The event held on March 4 at the “Dorćol Platz” in Belgrade, marked the official launch of a society-wide dialogue platform for Serbia to enable a broad discussion among the Serbia’s most non state actors, including civil society, corporate sector, academic and research community, media and the citizens on Serbia’s development priorities within the framework 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The “SDGs for All” Platform has been supported by the Swiss and German Governments and is being implemented by the German organization for international cooperation – GIZ, within the project “Public Finance Reform – 2030 Agenda”. The Platform is directly coordinated by six prominent Serbian civil society organizations selected through a competitive process which took place last year.
The event symbolically took place at the Dorćol Platz, a restored courtyard and hangar of the old state-owned company, created with the primary goal of preserving the industrial heritage of the heart of Belgrade. The venue serves as a meeting place for different cultures inspiring innovation and creativity of the booming alternative cultural scene, but also posing questions and offering answers to current discourse in arts and culture, society and public life.
Up to 150 participants from the national government and national level institutions, United Nations entities, international organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia, including youth participants, packed the venue in order to hear more about complex developmental challenges and learn how to engage. In order to avoid a lecture-style education session it was decided to assemble carefully selected panelists on the stage at the same time, present them with selected questions, and offer them a short time to express their opinion. Then, the panelists were presented the questions from the audience collected through an online interactive platform, which worked very well as the attendees received multiple answers to each question asked.
The event was opened by Mr. Gerhard Sippel, GIZ Serbia Country Director, who greeted the participants and highlighted the importance of sustainability and 2030 Agenda for the GIZ approach to development cooperation.
The Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, H.E. Thomas Schieb emphasized that sustainable development objectives (SDGs) contained in the 2030 Agenda have broad economic, social and political implications and affect not only decision makers but all other relevant societal stakeholders, both globally and in Serbia.
“Though they might seem a little bit abstract, these objectives are about changing our lifestyles and, because of that, they can only be attained if the citizens understand and embrace them and get involved in their implementation. It is exactly the objective of the Platform, to stir up a broad society-wide dialogue among the national and local institutions and civil society and other non-state actors and thereby bring this important topic closer to the citizens,” highlighted the Ambassador and went on to provide some concrete examples of what implementation of SDGs in collaboration with the citizens means in practical terms.
“Transition from fossil fuels to the green energy, which is the priority for Germany, is an environmental issue, but also political and economic one, which makes it hardly achievable without cooperation with the citizens. Because of this, we have formed various committees, councils and platforms in an effort to bring this process closer to the citizens. By launching “SDGs for All” Platform, we wish to share this experience with Serbia,” added the Ambassador and pointed to the alignment of the 2030 Agenda objectives with the EU values and principles, implying that the work on the implementation of 2030 Agenda contributes to Serbia’s accession to the EU as well.
Swiss Ambassador to Serbia, H.E. Philippe Guex emphasized that experience of Switzerland suggests that implementation of SDGs stands more chances of success when it is part of a broader initiative that brings together national and local authorities, civil society, businesses, academic community and the citizens. “We believe that through the Platform we are launching today, all relevant non state actors will have an opportunity to take part in the dialogue with the authorities and influence formulation of policies and which are aligned with the SDGs”, emphasized Mr. Guex.
Representative of the Ministry without portfolio in charge of demography and population policy, a Government entity in charge of implementation of 2030 Agenda in Serbia, Ms. Tina Anicic, highlighted that one of the biggest gaps in implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Serbia is the lack of awareness of sustainable development, especially at a local level. “Because of that, it is our priority to raise visibility of the 2030 Agenda daily, both at global and national levels.
UN Resident Coordinator to Serbia, Ms. Francoise Jacob expressed great satisfaction to engage with wide range of actors involved in the Launch Event and emphasized that SDGs can only happen if everyone understands & embraces sustainability.
Representatives of civil society organizations, which will coordinate and facilitate the work of the Platform: Foundation Ana and Vlade Divac in partnership with Center for Democracy Foundation (CDF); Center for Advanced Economic Studies (CEVES) in partnership with the Timok Youth Center (TYC) and the Belgrade Open School (BOS) in partnership with the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) shared their views on various dimension of sustainability and development priorities for Serbia, whereas the GIZ representative, Mr. Urs Buercky explained the key features of the Platform and pointed to the expected deliverables during the first year of its work.