Fast Forward Human Rights final conference was held

Within the framework of the project Fast Forward Human Rights!, Centre for Civic Education (CCE) today held a conference in hotel Ramada, in Podgorica, starting at 10h00, as the final public event of the aforementioned project, that the CCE conducted with Civic Initiatives (CI) from Belgrade, from November 2013 till January 2015, and with the financial support of the European Union through EU Delegation to Montenegro.

Daliborka Uljarević, executive director of the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) emphasized that the “Final conference is an opportunity to look back at some of the achievements of the project that lasted for 14 months, and within which we tried to fast forward the development of the culture of human rights in Montenegro in various manners”. While speaking about the ambient for the realization of human rights, she pointed out that “Intolerance, various manifests of discrimination, violation of human rights of citizens in diverse manners by different social subjects, whether they are passionate or xenophobic individuals or groups, or even untransformed state institutions, remain challenges with which we face. Numerous efforts in the regulation of the legal and institutional framework remain formal, as indicated by rare examples of adequate processing of cases of human right violations, as well as the absence of necessary response from the institutions even when systematic human right violations are in question.” She concluded that “It is very important to emphasize that it was precisely in the year when part of NGO sector, which has critical attitude towards the work of authorities and bad results of public politics, was the subject of brutal discrediting and discrimination on a personal basis, a project that had a wide grip of affirmation and raising of civil societies organization capacities regarding the protection of human rights was implemented. Thereby, capacities of NGO sector were strengthened not only to advocate the rights of marginalized groups and other forms of human right violations, but also to be able to protect its own rights, as well as to strengthen mutual relations of thrust and solidarity.”

Suad Numanović, Minister for Human and Minority Rights in Government of Montenegro and a member of the Anti-Discrimination Council, assessed that the “Fast Forward Human rights” project is of “great significance for the finding of strategic landmark for the continuity of fight against discrimination”, as well as it “further enables and improves the activity of the NGO sector, focused towards the promotion and protection of human rights on a national level.” Numanović further stressed that “the fight against all forms of discrimination, recognized as one of the priorities in the work of Government of Montenegro, which is dedicated to full protection and promotion of human and minorities rights of all its citizens.” According to him, the response of state institutions is not less important – the police, Ombudsman and the judiciary system, on the violation of human rights in each particular case. “Their strengthening, and strengthening citizens’ confidence in their actions, are the elements of great importance, which form the basis of negotiations that the government is running with the EU in chapter 23”, Numanović said.

Nj. E. Mitja Drobnič, Head of EU Delegation to Montenegro stated that Montenegro, during the process of EU accession, has to secure adequate legal instruments that will guarantee to each person to fully enjoy their rights. “EU expects from Montenegro to secure that every person fully enjoys his/her rights, not just on paper but also in practice. The 2015 has to be a year with track-record”, Drobnič said. “That is why we strongly support NGOs in their efforts to monitor realization of human rights. We sincerely hope that this project will fast forward the state of human rights in Montenegro, contribute to a better media coverage of those issues and, most importantly, raise awareness of citizens about their rights.” Drobnič concluded.

Keynote speaker of the first session Challenges in the application of modern concept of human rights was Zoran Pažin, Montenegro’s state agent before the European Court for Human Rights who assessed that “the word challenge essentially corresponds to the moment in which Montenegro is currently at, especially when it comes to human rights. Prior to everything, a challenge lies before Montenegro to define what the rule of law is, starting from the fact what is cultural and social reality in Montenegro. Also, we must know what practical application of the rule of law is.” Furthermore, Pažin pointed out to reforms needed when it comes to the way the lawyers in Montenegro are educated, in order to build their capacities to apply European standards.

Bojana Selaković, from CiviC Initiatives, reminded that the region has mutual problems, and that the burning issue is the spread of animosity and xenophobia. “On one hand, we need to exercise the influence on public policies, that the state itself has adopted, and on the other, we need to work on raising the awareness of citizens so that they could practice their rights.” Selaković added.

Milorad Marković, from the Institute of Legal Studies, presented the project “System of application of short term sanctions regarding the deprivation of freedom and alternative criminal sanctions in Montenegro” and pointed out that through the analysis of legal framework they have come across findings that it is necessary to create normative assumptions for the participation of probation (service) in criminal proceedings and to establish a higher level of cooperation and participation of institutions when it comes to probation, as well as a higher level of imposed alternative sanctions and measures and establishment of a system of monitoring the execution of alternative sanctions by the Ombudsman.

Milena Perović Korać reflected at the Monitors’ Center for Democracy and Media project which dealt with political discrimination. “Montenegrin society does have the institute of the change of government which uses political discrimination in order to preserve itself. Researches indicate that political affiliation has become a precondition for the employment within institutions.” Perović Korać concluded.

Marijana Laković Drašković, lawyer, who spoke about Vulnerable groups and (in)visible human rights: rights of persons with disabilities and Montenegrin practice has estimated that “without the guarantees of basic rights and freedoms there can be no healthy collectivity, nor healthy life. That is why not only formally-legal but also factual equality of all citizens needs to be secured, equality in terms of respecting civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.” She particularly mentioned the examples of discrimination against persons with disabilities, even those where discrimination was (in)directly conducted by institutions and organizations involved in the protection of human rights. “As a primary goal in Montenegro, there is a need for a higher level of raising of the awareness of citizens, and especially of public officials concerning legal means for prevention and protection from discrimination, human resources and technical capacities of bodies for the fulfillment of their obligations, planning and programming of short term and midterm goals, further development of legislation in this area, as well as its complete, consistent, and controlled implementation” Laković Drašković concluded.

Speaking about the rights of children and youth with disabilities, Milisav Mimo Korać, from the Union “Our initiative”, reminded that parents of children and youth with disabilities are not quite familiar with their and with rights of their children, but also pointed out numerous problems in the application process of current legislative framework.

“Disabling free access and movement of persons with disability indicates that persons with disabilities are not welcome in our society. Thereby, their basic human rights are being violated, and their dignity is being degraded. Until there is no solution for this problem there can be no talk about respect of human rights, but also about the equalization of possibilities and integration of this population into social community.” considers Dejan Tmušić, from the Association of Paraplegics Cetinje.

Dragana Tripković, estimated that for the ATAK which produced documentary “Living Eyes”, work with blind and visually disabled persons through one complex project was an “improvement in the development of our capacities, as it has launched a new form of expressing art that was not deemed necessary prior to that. For each member of the crew, communication and cooperation with blind and visually disabled persons presents a priceless experience, because they have let us into their world and allowed us to feel a fragment of their everyday life, taught us the values that were either unknown to us or that have subsided in us because of the everyday life we run.”

As a keynote speaker on Overcoming gender inequality in Montenegro: where are we? Nada Drobnjak, President of the Gender Equality Committee of the Parliament of Montenegro concluded that the issue of gender inequality is of great question and foremost “a great challenge because in major part is treated as a women’s issue. Montenegrin society and further calls on stereotypes and we have a situation that women are particularly discriminated against.“ She gave special attention to the relationship of legislative framework and practices in the political participation of women.

Olja Stojanović, from the SOS Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Violence Berane, underlined that the overall objective of the project was to improve the protection and social security of victims of domestic violence, and that specifically work should be focused on strengthening the strategic partnership across sectors in response to domestic violence. She pointed out that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights! We do not look for more, we do not agree for less!

Hatidža Neljaj, from the SOS Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Violence Ulcinj, stressed that it is important to achieve gender equality in the next period, as well as the principle of equal opportunities and in particular the creation of institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women’s rights and implementation of gender equality policies in the municipality of Ulcinj, which in this terms now captures a very bad result.

Jovana Hajduković, from the Shelter, has said that “In Montenegro there are no official figures on the number of children whose parents do not contribute to their maintenance. In practice, most often it is not possible to collect child support because debtors are finding ways to avoid such a legal obligation.” She added that the particular problem is that single-parent families (single parents) are entitled to material security only if they meet the conditions that relate to assets and income.

Ervina Dabižinović pointed out that through the ANIMA project “You Remember, You Ask, You Disturb” focused on recognition of the gender policy approaches and increase in the visibility of women in the political community, giving a contribution to the affirmation of women’s rights and encouraging civil society initiatives that seek alternative dialogue with “political society”.

At the conference, as final activity, certificates to a group of young journalists who have completed training in the development of techniques for monitoring in cases of violations of human rights in Montenegro were delivered. Also, awards for best articles in reporting on human rights in 2014 were for the first time given, where the first prize was assigned for the text Jad, muka i pola Đemove kifle by Ivan Čađenović from Vijesti, second place for the text Vlahović prepisala 2/3 rada od stranih autora by Tina Popović and Mila Radulović from Vijesti, while the third prize shared texst Zašto gladuju radnici Metalca by Milena Perović Korać from Monitor, Sjećanje koje ne zastarjeva: slučaj Štrpci ¬by Zoran Radulović from Monitor and Mijenjaju brojeve predmeta da bi prikrili trajanje sudskih procesa by Mitar Rakčević from Dan.

Fast forward human rights! project was aimed at strengthening the role of civil society in the promotion of human rights and democratic reforms in Montenegro, then to support peaceful harmonization of group interests, as well as to consolidate political participation and representation of citizens. In particular, the project seeks to improve monitoring and protection of human rights in Montenegro through enhanced and active participation of civil society organizations.

The conference gathered app. 80 representatives of the NGO sector, institutions involved with the protection of human rights through different aspects, political parties, media and diplomatic representatives.

Svetlana Pešić, programme associate