Local NGO International Aid Network coordinated a set of events to commemorate May 7 and encourage active participation of citizens in policy creation and decision making through online tools. Seminars and workshops were organised in four towns, while the main event was held at the University Library “Svetozar Markovic” in Belgrade, Serbian capital. More than 250 participants were involved in the activities.
Workshops in schools
Around 200 high school students were introduced to online tools that allow the citizens of Europe to have a closer and more constructive contact with the authorities and decision makers on the local and national level. Various online platforms were presented that allow participation in policy-making.
In some schools the lecture was followed by an interactive workshop: “What would I ask my mayor?”. The children practiced asking questions about the school, students’ transport, renovation of old town, etc. This was the best way to raise their awareness about the opportunities for online civic participation and teach them how to do it.
Lecture at the University Library
The University Library in Belgrade was the host of the lecture on the importance of e-Participation and possibilities for active citizenship using online tools in Serbia.
The audience included librarians, university students, journalists and IT professionals. The lecturers presented some of the European e-Participation platforms such as SOLVIT, Petitions portal, European citizens’ initiative as well as some successful local online tools. Participants also pointed out two local tools as very important: a website for submitting petitions “Influence” (Serbian Uticaj) (www.uticaj.rs) and another website for sending questions to members of the National Parliament (www.otvoreniparlament.rs).
The lecture was followed by a lively discussion where participants expressed their opinions on e-Participation. The majority of them believe that e-Participation tools are useful since they enable simple, quick, efficient and cheap communication with authority representatives, which is particularly important for citizens not living in big cities or those who do not have sufficient resources for direct (standard) communication with authorities. However, some think that e-Participation tools create an illusion about the openness of authorities, since it allows people to write their opinions freely, but nobody guarantees that the authority representatives will read this or that the message will change something. Nevertheless, most people in the audience agreed that the authorities care about the opinions expressed through e-Participation tools and that they somewhat adjust own activities according to the reactions on the Internet.
This year’s activities within the European e-Participation day in Serbia were an important step towards the much needed education and encouragement of citizens for active e-Participation.