Europeanisation meets democracy from below: The Western Balkans on the search for new European and democratic Momentum (WB2EU)

Civil society: a driver for democratisation from below in Serbia, Radomir Aleksić & Luka Milovanović & Mirjana Đorđević, ÖGfE Policy Brief, 13’2023

This Policy Brief explores the concept of „democratisation from below“ as a bottom-up approach to democracy, emphasising the active role of citizens and civil society organisations in promoting and sustaining democratic values. It highlights the various ways in which civil society organisations contribute to this process. The benefits of democratisation from below are increased citizen engagement, improved governance, more inclusive decision-making, and a stronger civil society.

This Policy Brief also provides specific examples from Serbia, showcasing the power of individual actions and initiatives to bring about positive change. It discusses how citizen education plays a vital role in mobilising support for grassroots movements, as demonstrated by the successful campaign against lithium mining. Furthermore, it presents cases where individuals have used bottom-up democratic approaches to influence legislation, such as the „Marija’s Law“ and „Tijana’s Law“ initiatives. The article concludes by highlighting the importance of citizen assemblies and the role of civil society organisations in empowering marginalised groups.

Overall, this Policy Brief emphasises the significance of citizen participation, education, and civil society engagement in promoting democracy and achieving social change.

Policy Recommendations

  1. It is necessary to create mechanisms for better informing and educating citizens on the importance and power of civic activism and to encourage them to believe that change is indeed possible. That could be done, for instance, by exchanging best-practise examples of active advocacy that have produced results.
  2. The concept of citizens’ assemblies and other forms of deliberative democracy like deliberative polls and citizen juries should be further developed and adapted to the situation and problems in Serbia.
  3. It is important that civil society organisations actively work on the internal and external development of existing capacities as well as the creation of new ones to assist marginalised groups, especially at the local level.

In Serbia, there has been a decline in parliamentary effectiveness and formal citizen participation.

The Policy Brief is published in the framework of the WB2EU project. The project aims at the establishment of a network of renowned think-tanks, do-tanks, universities, higher education institutes and policy centres from the Western Balkans, neighbouring countries and EU member states that will be most decisive for the enlargement process and Europeanisation of the region in the upcoming years. The WB2EU project is co-funded by the European Commission under its Erasmus+ Jean Monnet programme. The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Photo: monkeybusiness / Envato

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