National Endowment for Democracy
Publications >> Staff Testimonies and Presentations
Hearing of the Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe
"The Milosevic Regime Versus Serbian Democracy and Balkan Stability"


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission:

I am pleased to appear this morning to address this important issue. I represent the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private, nonprofit organization created in 1983 to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts. With its annual congressional appropriation, NED makes hundreds of grants each year to support prodemocracy groups in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and the former Soviet Union. Many NED-funded programs have been conducted by the Endowment's four core institutes: the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS). A substantial portion of the work has been carried out by scores of other organizations abroad (some with partners in the U.S.) working in such areas as independent media, human rights, civic education, rule of law, and conflict resolution.

NED has been assisting democracy building programs in the former Yugoslavia since 1988, and in Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo since the disintegration of the Yugoslav Federation. During the wars of Yugoslav succession and the U.N. embargo, NED was one of the few Western organizations, along with the Soros Foundation and some European foundations, to make grants in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), and to work with local NGOs and independent media throughout the country. The NED concentrates its funding in the following areas:

1) Independent media
NED programs have helped ensure the survival of a number of independent media and helped break the stranglehold of government-dominated media in Serbia by strengthening influential sources of objective information. NED assistance has enabled newspapers, radio and TV stations to purchase desperately-needed supplies and equipment, including newsprint and broadcast transmitters. Past grantees have included the newspapers Nasa Borba, Vreme, and Danas, an independent TV station in eastern Serbia, TV Negotin, the prominent news agency BETA, and the important Belgrade station, Radio B-92. In addition, the Association for Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) received Endowment funds to expand its high-quality news programming which is broadcast throughout Serbia/Montenegro through ANEM's wide network of affiliate radio stations. NED funds have also been used to bring talented young journalists from the FRY to the United States for professional internships.
2) Non-governmental organizations
a) Human rights organizations

NED grants have been used to promote greater respect for human rights and improved inter-ethnic relations. For example, NED funding is providing assistance to the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC), the most important domestic nongovernmental source of information on human rights practices in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), to continue the operations of its branch office in Kosovo which monitors the human rights situation in the province, and investigates and documents cases of human rights abuse. b) Youth participation in politics and youth leadership

If Serbia is to develop into a truly democratic state, young people must be encouraged to participate in the political process and a new generation of leaders must be prepared to take responsibility for the country's future. With Endowment support, the Center for Democracy Foundation, a prominent Belgrade-based nongovernmental organization led by Dragoljub Micunovic, organized a School for Democracy for secondary and university students in Serbia in Subotica in July 1997. The forum helped facilitate the exchange of ideas and promote cooperation between young activists who are committed to reforming Serbia's moribund political and economic system.

c) Think tanks

NED has a particular interest in supporting independent think tanks and research institutes which focus on policy development and the promotion of civil society. The Belgrade Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has received NED assistance to encourage Serb academics, journalists and civic activists to participate directly in the formation of policy for the democratic political opposition in Serbia. With this support, the BCHR is establishing a Legislative and Constitutional Policy Group (LCPG) which will address fundamental issues affecting Serbia's future and propose courses of action that will promote democracy in the country.

d) NGO development and networking

NED is committed to supporting the struggling NGO sector at the grass-roots level. The Center for Anti-War Action (CAA) has received Endowment funding to promote the development of an independent civil society in Serbia by fostering political activism in the country's larger towns and cities and by strengthening nascent nongovernmental organizations outside of Belgrade. CAA has established regional affiliates in four key provincial cities in Serbia whose core activities are town meetings and educational seminars. Through this program, CAA is encouraging cooperation and information exchange between local NGOs and developing their organizational, networking and conflict resolution skills.
3) Trade Unions
With NED funding, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity continues to assist UGS Nezavisnost, a multi-ethnic trade union confederation which opposes the Milosevic regime. As its 300,000 members cope with unemployment, political repression and general economic decay, Nezavisnost has continued to oppose the anti-democratic policies of the government, counteract the regime's propaganda, and challenge the hegemony of the Serbian political elite and the unions they control.
4) Promoting Economic Reform
NED assistance encourages the development of new thinking in Serbian economic reform policy. The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), in coordination with the European Movement of Serbia (EMS) and the G-17 group of independent economists, is conducting a research program to identify barriers to private sector development at the local and federal levels and to promote legislative change. EMS is working with local communities to develop strategies for private sector growth within the framework of open competition and public/private cooperation. EMS is publicizing its activities and recommendations through a coordinated campaign of debates, seminars, and media outreach.
CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE

Western assistance organizations should give increased attention to following areas of work:

Independent media
Western organizations should increase direct support to the independent media in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. Special attention should be given to supporting the independent electronic media in Serbia, such as Radio B-92 and TV Negotin, in order to challenge the domination of the airwaves by the Milosevic regime. The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) should continue to be aided in its efforts to establish an independent TV network covering all of Serbia/Montenegro.

Because of the new media law, independent print media like Dnevni Telegraf and Danas will need alternative means of printing and distribution. Assistance should target the establishment of small "underground" print shops and distribution networks. In addition, a legal defense fund could be established to defend journalists fined and otherwise attacked by the authorities.
Assistance to the democratic political opposition
The West should help the democratic political opposition develop a concrete program which offers positive alternatives to the destructive policies of the Milosevic regime. Democratic think tanks, independent research organizations and expert groups should be supported to develop these alternative policy recommendations. Furthermore, dissemination of this new democratic thinking to the broad public must be encouraged by fostering close cooperation among the think tanks, opposition parties and the independent media. Think tank programs focusing on practical policy development can also be helpful in identifying and nurturing new leaders. In addition assistance in policy formation, U.S. organizations like IRI and NDI should continue to provide opposition political parties with expertise in coalition building, message development, media outreach, improving the operations of party branch offices and election monitoring.
NGO Development
We should encourage programs which improve cooperation between non-governmental organizations and which expand their media outreach capabilities. The first coordinating meeting of the Forum of Non-Governmental Organizations held in Belgrade in June is a good first step, but more needs to be done in this area. Funding must also be directed at developing the leadership skills of NGO activists.
Alternative educational institutions; student organizations
The university law has resulted in an assault on academic freedom in Serbia. Western funders must be prepared to support alternative educational institutions, like the newly formed Alternative Academic Network, which are being organized by oppositional professors who have been removed from their positions by the authorities.

In addition to alternative educational forums, Western assistance organizations must continue to look at ways to assist student organizations. For example, the student-led Anti-War Campaign protested the war in Kosovo during last spring and summer by distributing over one million leaflets throughout Serbia. Although one could debate the ultimate impact of such activities, it is important to continue assisting projects which keep student groups engaged in a constructive way in the future democratic development of their country. These activities can help develop the leadership and organizational skills of young people.
Trade unions
Support should continue to be directed at trade union activities which encourage the involvement of workers in civic and democracy building activities.
Montenegro
The victory of anti-Milosevic forces in Montenegro has created an unprecedented opportunity for democracy-building activities in the tiny republic. Due to the crackdown on democratic forces in Serbia, Montenegro is becoming more and more a haven for the Serbian independent sector. For example, several prominent independent media in Serbia have recently re-registered and begun publishing in Podgorica. In the event of an even harsher crackdown on private television and radio stations in Serbia, Western funders should focus on developing electronic media which have the capacity to broadcast into Serbia from Montenegro. Furthermore, democratic forces in Montenegro, including media, think tanks, student groups, human rights organizations, must be supported financially, and nurtured through increased contact with their Western counterparts through Western-sponsored exchange programs.
Increased coordination and cooperation in the independent sector; cross border cooperation
Cooperation and coordination between organizations within the independent sector in Serbia and Montenegro has been a persistent problem. The recent parliamentary elections in Slovakia demonstrate that increased cooperation among pro-democratic organizations can help oppositional political forces on voting day. Assistance organizations should consider making a certain portion of their funding conditional on the ability of NGOs, independent media, political parties, trade unions, student groups and academics to organize joint projects across different sectors in Serbia. For example, one of the most important tasks is to increase cooperation between trade unions and political parties. In addition, independent media must be encouraged to report on the work of independent organizations such as trade unions, human rights groups, and independent think tanks. This will help to publicize the work of these organizations and help sensitize the public to the importance of the independent sector.

Finally, support should be increased for cross-border programs which promote the transfer of experience and advice from more advanced Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia, to the democratic forces in Serbia. In addition to being cost- effective, regional programs bring together democratic activists, forge strong bonds of mutual assistance and cooperation among independent groups across borders, and help break down ethnic, religious and historical animosities.