51 civil society organizations against further deterioration of economic and social rights in Serbia

The initiative for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that the A 11 – Initiative for Economic and Social Rights submitted to the Office for Human and Minority Rights was rejected without due justification. 

Although the Office for Human and Minority Rights was obliged to, in line with its competences defined by the Regulation on the Office for Human and Minority Rights, as well as the procedure envisioned by the Law on Conclusion and Execution of International Treaties, receive the initiative and submit a proposal for the signing and ratification of this international treaty to the Government of the Republic, the Office failed to do so and simply forwarded the initiative to the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs. Upon receiving the initiative, the said Ministry simply rejected it without a single word of justification for such action.

While the current state narrative is that the general economic situation in Serbia is improving, the fact is that NGO and NHRI reports point out that the number of citizens facing economic and social rights violations is on the rise, and that Serbia is one of the countries with the largest gap between the rich and the poor.

While welfare beneficiaries have been stigmatized for years according to various allegations of violations, financial social welfare amounts to less than 90 euros per month and the majority of beneficiaries receive it only nine months annually.   

While the state indicates that the socially vulnerable are unwilling to work, the truth is that those who are capable of working perform unqualified jobs in order to be able to exercise their right to welfare. Via the application of the illegal and unconstitutional Decree on Measures of Social Inclusion of Beneficiaries of Financial Social Assistance, at least 10,000 users were forced to perform unpaid, compulsory work in order to preserve their right to financial social assistance.

While the state talks about the decrease in unemployment, Serbia continues to advance politics of flexibilisation of work and reduction of workers’ rights, while the minimum wage threshold is below what is needed for a dignified life.

While special laws are being adopted in order to build cheap housing for soldiers, police officers and members of state security agencies, Serbia has a tax on poverty – refugees, IDPs and social housing users are being charged with property tax for social housing units while numerous issues in the area of housing remain unsolved.

While it is being pointed out that care for the most vulnerable is a priority issue, the truth is that the budget of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs is decreasing, that austerity measures and especially the decrease in pensions affected the most vulnerable citizens, especially pensioners, and that these policies reduce the achieved level of human and minority rights.

While the importance of population growth and the need for there to be “more of us” is being pointed out, laws are being adopted that decrease remuneration for new mothers, discriminate entire groups of women and prevent Roma children from receiving financial social aid necessary for their development.

While healthcare is being presented as a key issue, the Draft Law on Health Insurance prescribes that citizens who fail to go to their screening appointments will have to pay 35% of the price of treatment. This 35% is an amount many will be unable to pay due to low income and poverty.

For years, citizens of Serbia have not been able to get adequate and efficient judicial protection for any of these economic and social rights violations.

The ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would enable Serbian citizens to, upon exhausting all available domestic legal remedies, seek protection of their rights in front of the Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Because of this, we undersigned demand from the Government of the Republic of Serbia that it finally initiate a dialogue on the state of affairs in the field of economic and social rights in order to evaluate which policies are detrimental to the realization of these rights.

Furthermore, we demand that the Government of the Republic of Serbia inform its citizens as to why recommendations of international human rights bodies that Serbia received in order to improve economic and social rights and protect citizens in case of violations thereof are being rejected.

These are also the steps that need to be taken in order for the Republic of Serbia to fulfill its obligations in regard to the respect for international treaties which guarantee economic and social rights and the development of a society based on solidarity, social justice and dignity for all citizens of Serbia.

 

  1. A 11 – Initiative for Economic and Social Rights
  2. Academy of Female Leadership
  3. AS –Center for the Empowerment of Young Persons Living with HIV and AIDS
  4. ASTRA
  5. Atina – Citizens’ Association for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and All Forms of Gender-Based Violence
  6. Autonomous Women’s Center
  7. Belgrade Center for Human Rights
  8. Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence
  9. BIRODI – Bureau for Social Research
  10. Center for Dignified Work
  11. Center of Modern Skills
  12. Center for Democratic Development EUROPOLIS
  13. Center for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities Serbia
  14. CeSID
  15. Citizens’ Association Women for Peace
  16. Civil Rights Defenders
  17. Counselling for Lesbians
  18. CPD – Child Rights Center
  19. CPE – Center for the Politics of Emancipation
  20. CRTA
  21. Cultural Center DamaD
  22. Da se zna! 
  23. Dijalog Net
  24. FemPlatz
  25. Foundation Center for Democracy
  26. Gayten-LGBT
  27. Group 484
  28. Housing Center – Housing Development Center for Socially Vulnerable Groups
  29. IAN
  30. Internet portal Dialogue Net
  31. Institute for Urban Politics
  32. Liceulice
  33. Mental Disability Rights Initiative of Serbia
  34. Novi Sad Humanitarian Center
  35. NUNS – Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia
  36. Open Society Foundation Serbia
  37. PIN
  38. Policy Center
  39. Praxis
  40. Prof. dr Zoran Stojiljković, president of Serbian Citizens’ Association Independence
  41. Reconstruction Women’s Fund
  42. SOS Vojvodina Network
  43. Trag Foundation
  44. Coalition of Serbian Patients’ Associations
  45. Union of Serbian Judiciary
  46. Učitelj neznalica
  47. Youth Initiative for Human Rights
  48. YUCOM – Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights
  49. YUROM Center
  50. ZA Krov nad glavom
  51. Women in Black
  52. Women’s Center Užice