Dobar dan ! So it s been a week now that you haven’t heard from me and you may wonder if I landed safely considering the ongoing missing planes… I should first start by reassuring you, -I m safe, don’t worry-. I took a couple of days to settle down, find an accommodation, get used to Beograd, understand the tram lines and dare to use them… I almost feel at home now in the room that is mine, rent to a lovely Serbian girl who happens to be my roommate and luckily for me, a student in English. This secure feeling is in great part due to the warm and welcoming spirit Serbians have. From the man who crosses the road to make sure you went in the right direction to find the place you were looking for, to the people who offer you a ride when you were just asking directions, passing by all the persons you meet in coffees who approach you to teach you how to count in Serbian (something like yedan, dvi, tre, cetri, pet, chest, sedam, osam, devet, deset…to reach ten) or to tell you more about their lives and history throughout the Balkans wars. On this latter point, I have been really surprised to see how people talk freely about the past decade, and how there is something about them that seems to say ‘We’re sorry for what happened’, just as if they were all on the same boat in foreigners’ eyes and they had to justify and excuse every act their Serbian counterparts did. In another way, they find it hard to take distance from what they perceive as a badly connoted reputation that precedes them. But to be honest, this reputation doesn’t really reflect what it today means to be a Serb.
Here is how Beograd introduces himself to the tourist
While discovering step by step all the secrets and traditions Belgrade has to offer, I, of course, had to do the job I was sent here for, that is to say helping with the launching on disarming domestic violence with the great support of the Victimology Society of Serbia (VDS). The first week was mainly devoted to the discovery of this Non Governmental Organization, founded to gather researchers, experts, practitioners, human rights activists, who are interested to work on the development of victimology and improvement of rights of victims of crime, war, and human rights’ violations. So the first dimension of VDS is very scholar and research related. But to adapt to an evolving environment, VDS not only is a research and education center, it also developed info and victim support services in 2003 that can be concrete help to the victims in need who can get information, emotional support, or can be wisely oriented to the existing services available for victims.
Founded in 1997, VDS hasn’t stopped growing since: It went from 37 members the very day of its creation, to 91 members today and is collaborating with many victim support services, NGOS, institutes and universities, both in Serbia and abroad. It gained recognition by integrating European and international organizations working on victims and crimes issues (since 2005, it is for example part of the advisory council of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice program) . But it also gained recognition because it was very often a pioneer organization to reveal and rise awareness on specific issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking or sexual violence and achieved concrete results in changing or creating comprehensive legislation: We’ll have the opportunity to come back on this in a future post.
One latter point on this institutional background to be complete and then I guarantee what is to come will be less conventional and technical … but in a NGO sector that is sometimes blurry, multifaceted, and defined by what it s not (as opposed to the governmental sector), I think it s useful to know precisely what we are talking about and set the stage correctly. So any time I mention the fact that I work for a NGO, the first question that pops up to people minds deals with its funding. From what I could understand, a lot of persons are cautious as regard the positive role played by the third sector here in Serbia because many of it is funded by external national powers, whose aims are not to seek direct benefits for Serbia itself but rather to achieve goals that correspond to their “own way of thinking the world”. Its not the case of VDS which is principally supported by international institutions, the European union and its European Agency for reconstruction, and by the government of Serbia itself, through the ministry of Science.
Now you’re in and equipped with all the preliminary information you need to effectuate that adventure with me… Be ready to start, we re heading right into the inner work of VDS and right into what should occupies us for the next couple of weeks, the focus on domestic violence and its link to the use of arms…
Posted By Fanny Grandchamp
Posted Jun 17th, 2009