Experts: Balkan conferences should be more effective
While dialogue about issues is beneficial, results should be the priority.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka — 19/07/13
The media reports daily on conferences, seminars and roundtables organised in the region. [Drazen Remikovic/SETimes]
Governments, civil society and international organisations hold numerous conferences in the Balkans but critics said such gatherings are wasteful unless they offer specific solutions and become more inclusive.
„It is clear seminars are conducted to solve some problems in society. But at these seminars there is no society, no ordinary citizens; usually present are the same people, the same professions. [Also] a problem was defined, but nobody offered a solution,“ Stefan Karadaglic, psychology student from Mostar, told SETimes.
Many suggest money used for conferences will be better spent if invested in projects that provide tangible benefits, according to Mirhunisa Zukic, president of the Association of Refugees in BiH.
„We seek specific funds for specific projects — homes, refugee returns, land and infrastructure. These are conferences for conferences‘ sake. The same things are repeated at such meetings for years,“ Zukic told SETimes.
Experts said there is no data about how many conferences, seminars and roundtables are organised or about their cost.
„Organisers spend enormous resources. You cannot organise a conference today for less than 10,000 euros,“ Suad Arnautovic, professor at the Political Science Faculty in Sarajevo, told SETimes.
Arnautovic said such gatherings usually last two to three days and are not subject to monitoring and evaluation. He said conferences‘ impact should be evaluated against specific benchmarks, such as proposed laws or similar outcomes.
„That would be a success, and not just to say that corruption exists and we should fight it; that is something we all know,“ Arnautovic said.
The calls for results-driven events are based on the post-war and post-transition realities in much of the Balkans.
„When I see the one-day cost for a seminar is as much as the yearly cost for a public kitchen for a year, then that is wrong. I am embarrassed to get into a luxury hotel and then talk about people who have nothing to eat,“ Djoko Mihajlovic, director of the Red Cross of Republika Srpska, told SETimes.
Often conference donors‘ priorities are not the people’s priorities, according to Zoran Stojiljkovic, professor at the Political Science Faculty in Belgrade.
„For example, there is a lot of talk about the LGBT population, but only small number of conferences deals with the social status of citizens and their basic economic problems,“ Stojiljkovic told …………..SETimes.