On May 31, 2022, a local debate “Towards new partnerships in the fight for clean air, healthy environment and protection of public health” was held in Smederevo, organized by the Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society and in cooperation with Pro.Tok21 and The International Security and Affairs Centre (ISAC Fund). The participants were representatives of the civil sector, representatives of local self-government and activists. The aim of the debate was to encourage a broader debate and cooperation between all interested participants through a constructive dialogue.
During the debate, two key topics were discussed: The state of air quality in Smederevo and Social activism and public health.
Svetlana Stefanović, Executive Director of the Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society, pointed out that the Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society has been working for 19 years to improve the dialogue between decision makers and other actors, providing information and education on various topics. As well as the fact that small steps may make us nervous, but that the results will come in the end.
During the first part of the debate, it was pointed out that air is often discussed only when the issue becomes urgent. It is very rare to discuss when the issue is outside the “emergency center”. The participants pointed out that some kind of unity is necessary, ie that it is important that we be allies of each other. Pollution from Smederevo can be seen in other cities such as Belgrade, Novi Sad and Pancevo. The situation in Smederevo is complex, and it must react faster and better, but there are also limiting factors, according to the participants. The problem of the existence of 12 fuel oil boilers and individual fireplaces, which greatly contribute to pollution, was pointed out. Also, the idea of a green parliamentary group at the local level that would function as an informal group was presented, as well as the results of research and recommendations on the Air Quality Plan adopted in 2022. A particularly alarming fact that was pointed out is that there are 223 premature deaths a year in Smederevo, which shows that something must change in relation to the environment.
The second part of the event highlighted the importance of civil society and its contribution in raising the topic on the agenda. The importance of talks with citizens was pointed out, but also the dialogue with local self-government. It is also important that activists are more recognizable in local self-government. The fact that the Ministry of Health in 2018 had 4 million to support activist ideas shows that they do not see associations and activism as partners in the whole process. The topic of public health is an indispensable part of the 2030 Agenda and permeates all goals, as well as environmental protection. It was concluded that productive communication, good information and cooperation are the key to success in overcoming the problems that exist in one local community.
The event was supported by the Open Society Foundation.