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DEMORACY Citizens decide for their rights

The Conference “Civic Charter – The Global Framework for People’s Participation”, which was organized by CIVIL in cooperation with the International Civil Society Centre (ICSC), presented views and opportunities for cooperation between civil society, media, the business community, political parties and other stakeholders and decision-making structures in the country.

The Civic Charter refers to freedom of expression, and that implies that it is the space where hate speech, fascism, neo-Nazism, extremism, radicalism find shelter using the rights and freedoms in the context of freedom of expression”, stressed Xhabir Deralla at the Conference.

In terms of freedom of information and freedom of gathering, Deralla, through concrete examples, illustrated the golgotha through which the citizens went through in Macedonia in the period of 12 years.

“The Civic Charter requires effective, real participation of citizens in decision-making at the local, national, but also at the global level. We live in a global world, in which everyone can try and possibly, if one finds solidarity from his fellow citizens, from institutions, groups, initiatives, organizations, and perhaps also from the business community, can participate in some way in positively changing matters at the global level, and not, infamously, like the group from Veles, which directly had a part in the presidential elections in America”, he added.

In his address he explained the duty of the Government to protect, instead of to persecute, and also the public responsibility of the Government, business community and civil society.

We as citizens have a right to say that we are not satisfied and we have a right to know what we do not like, and to be dissatisfied and demand a change. Those who are smarter and have the tools for managing the system, have the obligation to channel it, to articulate it, to understand it and to implement it. It is their responsibility, which is public. Public responsibility is one of the most important things that is insisted in the Civic Charter” said Deralla. Brandy Gerking, representative of the International Civil Society Centre (Berlin, Germany)said that in 2015 they developed the Civic Charter as a global framework for people’s participation, because in a large number of countries around the world human rights and fundamental freedoms were being increasingly violated”. She added that people and their organizations are facing various restrictions and are deprived of their right to participate in shaping their society, whereas activists are faced with threats, they are tortured, imprisoned and persecuted as a result of their beliefs.

“Unless people have the ability to genuinely participate in these processes, the world will be unable to overcome its most threatening challenges”, stressed Gerking.

Public relations advisor to the Prime Minister of Republic of Macedonia, Мarjan Zabrcanec stated that he is pleased to be with civil activists, with representatives of civil society. He supported the Civic Charter for People’s Participation on his behalf and on behalf of the Government and said that they as an institution and as a Government explicitly stand in defense and in support of the concept of people’s participation. He reminded that in terms of providing a democratic media environment, that government advertising has been canceled, with the purpose of preventing this, or any other future government from using the media again in propaganda purposes, in spreading lies and manipulations against the citizens.

“All of the personal official expenses of ministries, deputy ministries and state secretaries have been published, and this is the first phase. I want to announce that the list of officials, of those with public functions who will be publishing their expenses will expand. This means that other echelons of the government will have to assume this obligation. And I announce that the Government will offer this

concept of active transparency, as well as the tool for accountability, also to the local self-governments and to the other levels of government in this country. We do not have the jurisdiction there to impose or to make a decision, however, as a concept of active transparency, as a methodology, we will offer it to other levels of government as well. In terms of accessibility, you know that the Government declassified much of the information that was previously classified, in order to enable all interested citizens, think tanks, organizations and communities to have easier access to information. The area of accessibility also includes precisely what we are talking about today, establishing institutional channels for a systematic cooperation of the Government, the institutions with civil society organizations or with representatives of citizens”, emphasized Zabrcanec.

In the area of accessibility and cooperation with citizens, and with the purpose of enabling citizen participation, he announced that a Council for cooperation with civil society organizations is in the final phase of formation, in which 16 representatives of civil society and 14 representatives of institutions will be members.

I would like to encourage all civil society organizations to approach the Government. We might not always be able to respond to everyone on time, but we are open to participating in these kind of events and to being a partner of any civil initiative that comes to us”, said Zabrcanec.

Mayor of Kumanovo, Maksim Dimitrievski at CIVIL’s conference “Civic Charter – The Global Framework for People’s Participation” said that he had been in a position of having his civil rights violated in many cases, especially in the past 12-13 year in Republic of Macedonia.

“Today, I am in the position of possibly violating a civil right. Believe me, when you make an analysis, the line is very thin between these two things. This primarily is based on the mental structure that we as individuals all carry”, stated the Mayor of Kumanovo.

Dimitrievski also stated that in order to fight for civil rights you also need to be motivated to demand them.

“As a mayor, I have had citizens come to me and say I request this and that right, but you request on my behalf. I do not want to declare myself, our society is still infected and I do not feel as if though I can realize my rights. That is a wrong approach. I urge all of you who come from the government sector, but primarily from the non-governmental sector, to motivate all the citizens for them to demand, first of all, their own rights, because no one else can fight for rights on our behalf if the initiative does not start from us”, stated Dimitrievski.

He stressed that, unfortunately, the marginalized groups in Macedonia still cannot exercise the basic civil rights, while people with disabilities are left on the margins of society. At the end of the speech he highlighted that the local self-government is here not only for moral support of the non-governmental sector, but also for an initial material support in the implementation of their projects in the interest and protection of civil rights.

Dimitrievski is the first mayor in Macedonia, but also much wider, who put his signature on the international petition for support of the Civic Charter.

Activist Jasmina Golubovska at the conference stressed that much time has been spent, maybe around seven years, of actively building a political culture of resistance towards any policies of corruption, nepotism, non-transparent work, crime, which comes from the executive, legislative or judicial branch of government, and even in the economic field

These social phenomena do not allow a society to live on real democratic principles, and instead builds and connects those that are skilled and semi-skilled forms of political governing, which is in direct conflict, or, in a kind of hybrid, which means a semi-skilled, apparently uninformed, uneducated leadership in regards to what democracy means, especially parliamentary democracy.

“One year after and I cannot see any changes in overcoming the previous conditions that are deeply rooted. My master’s degree in 2009 was on the subject that Macedonia and Albania are in essence hybrid systems that produce a large degree of non-democracy, authoritarian attitude in the very political system for control of the population and the resources that have been acquired naturally. Today I do not see any serious attempts for changing such policies, that is, we are facing superficial policies being brought that formally and legally satisfy perhaps someone’s interest, of a smaller or larger group, but as an entire society do not take into consideration everyone’s interests”, added Golubovska.

Sinisa Stankovic, from CIVIL stated that he supports the “Civic Charter” because he is strongly convinced that including citizens in the shaping of their/our society is inevitable, if we want our country to continue to exist and to function.

“We built a country, though unfortunately, however cruel it may sound, we are far from building a civil society. A small percentage of citizens are fighters for civil society to truly live…For example, when we would have only a small percentage having a problem with these seven languages of the ‘Civic Charter’, on the banner behind me, or at least a smaller percentage than the one we have now…However, this does bother some…many. Last week I titled the last text/analysis on the political situation in Macedonia as ‘Macedonia – the official language of hatred’. As long as it is like that, the languages that are spoken in this ‘Macedonian salad’ of ours – will bother us. That is why I advocate for everyone to accept the ‘Civic Charter’ and to work in their sphere of influence.

If every citizen were to ask themselves the question from the Charter – ‘What’s in it for me’, in the sense what can I do, with what can I contribute for Macedonia to become a more decent place for living, then maybe in the future we could avoid the question that has been devastating the entire Balkans for decades. In Serbian it was ‘How much for me?’ (How much of the ‘deal’ is for me?), the question – a supporting pillar of corruption…”, he stressed.

Stankovic added that we can defeat corruption/crime only in cooperation with all interested citizens, individuals, individuals who are interested about themselves and their families, about society, about – shaping their country for their future generations. Vanco Ordanoski at the conference pointed out to the attitude of citizens towards technology, which has been changing so radically in recent years that we have to think also about this aspect of freedom of citizens in relation to technology

“Today we are witnessing enormous progress in artificial intelligence, in autonomous computers, autonomous vehicles, some machines that are already becoming semi-conscious or self-conscious and can influence freedom of citizens. We will have to deal with that in the future. We are not even aware how close we are to technology and to its influence on our lives”, said Ordanoski.

He added that it’s just a matter of time before a new Cambridge analytics appears in Macedonia and will try to influence some new elections or some important social decisions. At the conference, the representative from the Central Registry, Irena Lazarova pointed out that the Central Registry is between the business sector and the ordinary citizen. She added that the Central Registry as an institution can play one of the most important roles in fulfilling the goals of the Charter and all other initiatives that are being undertaken at the state level. To support citizens and to include them in the decision-making in society.

“Because I come from a sector where I am directly involved in measuring the satisfaction of citizens and the entire business sector, I perfectly understand the problems that citizens who want to start their own business face, as well as the obstacles that the non-governmental sector faces. The Central Registry is working on solving these problems for easier access to information, as well as on encouraging citizens to realize their goals”, emphasized Lazarova.

Maja Ivanovska from CIVIL said that this pilot project was implemented in the municipalities of Skopje and Kumanovo.

“We had a series of field activities, workshops with the business sector, civil society, political parties, non-governmental organizations…The idea is to have cross-sectoral cooperation and a wider space for action. The results of the surveys are not very encouraging, but you can feel freedom from the previous years, that there is greater freedom, being able to freely express one’s problems, without fear”, stated Ivanovska.

CIVIC CHARTER – What’s in it for me? is a pilot project through which CIVIL continues to promote the Civic Charter in an innovative way. This includes exploration of possibilities for establishing cross-sectoral cooperation and partnerships for adoption and consistent implementation of the Civic Charter.

The project is supported by the International Civil Society Centre.

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