Promoting Community-Based Initiatives for Social Inclusion in Western Balkans
The European Commission defines social inclusion as “a process which ensures that those at risk of poverty and social exclusion gain the opportunities and resources necessary to participate fully in economic, social and cultural life, and to enjoy a standard of living and well-being that is considered normal in the society in which they live”.
On the basis of this European definition, the following briefing paper advocates for increased investment in the civil society facility under the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) for community-based initiatives and community-based activities to counteract the exclusion from economic life, social services, and social networks and civic participation that can affect all members of society, not just those who are already disadvantaged and marginalised.
In the recent past, social welfare reforms in the Western Balkans have tended to be a series of short-term, crisis-oriented solutions rarely forming a coherent strategy for the whole policy field. This ‘lack of coherence’ shows that a new institutional framework is needed to create an enabling environment that coordinates the supply of services and entitlements at local and regional levels, adjusting them to local needs and involving socially excluded people (and the public at large) in the design, monitoring and evaluation of the system and its outcomes. In this way, the barriers to participation and access of resources and opportunities can be removed, and attitudes can be changed.
Since 1948, SOLIDAR’s members have been contributing to a social Europe through their daily work as civil society organisations and social service providers. These organisations work together on both European and international level to answer the current challenge: how to reconcile the move towards economically competitive societies in a globalised world whilst also providing adequate social protection for citizens.
Currently, Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund South East Europe in cooperation with local NGOs like CLARD Kosovo, IDC Serbia, EDC Serbia, DELFIN Montenegro, LIR Bosnia and Herzegovina and SMART Croatia are showing the value of undertaking tangible community-based initiatives against the exclusion of vulnerable people from economic life, social services, and social networks and civic participation. Furthermore the cases included in this paper highlight the need to improve the capacity of community-based initiatives and organisations to meet local needs and build positive links between the economic, social and civic aspects of local development.
The civil society facility under the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) could increase its support for building social and human capital on the local level in the Western Balkans, to strengthen the local ownership of integration, which is a critical factor for creating the necessary conditions for social inclusion to truly take root and to promote local ownership for the European integration process.
Together, we can be a force for change!