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As part of the “Active Citizens – Better Society” project, on October 5, 2022, an event was organized in Pirot, “Economic beauties of the city of Pirot: how to use the city’s potential?”, where sustainable local development of the city of Pirot was discussed. Bearing in mind the importance of cooperation between citizens and civil society organizations in the service of economic development, the following presented their success stories at the beginning: Original Serbia, the Women’s Association “LAV” and Young Farmers of Serbia.

Original Serbia is an association of producers of traditional Serbian products that gathers associations, cooperatives, companies and individuals whose products bear the designation of geographical origin. The goals of the association are to increase the placement and visibility of products with origin, strong advocacy of quality policy and better positioning of the Association. The importance of this Association is reflected in the fact that better positioning of products with a geographical indication of origin means the development and maintenance of rural areas and their better positioning within the tourist offer of Serbia.

The Women’s Association “Lion” is a non-governmental organization founded with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights with a special focus on the human rights of women and children and the promotion of the rights of marginalized social groups. Their goal is to reach as many citizens as possible through various campaigns, guest appearances in the media and other activities in order to initiate what is important. Through active advocacy, they managed to contribute to the adoption of the local development plan, however, the problem is that there is no development strategy at the national level. They believe that without partnership with the local self-government, there will be no changes.

The Association “Young Farmers of Serbia” was founded with the intention of gathering and hearing the opinion of all young farmers throughout the Republic of Serbia. Their goal is to promote and strengthen the agricultural sector, and especially to empower young people to return to the countryside through support programs. They inform association members about current competitions and prepare them for them. Also, since product placement is very important, they try to give farmers and small producers greater visibility.

The Office for Local Economic Development of the city of Pirot is actively working on active measures that can contribute to active local economic development. LER is the link between local self-government and citizens, associations and entrepreneurs, and public advocacy is an important tool used by LER because only through open relationship and communication with representatives of all sectors can we work on further local development. One of the important aspects of local development is the preservation of tradition. One of the products for which Pirot is recognized is the Pirot cheese, so it is important to maintain the production of cheese by providing resources and actively promoting the production of cheese. It is important that interested actors know that there are many ways of support, that the path to donors is not always easy, but it is achievable.

In addition to the presentation of the results and examples of good practice of the mentioned actors who are supported within the project “Active citizens – a better society” and the presentation of the Office for Local Development and the ways in which it contributes, the participants and the audience had the opportunity to, through an open discussion and exchange of experiences, see the current obstacles to local economic development and come up with some ideas for overcoming them.

The project “Active citizens – a better society” is implemented by the Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society in cooperation with the Balkan Research Network (BIRN) and the Belgrade Open School (BOŠ). The project was supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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