Belgrade, Serbia, 27 October 2011 – Much has been done since mid-2010 in the 13 South Serbian municipalities targeted by the “safer cities” component of the United Nations PBILD (peace-building) programme, to which the European Forum contributed as an expert. A series of local safety audits have been conducted in these towns, which has allowed them to develop a knowledge base on safety and security issues shared by local actors, and reviewed under existing institutional arrangements and policies. This knowledge base was then translated into local safety strategies. Implementation is currently beginning with the first projects being undertaken according to the action plans.
In many of the municipalities concerned by this programme, drug abuse, road safety and family violence are issues of concern. Moreover, small but significant problems such as stray dogs caught the attention of local authorities. Also, local actors stress the importance of strengthening cooperation among stakeholders.
Local partnerships for urban safety is therefore an important issue. The fact that all local stakeholders have joined together in this initiative is in itself an important step, even though there is room for improvement. At the start of the audit project, six municipalities had recently created a local safety council. The project contributed to strengthen and bring them to life. In the wake of this project, six other municipalities created a local safety council.
The PBILD conference “Sharing experiences on urban safety and violence prevention in Serbia”, which took place on 27 October 2011 in the Serbia Palace of Belgrade, allowed to share these experiences and achievements. The results were well received by participants: representatives of the Serbian government, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Serbian conference of Towns and Municipalities, and the donor countries Spain, Switzerland and Norway. One of the key features of the conference was the exchange of experiences and practices with other Serbian municipalities and regions, several of which had participated in a previous Safer Cities project in Serbia in 2008 (SIRP), to which Efus also contributed.
In total, 29 municipalities and regions attended the event, which in itself is a proof of the progress Serbia has made in the field of local crime prevention. Having experienced the benefits of inter-city cooperation –not only amongst participants in the PBILD project, but also with those who had participated in the previous project (Settlement and Integration of Refugees, or SIRP), and through European examples provided by Efus- Serbian municipalities agreed to increase their cooperation.
Expressing their desire to build on what they have already achieved, participants announced the creation of a Serbian association of towns working on the theme of crime prevention, which will be the equivalent of a Serbian forum for urban security. On top of bringing closer together South Serbia municipalities, such an organisation could also benefit from the opportunities that will rise when Serbia joins the European Union. Also, participants said they wish to work closely with Efus. They called for the support of the PBILD programme to create this new forum. For its part, Efus welcomes this initiative, and will help Serbian municipalities to constitute such a network, which would be part of the European Forum.
Peacebuilding and Inclusive Local Development (PBILD) is a UN Joint Programme, which works towards inclusive, peaceful and sustainable development in South Serbia. In co-operation with a number of national partners, there are six specialised UN agencies implementing the Joint Programme: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Labour Organization (ILO), and International Organization for Migration (IOM)