National Minority Councils in Serbia

TransConflict Serbia’s project, ‘Promoting and strengthening the role of the Albanian and Bosniak National Minority Councils (NMCs)’, supported by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aims to improve awareness and understanding about the purpose and structure of national minority council’s amongst the Albanian and Bosniak communities in Serbia.

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Background

Though Serbia’s minority communities total around 800,000 of its 7.5m citizens, its largest ethnic minorities do not fully participate in the political process. This can, in part, be attributed to a lack of awareness and knowledge about the purpose and function of National Minority Councils (NMCs) amongst minority groups, particularly with respect to tangible issues such as education, culture and language usage. In order to determine the level of understanding about minority rights and NMCs, a public survey will be conducted and the results disseminated through local media. Public debates and information campaigns, which will be organized to coincide with the dissemination of the survey findings, are designed to strengthen knowledge and understanding about the purposes of NMCs, particularly with respect to culture, education and language use. To demonstrate the tangible benefits of the NMC, teachers and parents will be targeted in order to emphasize how an NMC will provide greater choice with respect to education and culture. The new Law on National Councils of National Minorities and successful elections in June provides an opportune moment to ensure that NMCs serve as the principal representatives of minority communities throughout Serbia.

Project Objectives and Expected Results

The overall objective of this project is to both improve awareness and understanding about the purpose and structure of national minority council’s amongst the Albanian and Bosniak communities in Serbia.

Other strategic objectives include:

  • to engage public officials and community stakeholders in debate about minority rights and the role of national minority councils;
  • to raise awareness amongst public officials (elected and un-elected) and citizens of the importance of institutionalised forms of minority rights protection, particularly the national minority councils;
  • to encourage citizens, civil society organizations, media, public institutions and the business community to use the NMC mechanisms by demonstrating their tangible benefits;
  • to facilitate discussions and the sharing of information about minority rights and the NMC amongst the Bosniak and ethnic Albanians communities.

Project Activities

TransConflict’s project, ‘Promoting and strengthening the role of the Albanian and Bosniak National Minority Councils (NMCs)’, will be comprised of the following activities:

  • Public survey on understanding about minority rights and national minority councils – public surveys will be conducted in municipalities in both Sandžak and south Serbia (Bujanovac, Preševo and Medveđa). Analysis of the survey findings will be distributed through local, regional and national media. A second survey will also be conducted at the conclusion of the project in order to evaluate its success in terms of raising awareness and understanding.
  • Public debates about minority rights and National Minority Councils – these public debates, which will involve experts from academia, civil society and international organizations, are designed to strengthen knowledge and understanding about the purposes of NMCs, particularly with respect to culture, education and language use.
  • Focus on Education and Culture amongst Parents and Teachers – to demonstrate the tangible benefits of NMCs, this project will target teachers, parents and students in order to emphasize how the establishment of a NMC can help provide greater educational and cultural choice. A fact-sheet detailing the implications of a NMC for educational, culture and language use will be distributed to local schools, whilst a series of discussions will be organized within both schools and local cultural centres.
  • Capacity building through the exchange of best practices from other NMCs – to further strengthen the capacity of the Albanian and Bosniak NMCs, representatives from other NMCs in Serbia – particularly the Croatian and Hungarian Minority Councils – will be invited to share their insights and practical experiences about the structure and functioning of NMC’s with municipal representatives and civil society organizations from Sandžak and south Serbia.
  • Public information campaign about the role of NMCs – each phase of the project will be accompanied by a public information campaign (comprised primarily of information fact sheets and posters, plus radio/newspaper interviews with prominent politicians and civil society activists) promoting minority rights and institutionalised forms of protection, particularly the role of NMCs. TransConflict will also establish Albanian and Serbian language on-line campaigns, using a variety of social networks, that will facilitate both discussion and the dissemination of information about NMCs. Focus groups will also be conducted in order to qualitatively ascertain the views and attitudes of various members of respective communities towards minority rights and MNCs.
The Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This project has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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