15 years of Centre for Civic Education (CCE) – questioning borders

Fifteen years ago, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) was established, ascribing itself a mission of necessary modernization of Montenegrin society, thus becoming a part of relatively small group of non-governmental organizations still struggling for adequate social and political positioning.

This was a large, perhaps even venerable, task for at the time being limited capacities, although strongly supported with enthusiasm. However, can one move any further without a vision? Can seemingly insurmountable borders be crossed without a dream of better? We believe it cannot, and without such vision we would have not been able to subsist for a decade and a half, to have been institutionally established, to have become recognizable and credible within our and international public, to have directly involved more than 5,000 Montenegrins citizens in our educational and related programmes, to have influenced legislative and policy-making processes…

Long is list of initiatives, projects and endeavors that included even some pioneering steps. It moves in a wide range from establishing the first educational programme for European integration when this issue was not even on the social and political agenda, and even less within the framework of institutions of the system, advocating for and support of introduction of civic education into regular educational system, followed by Democracy School, the oldest alternative educational programme dedicated to learning and applying democratic principles in order to raise the level of democratic political culture in Montenegro, then the Human Rights School through which decision-makers, as well as generations of young people, learned about the modern concept of human rights, to addressing some of the neuralgic aspects of the Montenegrin society, such as dealing with the past, LGBT rights, corruption in education, media financing from public funds, the need to develop political memory, following up with modern tendencies of critical thought, and so on.

Often, these our efforts have denuded all the imperfection and political captivity of institutions. I understand that there are those who do not like my narrative, as well as what the CCE is doing. I will paraphrase one of the few leaders of a serious format from the region who tragically perished: we are not here to be liked by anyone. Additionally, we do not fight for anyone’s votes, we do not depend on any structure, we rely on our mission based on values and on our work and knowledge. It sometimes carries a dose of provocativeness, confrontation that is not immanent to Montenegrin society, but in the case of CCE, it is honest, open and consistent, and who has the capacity to accept diversity can recognize also a constructive dimension.

Consequently, CCE and CCE employees remained subject to various types of pressures and threats, including the most fatal abuse of institutions of the system, smear media campaigns, organized bots on portals for anonymous defamation and labeling on social networks. However, in the end, this had a counter-effect in relation to the plans of these unworthy masterminds and executers. In such circumstances, we have actually broken through our own limits of endurance, but also the determination not to back away. From this time distance, we can even thank them – without this ‘help’ of theirs we would not have had toughened up.

Conclusively, a little about people without whom nothing can be built … In these 15 years, as a part of the core team of CCE, 50 great people worked who selflessly gave their self and their best years through the projects that we implemented and initiatives that we launched. Part of them continued their professional careers in other areas, both in the country and abroad, thus leaving their qualitative mark in every place. We are infinitely grateful to them and to numerous of our associates from the academic and artistic sphere, NGO sector, judiciary, Government, political parties, international organizations, etc. because with their enthusiasm, openness and expertise, as well as other forms of support and trust, they had helped us to shape our programmes, to become what we now are, while constantly questioning our borders in efforts to contribute to Montenegro being a democratic society of responsible citizens.

Mission of the struggle for civic concept of understanding society that will not limit basic human rights and freedoms by party and other restrictions, and in which the dignity of personality will be respected still endures. It is nowadays, as it seems, even more crucial, in order to trigger a critical wave of civic approach that does not have a magic wand in this vicious circle, but is ready to fight for freedom of each individual and fundamental values.

Imaginative, impenetrable, blood-soaked, fluid, natural, conventional, insurmountable, open or fenced with barbed wire – borders are dancing everywhere around us. On the borderline, we show who and what we are, that is where we begin or cease to be. Borders define us and we define borders.’, wrote our colleague Paula Petricevic in the introductory of catalogue for FAST FORWARD Human Rights Film Festival, that we are organizing this year for eighth time.

We continue to question our borders and their limitlessness. We have moved some, but many are still present… We encourage also all of you to do it, starting from those borders that are the most powerful and complex in ourselves, which are the expression of our perception of the world and our place in it, namely of how far and how we want to tread it… This choice of questioning borders is a check of integrity, intellectual capacities, emotional openness, ethical principles, and even courage. This is often hell hard, but their questioning and bridging is worth the trace that we can leave in constructing a profoundly needed civic framework and content of this society.

The author is Executive director of the Centre for Civic Education (CCE)