Conference on the role of thinks tanks in the policy making process

Our Milena Milošević participated at the conference held in Belgrade with the topic of the role of independent think tanks in the process of policy making, in the time of democratic “regression” of the governments in the region and manipulation of information.

Milena said that the most responsible actors – governments, to which we address the greatest number of recommendations, still do not understand work, role and importance of think tank organizations.

In the process of creating recommendations for better public policies that we address to governments we are faced with their twofold agenda:

  • The first is official, pro-European agenda created by the need to comply with EU standards, which implies civil society active in creation, monitoring and evaluation of public policies
  • The other is unofficial, less formal and more dependent on strong personalities of leaders who can actually benefit from the delays in the EU accession process and have never accepted European values that they supposedly promote.

As evidence of these claims, Milena has provided some information on the situation in Montenegro:

  • The government adopted a new law that was supposed to strengthen links between expert NGOs and sectoral policies of certain ministries. However, on a discretionary basis, ministries crucial to the progress of EU membership negotiations did not organize consultations with civil society organizations and did not include any of the key pillars of the EU accession in funding priorities;
  • The Law on state administration, in the part regulating public debates, was paradoxically amended without a public debate. Initially, the amendments aimed at prohibiting public debates on laws and strategies regulating security and public finances areas, after which additional amendments retained a certain space for civil society participation in policy-making in these areas
  • Members of expert non-governmental organizations in official coordination and supervisory bodies are more often used to provoke discussion on key issues rather than to reach a consensus on specific problems based on evidence gathered and assessment of situation.

„I think that the most important thing that our organization currently does is development and participation in regional cooperation with other organizations from the Western Balkan, as well as participation in regional initiatives for supervision of state institutions’ activities,“ said Milena.

This is most important because it speaks about links between non-governmental organizations and the European Union, other donors and international actors, as well as links with other parts of civil society, especially the media. Civil society and international community often adopt our suggestions and take over and advocate our recommendations, which is also one of the ways to influence governments.

“Unfortunately, this means that we still need to seek support for our recommendations outside the state in order to be more influential. We all know that it would be more desirable to ensure sustainability of local think tanks, to reduce dependence on donors and increase local ownership over our initiatives, which we try to provide through joint cooperation with media and non-governmental organizations,” said Milena. Despite this undesirable situation, it is positive that we can map “reform champions” which most often come from independent supervisory institutions.

The conference was organized as a final event within the project “Raising capacities and advocacy potential towards more substantive involvement of civil society organisations of Visegrad group and Western Balkan countries”, supported by the International Visegrad Fund.

Institute Alternative Team

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