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"The core objective of the public administration, of every municipal, city or national institution, is to improve the quality of life of citizens, especially the most vulnerable ones. The success of any activity of the public administration requires dedicated professionals, who have established the basis for a systemic and widely accessible mechanism of free legal support through the work of the citizens’ advisory services, while ensuring better access to rights for citizens", highlighted Saša Mogić, Assistant Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, and announced the adoption of the Programme for the Local Self-Government System Reform in the near future.
With the support of the Government of Switzerland, provided through the Swiss PRO Programme within the Call for Proposals under the motto "Easier Way to Your Rights", support worth almost EUR 200,000 in total was awarded for projects aimed at establishing and operating citizens’ advisory services in Babušnica, Bela Palanka, Ćuprija, Čajetina, Knić, Krupanj, Mali Crnić, Medveđa, Rača, Svilajnac, Sjenica, Surdulica and Žagubica.
"Through these projects, local self-governments have achieved an exceptional result, especially when we look back at the previous year, which was very difficult and with a lot of restrictions. Switzerland will continue to support social inclusion activities and this area will occupy a significant place in our four-year cooperation programme that we are currently developing", said Petar Vasilev, National Program Officer of the Swiss Cooperation Office.
The projects were implemented in the period from June 2019 to April 2021 through the provision of legal support in the form of assistance for the filling out of forms, writing submissions, giving legal advice and general legal information, and involved the engagement of law graduates, procurement of the necessary equipment for the operation of citizens’ advisory services housed in municipal buildings, as well as work on the ground.
"During the implementation of the projects, the Law on Free Legal Aid was adopted, so these projects also served as a good preparatory activity for acting in accordance with the new law. From among 13 projects, the engagement of lawyers will continue in as many as eight local self-governments, thus ensuring the sustainability of the intervention and continuity in the provision of this type of service", said Ana Nedeljković Belja, National Programme Manager of the Swiss PRO Programme.
The profile of supported beneficiaries is diverse and shows that advisory services have been provided to those who need them the most, as indicated by Nataša Ivanović, Social Inclusion Officer of the Swiss PRO Programme.
"Out of the total number of 3,517 beneficiaries of the citizens’ advisory services, more than 1,500 were women, almost 900 were Roma, also almost 900 older persons, slightly less than 800 were unemployed persons and 270 persons with disabilities. In most of the cases, the support was provided in the field of social protection, followed by the fields of municipal and communal services, and family and inheritance law", said Ivanović.
For more information on the results in the work of the 13 citizens’ advisory services please visit the Project Results Factsheet.