The text was originally published on the website of the project Active Citizens – Better Society: Advocating for Cooperation and Democratic Development

On Wednesday, November 25th, 2020, the Belgrade Open School (BOS), the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Serbia (BIRN Serbia) held an online conference entitled Dialogue: Cooperation for Change. At the conference, awards were given to the best initiators of change for the current year, and in the second part of the conference, participants had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with Gordana Comic, Minister of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue.

Who are game changers 2020?

The game changers are active citizens who put their effort in building a better society. These awards celebrate the most inspiring and successful advocacy campaigns and encourage us to work for positive change in the community.

The 2020 Game changers Awards were presented in four categories:

Category I: Cooperation for change, examples of good practice and successful cooperation between public authorities and civil society organizations.

  • Winner of the award: the Association of the Blind of Serbia for the initiative Ratification of the Marrakesh Agreement, which aims at greater accessibility of the format of written materials for the blind, visually impaired and other persons with disabilities.

Category II: The first voice of the citizens – a campaign that, through its advocacy activities, initiated a large number of citizens around a goal.

  • Winner of the award: With a plug to the smile of the initiative of the same name, whose campaign provides help to children with disabilities and developmental disabilities.

Category III: Campaign for activism – successful initiatives of informal groups, within which the award was shared between two projects.

  • Winners of the award: Informal group Paklestica ALWAYS aimed at rebuilding the village on Stara Planina and the initiative Let’s defend Teslafrom Pancevo, a group of citizens who keep green areas in their settlement.

Category IV: Game changers

  • Winner of the award: Milja Vukovic, Zero & Low Waste Serbia, which the community recognized as a person who inspires others to change on the topics related to environmental protection.

Special thanks were given to the following initiatives:

  • Radmila Urosevic, Zvezdara Volunteer Service initiative – for contribution to strengthening volunteerism; 
  • Uzice High School Literary Festival for the initiative Halfway – for the contribution of young people to cross-border and regional cooperation; 
  • Rural Cultural Center Markovac – for gender equality and improvement of culture in rural communities; 
  • Kotez Group – for community mobilization; 
  • Sombor tailors’ groups – for solidarity in the crisis.

Cooperation between the state and civil society: What is the perspective?

The Ministry of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue was established within the newly formed Government; and the mandate of this Ministry is to initiate a dialogue with civil society on issues of common interest, further development and implementation of strategic documents to create a supportive environment for civil society development and further improve cooperation between public authorities, civil society and the private sector.

The topics of the panel in the second part of the conference were discussions on the priorities and mission of the ministry, as well as mapping proposals for cooperation with civil society, both with the ministry and with other public authorities.

With great gratitude to the tireless activists of civil society organizations and the support of international and domestic organizations, I will be happy to participate in the dialogue that is ahead of us, which should encourage everyone who wants to enter into a dialogue. The idea is to be at the service of developing dialogue. My proposal is that everyone in public positions listens to criticism and that it is for the benefit of the entire society, and that representatives of civil society share their knowledge with all citizens of Serbia, said Gordana Comic, Minister of Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue.

The most advanced countries are those that foster constructive cooperation between the governmental and non-governmental sectors, including civil society, private business and the media, added Shanley Pinchotti, acting director of USAID Serbia. This event was organized within the project Active Citizens: A Better Society: Advocating for Cooperation and Democratic Development with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).