are generated and exist on local level, with the local authorities often lacking the instruments and the knowledge to address them adequately. Furthermore, all countries in Southeast Europe have embraced decentralisation as a major instrument not only of derogating power to the local and regional levels, but also to provide more effective citizen participation. The latter has often been paid a lot of lip service to, while we still find local authorities mostly acting in a closed environment and input from civil society being incidental and often based on personal relations rather than being a systematic and mutually accepted mechanism.
On the other hand, the process of transformation towards compatibility with the European Union will enforce the modernisation of local administration. It will be expected from local authorities to self-evaluate their work in order to be able to properly conduct a policy and resource planning. Often, local administration finds itself overburdened with this task, which is additionally made more difficult by the complex of personal relations and dependencies still prevailing.

Aims of the Programme
Based upon experience in Scandinavic countries and on a model developed and applied in Germany to monitor the local administrations' orientation towards the public, the citizens, this programme proposes a methodology to monitor the actual implementation of minority rights on local level.
Why? The main reasoning behind proposing this approach is that the actual relevant interface for minority-majority relations is the local level. While constitutional solutions have been found in most countries in SEE, and legislation is well under way, partially installing regional advisory mechanisms, it is the local level, where the day-to-day communication occurs. It is also the local level, where the definition of minority can differ from the regional or national one.
As said before, local authorities are the weakest link in the state power hierarchy. While the decentralisation processes are given high priority in the reform process, local administration is often left alone with coping with the tasks and responsibilities. On the other hand, minority organisations often formulate their demands in a vague, theoretical way, which often ignores the real capacity and willingness of the local administration to meet these demands.

The proposed model would profit both sides. It would provide citizens and their organisations with a tool to assess the performance of local administration and propose enhancements in their policies, while at the same time offering a self-evaluation tool to the local authorities and a way to improve their capacity to properly and openly address issues raised by their constituents. Since the initiation of the process would be based on a high level of consensus, and the implementation of the model would imply a high degree of participation both horizontal and vertical, it is likely that the results would be acknowledged by all actors implied and would induce a political process of addressing real shortcomings. Issue-based policy making would therefore start to prevail over the rather declarative style, which can be still found so often. The so often stressed principle of citizen participation would mutate from a phrase to a practical instrument.
This methodology proposes a mechanism, which would be repetitive in itself, thus ensuring continuity in the process of assessment, (self)-evaluation and implementation. The hope is that, once established, this method could become a valuable instrument to move issues related to minority rights forward in a timely and appropriate way. Ultimately, due to its inclusive nature and because of its compromise and consensus based approach, this model could constitute a conflict prevention mechanism in itself.

Proposed Methodology
As mentioned before, the proposed module would be a cyclic, self-repetitive one. The proposed cycle would consist of ten steps, which build upon each other in a logical series:

•  Decision of municipal council.
•  Organisation: constitution of a program group
•  Administration self-evaluation
•  Polls and citizens' input
•  Stocktaking
•  Status Report
•  Stakeholder input
•  Report/Proposal to the local authorities
•  Evaluation of Implementation
•  Periodical Recurrence

The cyclic recurrence of the proposed model can be illustrated in the following way:



 

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FES Offices in South Eastern Europe

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FES Croatia - www.fes.hr

FES Bosnia and Hercegovina - www.fes-bih.com.ba

FES Srbija and Montenegro - www.fes.rs

FES Kosovo - www.fes-prishtina.org

FES Romania - www.fes.ro

FES Albania - www.fes.org.al

FES Bulgaria - www.fes.bg

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