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Decentralization in favor of increased citizens’ participation in decision making

DOWNLOAD of the book
(only available in Serbian language):

prirucnik o decentralizaciji


The research organized by PROTECTA and NCD (National Coalition for Decentralization), concerning citizens’ attitudes on decentralization, showed that people don’t understand the meaning of the word “decentralization”, but they recognize the problem as “everything goes to Belgrade”. The citizens would like to have their municipalities stronger, they would like to participate in the decision making process and they would like to stop the processes of “Belgradization” as they refer it to. So far, none of the political parties or movement had an influence to canalize this existing energy and to use it to make a pressure.
The project MAKE NOISE, implemented by PROTECTA and NCD and supported by NED (National Endowment for Democracy) is devoted to creation of direct pressure that citizens can put on government. In this way we want to increase the public support and expectations of the citizens towards decentralization (using the terms familiar to them), but also we want politicians to feel this pressure.


  1. To increase citizens support for decentralization and to direct and focus citizens political will and acting in favor of decentralization in Serbia
  2. To increase the citizens pressure on political parties to fulfill their promises on decentralization
  3. To create a common understanding of the need for decentralization among all key stakeholders of political life (in specific citizens, political parties, international diplomatic community and media)


Make noise for decentralization project envisages 4 types of actions:

  1. 10.000 written statements of victims of centralization
  2. 2 hours for the rest of us
  3. “Make noise” campaign on the highway to Belgrade and in 10 biggest cities
  4. Creation of a short film on project activities

... the noise was made…

The activities on the project “MAKE NOISE FOR DECENTRALIZATION” were completed successfully:
10.000 written statements of victims of centralization

Using NCD network of 62 NGOs, created during the project “Decentralization in Serbia” financed by NED in 2006, we organized street actions in 10 cities in Serbia: Nis, Vranje, Pirot, Negotin, Kragujevac, Novi Pazar, Uzice, Leskovac, Novi Sad and Krusevac. From March 15 to April 15, the citizens from the mentioned cities signed 10.000 both side printed paper with the text:

Page 1
Herby I confirm that I was a victim of centralized political system in Serbia at least one time in my life. I demand from Parliament of Republic of Serbia and from Government of Serbia to take adequate measures in order to: decentralize the country, allow citizen participation in decision making and create equal opportunities for all citizens of Serbia.

Page 2

This wouldn’t happen if Serbia was decentralized.

PROTECTA and NCD members from 10 cities collected 10 000 written letters which were addressed to the Government of the Republic of Serbia, more precisely, to the Office of the Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković. 8 300 were sent via regular post, whereas 1700 were taken to the Government of Serbia by PROTECTA team for decentralization personally.

Performing this action we wanted the Prime Minister to understand that the citizens of Serbia consider themselves the victims of centralized political system in the country and that  the process of decentralization in Serbia must happen as soon as possible.

On June 26, PROTECTA organized a press conference in Media Center Belgrade. The  Prime Minister himself was invited but, unfortunately, the confirmation of his participation was not received. The participants were Nenad Čanak, the President of the Council for Decentralization in Serbia, Miloš Simonović, the Mayor of Niš, Dragan Miljković, the Coordinator of the Program for decentralization PROTECTA. The invited speakers are strong supporters of the decentralization process in Serbia, and at the same time, of the idea initiated by the project MAKE NOISE.

2 hours for the rest of us

Since central government doesn’t pay too much attention at the regions outside Belgrade, we invited more than 30 NGO organizations, few hundred citizens of Serbia by e-mails and mobile phones to participate in the action “2 hours for the rest of us”. We provided the phone number of Mr Cvetkovic’s Office, his e-mail address and fax number so that people from entire Serbia could phone, send e-mail or fax to the Office of Prime Minister and leave a message:  “Please keep in mind my city. I’m coming from…”.
The action was performed on July 3, from 12.00 to 2.00pm and followed by the local media.

za sajt     gagi  

In these two hours, the Government of Serbia (The Prime Minister’s Office) received more than 200 phone call and about 100 e-mails from the entire territory of Serbia

Make noise” campaign on the highway to Belgrade and in 10 biggest cities
Serbia has only one highway – E75 leading from Belgrade to Nis on 250 km long travel. This is the main traffic artery of Serbia with thousands of cars, buses and trucks driving through it. It is also the biggest road that people use for moving, commuting and visits to Belgrade. Along the highway there are about 15 billboards for commercial use.

Within the campaign “Make noise” we put 2 mega billboards with the words: “You are on your way to Belgrade. Please return, sooner or later. Support decentralization.”  In addition to that we put billboards in 10 biggest cities in Serbia, in which we organize the local actions (Niš, Vranje, Pirot, Negotin, Kragujevac, Novi Pazar, Užice, Leskovac, Novi Sad i Kruševac).



Supported by ISC (Institute for Sustainable Communities), initiated and implemented by PROTECTA, the main goal of this project is to enhance the citizens participation in decision making processes through advocating the change of status of Kikinda, Donji Milanovac, Leskovac, Pirot and Nis city municipalities within the existing Law on territorial organization of Serbia and local statutes. Using these 5 case studies, NCD will promote the need for citizens’ participation in decision making all over Serbia.
By fulfilling the legal requirements, citizens in Serbia can influence the change of status of their municipality. Article 12 of the Law on territorial organization defines the requirements and suggests how citizens can influence the change of their municipality/city status.
Through this project, NCD will support the formal and informal groups in 5 cities to fulfill these requirements and thus initiate the change of status of above mentioned municipalities.


By change of Law on territorial organization of Serbia, Municipality of Kikinda receives the status of the city instead of current status of municipality, Municipality of Pirot receives the status of the city instead of current status of municipality, the settlement of Donji Milanovac, now a part of municipality of Majdanpek, receives a status of municipality, the City of Leskovac is divided in 4 different municipalities; by change of Statute of City of Nis, 5 city municipalities receive bigger prerogatives of power.
We expect that the activities envisaged by this project will increase citizen’s awareness on decentralization and public opinion pressure for decentralization addressed to the local and national authority holders, aiming to create equal regional development in Serbia. This project is part of second step of our 5 year plan of achieving the main goal of Coalition strategy: Creation of legal framework that would allow full decentralization of power in Serbia based exclusively on citizens need to participate decision making and reform processes.


  • NCD Newsletter

First four of twelve copies of edition of monthly electronic NCD Newsletter have been prepared, written and published. We sent newsletter to more than 600 key addresses including: political parties HQ, local boards of political parties all over Serbia,  Ministries,  local authorities,  decentralization advocates, journalists and media editors. The newsletter consists of great number of information on decentralization, the consequences of centralization in Serbia , attitudes of  oppinion leaders in region on the topic of decentralization, and actual pamphlets about decentralization  from printed and electronic media. This bulletin also deals with the topics that have to do with citizens’ everyday life and that have to do with the subject of decentralization.

  • Meeting with local groups from Leskovac, Pirot, Kikinda and Donji Milanovac

Members of the Decentralization team from PROTECTA organized meetings with local representatives from NGO ‘Stara Planina’ Pirot, NGO ‘’Leskovacki krug” Leskovac , “Taliata” Donji MIlanovac,  “Kikindski forum” Kikinda
The aims of those meetings were: introducing with the members of the project teams, presenting the project objectives, informing them about future activities, their responsibilities and forthcoming events. On the meetings we talked with our local partners about topics and agenda for Training on legal requirements for signature collection in Donji Milanovac, Kikinda, Leskovac  and Pirot. on meeting will gather  the participants of the training.

  • Preparing the Expertise on City/Municipality status

NCD legal team prepares the expertise based upon requirements of the Ministry. In this way all 4 cities/municipalities will be allowed to satisfy the legal criteria for civic initiative.
NCD Legal expert team creates mandatory economic, space, demographic and other factors studies for these 4 cities.


  •  The presentation of the research in OSCE Mission to Serbia.

The presentation of the research “Public opinion on decentralization and regionalization in Central Serbia”, conducted within the REACT ! project and done by Srecko Mihajlovic, the sociologist. The aim of research was to determine level of citizens’ support for the topic, as well as credibility and legitimacy of our initiative. Research was realized in 2008 and was sent to all decentralization stakeholders in Serbia. However, central presentation event took place in premises of OSCE Mission in Belgrade, organized by the OSCE department for democratization. Srecko Mihajlovic, the sociologist, together with the representatives of NGO Protecta presented the Survey on the topic “Public opinion on decentralization and regionalization in Central Serbia”. The presentation was opened by Ambassador Hans Ola Urstad, Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia.

You can download the presentation here.pdf download

The opening speech was also delivered by the Assistant Minister for Public Administration and Local Self-government, Bratislav Djokic, who greeted the participants and expressed his readiness to cooperate with PROTECTA and certified the Ministry’s support to the problem of decentralization. He also added that it is of utmost importance that all Ministries make certain moves in solving this problem so that the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government is not criticized for the things that are not under its jurisdiction. The Assistant announced the intensified cooperation with PROTECTA. The presentation was attended by the representatives of ISC, USAID, NDI, BCIF, Council of Europe, UN Development Program, European Delegation, US Embassy, GTZ, Ministry for social welfare, Ministry for Economy and Regional Development, Exchange II program, Civic Initiatives

Decentralization in favor of increased citizens’ participation in decision making

The objective of  this project, implemented by PROTECTA in partnership with BCIF (Balkan Communities Initiative Fund and supported by EIDHR( European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights), is to contribute to the establishing of a consensus on decentralization as a necessary step in democratic reforms and consolidating political participation and representation in Serbia. The specific objective is to strengthen the role of civil society in promoting decentralization and increasing political representation and participation of citizens in Serbia through building capacity and creating the conditions for establishing a dialogue between relevant stakeholders and citizens.

Direct target groups are: 18 CSOs (Civil Society Organization) in 6 municipalities, additional 64 NGOs from 24 municipalities – members of National Coalition for Decentralization, representatives of local authorities and institutions in 6 municipalities and national political representatives. Around 180.000 inhabitants of the catchment area belonging to the 6 targeted municipalities will address their problems in dialogue with national authorities. In long term, all citizens of Serbia could benefit from decentralization process.
The project envisages the following activities:

  • Preparation and printing of Advocacy for Decentralization handbook (the manual that will guide readers through the challenges of advocacy and decentralization promotion in a step by step approach);
  • Advocacy training on decentralization (organized for 18 CSOs from the 6 targeted municipalities in Serbia);
  • Dialogue actions – (developed in a manner as to create communication between citizens, their local and republic authorities and institutions representatives);
  • National Coalition for Decentralization meeting (two day event created for CSOs members of NCD and interested in decentralization advocacy);
  • National Conference on Decentralization (one day event that will gather representatives of CSOs, local authorities and institutions, as well as republic authorities);
  • Promotional activities (imply printed and TV material that will be delivered to the region with a potential of 180,000 recipients)
    Through all these actions, we aim at building coherent and more systematic approach in the work of civil society organizations for advocating decentralization, to establish basis for a constant dialogue between citizens, CSOs, local and republic government, to initiate national public debate on the National Strategy for Decentralization (NSD), to increase the level of support for decentralization among the general public through media coverage and website.


  1. Preparation of the Advocacy for Decentralization Handbook

In its previous work, BCIF prepared and printed four Manuals/Handbooks that give theoretical base and practical examples of CSO engagement in local communities, in a variety of topics including mobilization of citizens, building partnerships, fundraising from local sources and community advocacy. BCIF team, in cooperation with National Coalition for Decentralization (NCD) experts prepared an adjusted version specifically oriented toward advocacy for decentralization.
The Handbook contains four main parts/chapters:

  • Decentralization
  • Legal environment for advocacy and for decentralization,.
  • Advocacy for decentralization, that will have three subchapters:
    • Basics of Advocacy,
    • Planning Advocacy Action,
    • Implementing Advocacy Action

The Handbook is being prepared by BCIF team, with contribution from legal experts and experts on decentralization. Such a handbook will contribute to building capacity of CSOs for advocacy for decentralization (as well as advocacy in general) and will serve as permanent resource for future actions.

  1. Training for Advocacy for Decentralization
  • Given that advocacy for decentralization is quite specific in terms of variety and complexity of issues that are part of the decentralization process, it is necessary to further build capacity of CSOs that will be involved in this process on long-term basis. Through advocacy training for decentralization, BCIF trainers worked with ………CSOs from 6 targeted municipalities (Leskovac, Pirot,Kikinda, Valjevo, Sjenica).

The first module, held in Kruševac for CSOs from Sjenica, Leskovac and Pirot and in Belgrade for CSOs from Kikinda, Valjevo, Kragujevac covered topics through separate sessions: Introduction of the program (with a detailed description of activities, timeframe, roles), decentralization and legal framework, identifying common and specific problems in targeted municipalities due to centralization of authorities and systems. Additionally, it will deal with advocacy definition and terminology, planning of advocacy action in general, formulating objective for each CSO, identifying stakeholders, potential allies and opponents.
The second module included the topics: identifying stakeholders, planning concrete local action, resource planning, working with media and public, involving citizens, and detailed timeline for each action.
Each module lasted three days and had about 15 participants.

Since all modules of trainings for all CSOs are realized, the BCIF team provides ongoing consultations and technical assistance in organizing Dialogue actions by mail and phone; simultaneously, two team members (one from BCIF and one from PROTECTA)  provide on-site consultations to each organization (one is done in Pirot), with all their members present, twice during the implementation of local actions. The on-site consultations are used to provide additional support for organizing actions, as well as to assure concrete help in attracting relevant participants in discussions and solve any problems that might arise during preparations for  local – local and local – national dialogues. Finally, it will also be an opportunity to help identify key issues and logistical needs on local level.


REACT project, supported parallel by ISC and RBF, represents the first step of the National Coalition for Decentralization work as a part of a Coalition long term strategy.

REACT project is created around 5 key components:
Research that needs to provide good grounds for expertise on model of decentralization which is most applicable in Serbia. Research needs to show the capacities and potentials for decentralization on local and regional level
Education of local and regional stakeholders interested in advocating decentralization (NGOs, political parties youth, local authorities representatives, Standing Conference of Cities and Municipalities and other active advocates of decentralization) in 5 regional centers producing around 100 advocates with similar understanding of needs for decentralization and advocacy skills, as well as creation of website envisaged as a web resource centre for all decentralization advocates.
Advocacy actions on decentralization which targets the decision makers on the republic level (MPs, members of the Serbian government, leaders of political parties)
Community level actions organized in order to engage citizens and NGOs in 5 regional centers in direct action for decentralization and to create local and regional partnerships
Terrain coverage activities realized in order to cover wider territory in Serbia Proper with advocacy actions on decentralization.


The specific goals of this project are:

  1. To determine priority areas for decentralization of Serbia (i.e. health system, fiscal system, education system or even parts of systems) and capacities of local communities to take over bigger prerogatives of power through a thorough research organized for the territory of Serbia Proper
  2. To create 3 proposal models for new territorial division of authorities in Serbia that would allow true decentralization – these models (justified with research) would be offered to the national government and parliament, and could be utilized for future law, act and statute making in Republic Parliament.
  3. To influence the authorities on republic level which needs to apply the principle of decentralization in all decision making.
  4. To educate 100 decentralization advocates in more than 25 municipalities in Serbia Proper
  5. To provide on line resource for decentralization advocates in order to empower them for future activities
  6. To organize 10 actions in 10 municipalities (1 action each), using the educated network of advocates, that would tackle the topic of decentralization through the prism of locally specific and identified problem
  7. To increase the public awareness on decentralization through creation and broadcast of 3 TV shows on decentralization on at least 10 local and regional TV stations in Serbia Proper, and through public appearances and actions, as well as printed materials and media appearances
  8. To establish a monitoring mechanism that would monitor the media and decision making of national government and that would react to the disrespect and negligence of the decentralization principles
  9. To bring Serbian Parliament members and citizens together to discuss the needs of decentralization and possibility to overcome local problems that resulted from centralization of decision making.

Consequently, these results/products should influence 4 different target groups by the end of the project (please compare with National Coalition for Decentralization Strategy):

  1. decision makers on all level – that need to take decentralization as an non avoidable principle in decision making on the republic level and that need to adopt new Law on Local Self government and other key laws for decentralization issue in next 12 months.
  2. public opinion – that need to increase their expectations from elected politicians to apply principles of decentralization in decision making – also citizens will be provided with information on what is decentralization and why is it a positive process for democracy and their participation in reforms,
  3. experts community – that will be directly involved in future planning and creation of the most cost efficient, effective and realistic model of decentralization in Serbia,
  4. other key stakeholders of social action – foreign embassies, media and political parties in particular will receive much more information on what decentralization is and how it could support the process of democratization in Serbia.

Geographic Coverage

The geographical focus of our activities will be located in Coalition Regional Centers: Nis, Uzice, Novi Pazar, Vranje and Negotin. From these cities we plan to cover the wider regions in their vicinity with the aim to cover the whole territory of Serbia Proper as much as possible. In order to do that our activities will favorite the participants interested in decentralization that come from other cities than these 5. With the idea to support ideas coming from additional 5 cities, apart from 5 regional centers, priority would be given to other natural cities of regional, such as Kragujevac, Valjevo, Čačak, Kruševac Pirot, Pozarevac etc...

Consequently, these results should influence 4 different target groups by the end of the project:
decision makers on all level – that need to take decentralization as an non avoidable principle in decision making on the republic level and that need to adopt new Law on Local Self government and other key laws for decentralization issue in next 12 months.
public opinion – that need to increase their expectations from elected politicians to apply principles of decentralization in decision making – also citizens will be provided with information on what is decentralization and why is it a positive process for democracy and their participation in reforms,
experts community – that will be directly involved in future planning and creation of the most cost efficient, effective and realistic model of decentralization in Serbia,
other key stakeholders of social action – foreign embassies, media and political parties in particular will receive much more information on what decentralization is and how it could support the process of democratization in Serbia.


National Coalition for Decentralization is on the point of finishing the first phase of its work. We would like to use this opportunity to invite you once again to take active participation in our work, but also to inform you of previous implemented projects.
So far 30 NGOs from 11 cities joined the Coalition. Due to the formation of regional centres of Coalition in Negotin, Uzice, Novi Pazar, Vranje and Nis, the necessary prerequisites for the decentralization of the work of Coalition itself were established. Our regional centres are:

  • Human Rights Committee Negotin
  • Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Uzice
  • PROTECTA Vranje
  • Urban in Novi Pazar
  • PROTECTA Niš, Human Rights Committee Niš and Media Centre Niš.

In the course of previous months representatives of Nis Coalition visited cities in which regional centres were formed. On that occasion the meetings with local organizations of the civil society were held; these organizations openly expressed their support for our initiative and confirmed their willingness to take active participation in the work of the Coalition. Also, public in these cities were informed of these activities via local and regional media which regularly broadcasted reports on our activities. Although the work of the Coalition was reported by 7 local and regional televisions (including 4 one-hour TV shows on regional televisions), 4 radio stations, 6 press media, none of the national media, except for daily paper “Danas”, informed the citizens of Serbia of the existence of the Coalition and its activities. This fact adds to the belief in absolute necessity of decentralization of Serbia.
In all regional centres a research of target groups was conducted, aiming at discovering decentralization related themes that might engage the attention of citizens not going to the polls. The research showed that people regard decentralization as necessary, but also believe in the need to talk about what decentralization is, what it can offer to an ordinary citizen and which steps should be taken in the recognition of positive and negative decentralization related actions of the government. The researchers themselves were surprised at positive examinees’ reaction at the offered explanations.
It is planned that the realization of street actions tackling the topic of what the citizens can report to politicians regarding decentralization be held in February. The action in Negotin, supported by great number of citizens was held on December 10th. The same action will be organized in other cities where regional centres were formed, but also in all cities where local NGOs cooperating with the Coalition offer themselves to suuport our initiative. By the end of December, more than 1.500 messages from citizens from somewhat 10 cities in Serbia will have been collected. These messages will be broadcasted during the preelectoral campaign, to be delivered to future members of parliament on the first working day of newly appointed Republican Parliament.
Thanks to the support from Nis academic public, we are in the position to announce the publication of printed and electronic guide on decentralization entitled “Decentralization as the starting point of further development of Serbia”. From Monday 18.12., this guide can be taken in Regioanl centres or downloaded from websites of the members of the Coalition. In the course of a few days, a special mail will be sent concerning the possibilities of taking the guide.
Further plans regarding the work of the Coalition include:

  1. active media campaign which will coincide with the preelectoral campaign during the forthcoming elections (the Coalition will use this occasion to appeal at the citizens to get out and vote for the option offering the best program solutions for the decentralization of Serbia),
  2. organization of the Conference on Decentralization in February 2007,
  3. series of researches tackling the topic of the capacity of local authorities and local and regional communities for taking over decentralized government offices,
  4. work with experts on the topic of looking for most efficient and most effective models of decentralization applicable in Serbia,,
  5. influence on decision makers to create a suitable legal framework that would enable decentralization of Serbia.

The Coalition wants to indicate clearly that this action is not directed against Belgrade, but that it represents efforts to bring the level of decision making closer to the citizens, as well as to create equal opportunities for all citizens, regardless of their place of residence. This phase of work of the National Coalition for Decentralization was supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) from the United States of America.
For all further questions, information and comments, you can contact us by electronic mail: .

Coordinating team
National Coalition for Decentralization