Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans.
Belgrade’s name translates to ”White city”. Over 1.65 million people live within its administrative limits.
One of the most important prehistoric cultures of Europe, the Vinča culture, evolved within the Belgrade area in the 6th millennium BCE (Before Common Era). As a strategic location, the city was battled over in 115 wars and razed to the ground 44 times. Belgrade was the capital of Yugoslavia from its creation in 1918, to its final dissolution in 2006.
Freja Forum 2009 was held in Belgrade in November and gathered approximately 180 participants from 9 countries. The largest group of participants came from Serbia. The delegation from Albania had to cancel their participation due to practical issues. Responsible host for the Forum was the Association of Business Women in Serbia.
In accordance with the main theme an exhibition called “Women creative and innovative business”, and regional B2B events were organized in partnership with EEN.
In accordance with European year 2009 devoted to innovation and creativity, the focus of the Freja Forum 2009 was on participation of civil society organizations in different human activities with creative and innovative approaches, aiming to contribute quality of life enhancement.
”Quality of life” clearly embraces a very wide area of policy interests, with a particular need to map and understand disparities associated with age, gender, health, income, social class and region.
Many speakers, experts and participants contributed to the forum.
Dušica Semencenko, from the Association of Business Women in Serbia, did the opening remarks.
Rini Reza, UNDP Deputy President Representative and Joel Ahlberg, Manager NGO Funding Program of Folke Bernadotte Academy, did additional opening remarks.
A representative for the Swedish Embassy in Serbia attended the opening session and expressed support for the work with the Freja Forum.
Key speakers were Jasna Matić, Ministry of communication and Information Serbia, who spoke on the subject Digital Serbia.
Sanja Perner, director, GONG, Croatia, spoke about Democracy and the role of NGO:s in Croatia.
Development in rural areas from equal opportunities perspective was the title of the key speak from Dušica Perišić, Director of local self‐governments union, Macedonia.
Finally, Milan Mrdja, Civil Society Promotion Center, Bosnia‐Hercegovina spoke on Civil society dialog challenges in Bosna and Hercegovina.
The second day of the Forum contained five different seminars in the morning and 15 workshops in the afternoon. Parallel to these events an exhibition was shown in the lobby area outside the meeting premises.
On the third and final day of the Forum a Forum debate was held, facilitated by Sanja Popovic‐Pantic, Serbia and Bertil Mattsson, Sweden.
In an audience response session were among other questions about trust and hope for the future.
- 67% of the participants from the Balkan countries mean that NGOs want to or are playing a leading role in the democratic progress, but are stopped by administrative and/or political barriers.
- Older participants mean to a greater extent than younger that NGOs are stopped.
- Men mean to a greater extent than women that NGOs are or can play a leading role.
- Men were more into agreement with the statement that ”it will a process on equal opportunities between men and women in my country within the next five years”. 73% agree compared to 58% of the women.
- Most positive were the Macedonian participants (74%) and most pessimistic were the Serbian (47%) and the Bosnian (50%) participants.