THE HELSINKI COMMITTEE: MISSION AND STRATEGY
As one of the leading NGOs in Serbia, the Helsinki Committee examines
the situation of human rights in Serbia against country's overall socioeconomic and
political context - an approach to the problematic different from those of other human
rights organizations and best mirrored in its annual reports. Here the organization not
only dissects policies and trends affecting the exercise of human rights but also provides
In setting its short- to longer-term priorities in 2008, the Committee
posits the need for continued observation and analysis of the developments, tendencies and
factors that influence Serbia's reformist potential and democratic transition,
"standardization" of public life, response to transitional justice, and the
society's and decision-makers' prevalent mindset, including that towards any otherness
(ethnic, political, religious, etc.). In this context the Committee will be developing
thematic projects and alerting a variety of stakeholders - ranging from governmental
agencies and international organizations to general public - of impermissible policies and
practices, while simultaneously advocating modern world's norms and mainstream, i.e.
The organization's overall mission implies the following lines of
action, i.e. strategic programs:
First - The documentation/research "center," as an
umbrella program meant to uphold both the organization's overall mission and institutional
sustainability. The program capitalizes on tons of (often rare) documents compiled for
almost 20 years, regular analyses and press clippings, the organization's human resources
and the capacity to attract/engage members of liberal intelligentsia, as well as on the
library of the Committee's editions/documentaries and those of other publishers/producers.
The program is the more so important since it enables development of thematic projects and
publishing of annual reports and other editions. Besides, researchers, scholars,
post-graduates, etc. from home and abroad have been regularly turning to the Committee for
specific editions and other documents. In order to be fully functional and supportive of
the organization's overall mission, the program needs regular financial support to cover
(at least partially) the expenses ineligible under thematic projects (rent, salaries to
the staff not working on specific projects, utilities, etc.) and qualitative and
quantitative enlargement, i.e. further cataloguing and procurement of pertinent literature
published in the ex-Yugoslav region and worldwide.
Second - "Facing the past/truth" - i.e. transitional
justice - as the organization's landmark program. It is under this program that the
Committee has been issuing the Helsinki Charter magazine for 12 years now, published some
130 books, held umpteen panel discussions, produced eleven 60-minute documentaries, etc.
The Committee has also been cooperating with the ICTY from the very beginning by providing
it with ample material that throws light on the context of and the major factors in
ex-Yugoslavia's disintegration. The program also includes awareness-raising about causes
and consequences of ex-Yugoslavia's disintegration, and advocates accountability for the
war crimes committed "in the name of the nation" in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and
Serbia proper, and lustration. Here the work that interlinks the organization's major
strategic lines aims to help achieving" moral minimum" for Serbia's
normalization and the society's capacity to overcome the legacy of Milosevic's criminal
regime, but also that of nationalistic policies pursued after October 5, 2000.
Third - Serbia's Europeanization, i.e. the advocacy for adoption
of the standards of accountability in public life, particularly in the domain of
parliamentarianism. This is about a new strategic concern, necessitated by the fact that
Serbia ranks high on the list of most corrupted states in the world, and lacks mechanisms
that would regulate the rights and duties of institutions, elected officials and public
servants towards the legal system and citizens, as well as a normative system that would
regulate the same vis-a-vis institutions and citizens. The great bulk of this program will
prioritize parliamentary transparency and accountability, including public discourse of
elected representatives, and the work with local and women parliamentarians, particularly
in multiethnic communities (such as Vojvodina) and those where minorities make the
majority (such as Sandzak and South Serbia).
Fourth - Educational outreaches for the young. By dealing with
young people from all over Serbia - raised and educated either in the atmosphere of
warring propaganda or against the backdrop of distorted values and still subjected to
misguiding notions through educational system - the program aims to capacitate as many as
possible teens, young adults and young professionals to think critically of the past and
the present alike, and eventually emerge as community leaders and reformist policymakers.
Fifth - "Human rights culture" program. On the one
hand, the program focuses implementation of major international and European conventions
and instruments for the protection of fundamental human rights and, in particular, the
rights of persons deprived of their liberty (prisoners, institutionalized psychiatric
patients, etc.) and socially marginalized/vulnerable groups; on the other, it is concerned
with the position of ethnic minorities, and aims at upholding the society's multiethnic
and multicultural tissue.
Sixth - The "crises resolution/conflict-prevention"
program. It aims at overcoming not only the Serb-Albanian rancor and anxieties of Kosovo
Serbs living in enclaves, but also at lessening the tensions characteristic of Serbia's
multiethnic regions such as Sandzak and South Serbia heavily burdened by the legacy of
gross violations of human rights, war crimes, persecutions, ethnically motivated violence,
state-orchestrated repression, etc, in the past, and prone to political manipulation in
the present. The program mostly brings together people from antagonized ethnic
communities, indicates the avenues for the life "under the same roof" and
provides actual assistance in the process of integration into a larger community.