CSOs providing social services in the Western Balkans: challenges and opportunities

On Tuesday 11 October, SOLIDAR, our member ASB-SEE and the IRIS network organised a round table debate to discuss the challenges and opportunities for CSOs providing social services in the Western Balkans. The meeting was opened by our Secretary General Conny Reuter who highlighted the commitment of the SOLIDAR network to revamping social progress and the enhancement of socio-economic rights in the Western Balkans within the framework of the EU accession process, while noting that enlargement negotiations do not seem to be a current priority for the European Union. Elmir Bojadzic, regional director of ASB-SEE, highlighted that the IRIS regional network - bringing together more than 140 CSO social service providers in South East Europe - was successfully created with the support of the Civil Society Facility programme of the directorate for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement. Members of the IRIS network from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania presented innovative examples of sustainable solutions to delivering social services and improving people’s opportunities to participate in society. These examples show clear evidence of the positive contribution in terms of quality and efficiency that the CSO sector brings to social service provision. As mentioned by Gordan Velev, ASB SEE country director, one of the main challenges for CSOs providing social services lies in the fact that the development of social services has never been officially part of the EU integration process but it has been considered as a cross-cutting issue, and this has meant that governments have not prioritised social services in their investment plans. Photos of the round table debate can be found here.