First regional meeting organized in Nis to promote the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Sladjan as a Ban Advocate and his support team

Sladjan as a Ban Advocate, and his support team, organized a regional meeting to promote the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in Nis, on 11th May 2011 for the first time.

Other Ban Advocates from Serbia, Dejan and Branislav, as well as from Albania, Ardiana, joined the meeting. Four campaigners from Bosnia Herzegovina, another campaigner from Albania and two campaigners from Macedonia also joined the meeting (cf. group of campaigners in the picture).

The meeting was attended by around 50 people. The audience was mainly composed by members of local authorities of Nis, members of local civil society organizations of Nis, campaigners from neighbouring countries, Ban Advocates and media representatives.

The Deputy Ambassador of Austria to Serbia, Mr. Wolfgang Wagner, delivered a strong speech to promote the accession of Serbia to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). Other speeches were delivered by the Nis City Councillor, Mrs. Dusica Davidovic; the Mayor of the Mediana County, Mr. Dragoslav Cirkovic; Ban Advocates Sladjan Vuckovic and Dejan Dikic; Ban Advocate Project Coordinator, Ms. Stéphanie Castanié; Professor Mr. Al. Srbobran Miljkovic engaged in the psychological follow up of victims in Serbia; Mr. Aleksandar Blatnik, an artist; Mr. Amir Mujanovic, a campaigner from Bosnia Herzegovina; and Mr. Ilir Shkalla, a campaigner from Albania.

The event was covered extensively by several local and national media (newspapers, radio, and television). Sladjan was also interviewed several times on TV direct shows.

The objectives of this meeting were to advocate for the accession of Serbia to the CCM and share experiences on concrete victim assistance actions implemented in the region. We all hope that this meeting has enabled us to raise more awareness on the need for Serbia to accede as soon as possible to the CCM, and improve victim assistance (even before acceding to the CCM), especially in Nis, which has been heavily affected by cluster munitions.

Indeed, in May 2009, Serbia repeated that a large obstacle to assisting persons with disabilities is that the exact number of survivors still has not been determined, but it is estimated to be between 1,300 and 8,000.

Mainly because of a lack of casualty and service database, Serbia has made little progress since 2005 in victim assistance. As of the end of 2009, no victim assistance has been developed and no progress has been identified toward the 2005-2009 victim assistance objectives that Serbia presented in 2005.

Moreover, as of 2009, there is no real victim assistance/disability coordinating body. Mechanisms for government/civil society coordination that include survivors have not been established. There is also an apparent lack of political will to prioritize the needs of survivors.

Some suggestions (cf. Voices from the Ground report conducted by Handicap International in 2009) for the way forward were provided during the meeting.

Let’s hope that in Serbia decision makers will start acknowledging the survivors’ needs so that their rights can be respected.