The conference “Civil Society in Republic of Srpska – Challenges and Perspectives”, which was held in Banja Luka on September 22 and 23, gathered a large number of representatives of civil society organizations in one place to discuss the situation in society, especially in civil sector, in the light of the amendments to the Criminal Code and the adoption of the Draft Law on the Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations, which will be on the agenda of the session of the National Assembly of the RS on September 26.
The participants shared the experiences of their organizations in these challenging and by no means easy times, from the pandemic to the adoption of restrictive laws. They generally agreed that the Draft Law on the Special Register and Publicity of the Work of Non-Profit Organizations should be completely withdrawn, because it is controversial for several reasons, it is discriminatory, it continues the repressive pressure on civil society organizations, and many of its provisions, such as the ban of political action, are unclear and worrying.
The aforementioned Draft Law, it was said, hangs as a great burden on associations, which on the ground not only help citizens, but also prevent corruption, robbery, etc. The question arose: What kind of society would we have if there were no civil society organizations or if their work was prohibited?
It was pointed out that the government has been working for decades to create a negative image for targeted civil society organizations, and the problem of ignoring institutions that most organizations face (not inviting public discussions, refusing to provide information upon requests for access to information, etc.) was also highlighted.
It was concluded that additional work should be done on improving the association’s image, but also more effective introduction of citizens with the services provided by the associations, such as support services for women victims of violence or humanitarian services.
During this two-day conference, interesting workshops were held in groups where conference participants showed their ideas for further activism, ways of cooperation, new campaigns, initiatives, public discussions…
It was emphasized that we must preserve the freedom to associate and act together with our citizens!