The Western Balkans has witnessed the emergence of a considerable number of influential advocacy organizations and think tanks in the last two decades. Acknowledged by donors and governments alike, these two types of organizations have grown into a small, but stable and important part of civil society in their respective countries. Notwithstanding their constructive and important place, their input to policy processes needs to be improved/streamlined in light of the increasing number of overdue reforms at national levels, the stalled processes of EU integration, as well as the resurfacing of authoritarian tendencies across the region.
While various donors have unequivocally supported activities of these organizations, exchange of practices and learning from peers has been sporadic and uneven across the region. Moreover, the exchanges hitherto have often been either directed by donors or were a part of a broader range of capacity building activities.
Three key factors shape the context in which this event would take place:
- dysfunctional or broken policy processes characterized by persistently low demand by policy makers for outsiders’ analysis and independent monitoring;
- relatively modest capacity of these organizations and unfortunate duplication of efforts to cover all relevant topics at the national level; and
- convergence in the work styles and practices of think tanks and accountability organizations, a trend that has emerged in the last couple of years.
This event brings together think tanks and advocacy organizations as well as donors to address these issues and open new avenues for future cooperation. Its organizers do not have any preconceived ideas to float and impose at the event. It is not our goal to spearhead establishment of any networks, regional platforms or anything similar. Likewise, while we expect participants to suggest new ideas and forge new partnerships throughout the event, the organizers do not consider the event as a direct laboratory for designing new projects that they would later underwrite.
The event is jointly organized and supported by: the Open Society Foundations' Think Tank Fund and Human Rights and Governance Grants Program, The Balkan Trust for Democracy, National Endowment for Democracy, European Fund for the Balkans, and the Fund for an Open Society–Serbia.
Follow the debates live on the Balkan Peer Exchange Facebook page.