Interview: Saso Dodovski, administrative manager in YCC in Bitola
Young people’s interests in volunteering activities is really big
Young people can discover and develop their creative potentials in the Youth Cultural Center in Bitola and it has managed to take a respected place in the town and the NGO sector in the country. What are your activities mainly focused on this autumn?
This year has been exceptionally active for YCC and we can feel free to say that we have not had a free week. The activities are above all concentrated on young people and are in symbiosis with our program activities.
This autumn we have been mainly directed towards activities related to volunteering and the campaign for National Volunteering Center which YCC Bitola actually is, as well as the preparations for releasing “Urban Drive 2”, a music CD of young and amateur bands from the Republic of Macedonia, supported by the Swiss organization Pro Helvetia.
This is a period when we are summing up the results of the current year and we are making plans for next year, also marking the jubilee, 10 years since the opening of the Youth Cultural Centre, in February next year.
You are one of the rare organizations that unremittingly work on developing the process of volunteerism in the country. You have also opened an office for volunteering service; you organize camps, exchange of volunteers from other countries. How much have young people been interested so far?
We are one of the leading organizations selected through the ISC and USAID programs in Macedonia for strengthening and developing civil society. YCC Bitola has received a grant for forming the above mentioned National Volunteering Center in Bitola and we have opened 5 volunteering informative spots, that is, offices throughout Macedonia. This year we have also organized a few summer and winter volunteering camps, we have sent our volunteers abroad and we have hosted foreign ones. All in all, young people’s interest in the context of these activities is really big and so are the prospects of volunteerism in Macedonia.
This year you have also organized the festival BOC – Bitola Open City, you have animated the public with some cultural and economic events.
What remains in the town after each festival edition as experience, an opportunity for further development?
The fifth edition of the festival Bitola Open City in August this year was a small jubilee, simultaneously being the most successful edition of the festival, a lot of events, a lot of foreign guests and an excellent media presentation. After each festival edition the town is richer with a lot of experience and events and it is opening more for culture tourism and an opportunity for a visit by a bigger number of people from the country and abroad. It is in fact one of our most significant objectives, to make Bitola a town open and attractive for everyone.
Unemployment is one of the subjects of your projects and there is also the project Corridor 8, through which you express your attitudes towards the current political situation. How do you evaluate the present position of the NGO sector in Macedonia, the opportunities to present your attitudes, access to financing sources?
The gradual withdrawal of donors from the Southeast Europe region is a quiet and much bigger threat to the survival of the NGO sector. At the same time it is also a challenge for turning to other ways of financing, cooperation with the business sector, as well as bigger directing towards civil society organizations’ self-sustainability.
YCC Bitola is one of the rare NGOs in the country that realizes a great part of its activities with its own sources. This year it shall be about 30 percent of the total budget.
The leading network in the project “Corridor 8 – Partnership versus politics” is the Youth Network in Southeast Europe and the networks BHRN and SEENAPB are involved in its implementation, as well as the countries from the region, Albania and Bulgaria.
The Pan-European transport Corridor 8, which links Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania and the Russian-Georgian Black Sea and the Italian-Adriatic gates, provides an opportunity for broadening regional cooperation, in accordance with the official declaration signed by the countries involved in this project. Its general objective is to accelerate the building and development of Corridor 8, which will be a trace for further economic, cultural, social and political cooperation, for prevention against conflicts and inter-cultural dialogue. The project encourages cooperation and contacts between the involved countries in the field of media, young people, environment, volunteers exchange and economic development and main partners are considered to be the non-governmental organizations, more relevant media, universities, municipalities by the Corridor, as well as members of the parliaments.
I would also mention the experience with a project focused on employment.
YCC from Bitola was a national coordinator for Macedonia in the regional project “European Union is not a member of your political party”, which started in December 2004 and treated the problem of political discrimination in the process of citizens’ employment, that is, the existence of a system of unequal opportunities in the process of employment, created under the influence of the political parties.
The project was realized in the course of 2005 in Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania and the protectorate Kosovo, as a common initiative by the Southeast Europe Youth Network (SEEYN), the Balkans Human Rights Network (BHRN) and the Southeast Europe Network of Printed Media), financially supported by the FRESTA program of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The following non-governmental organizations were included in it: ADP – ZID, Podgorica – Montenegro, Educational Center, Krusevac – Serbia, Albanian Youth Council, Tirana – Albania; ADI Pristina – Kosovo; ADI Gostivar – Macedonia.
Within the project we opened a media debate, an exhibition of caricatures in 3 towns, an ethic codex for the employees in the state administration was promoted, as well as a book with expert analyses and research results of all countries included in the project and we also opened a telephone line for reporting citizens’ reporting cases of discrimination in the process of employment.
The campaign officially started in May last year in the Magnolija square in Bitola with the parody “Employment with no political relations”, and it included tribunes and debates in Skopje, Bitola and Ohrid and distribution of propaganda material throughout the country. There was an open competition for caricature on subject “No party – No job”, and there was a protest performance in front of the Employment Agency and the political parties’ headquarters, and we also launched the web site: http://www.employmenttrules.org.
Is the NGO sector in Bitola developing in the expected direction? Is there the necessary cooperation with the city authorities, the business sector and the state institutions? What are the biggest and the smallest obstacles in the so far activities?
Bitola has a developed non-governmental sector but not on the level I expected to be. Apart from a few organizations that work professionally, others scrape by from a grant to a grant, do not have premises, full-time engaged people and working hours or are one man organization. The last ones are the biggest danger for the NGO sector, but fortunately their number is decreasing and the donor community is becoming stricter towards supporting organizations with insufficient experience.
The cooperation with the local self-government is on a quality level but there is always a space for improvement. There is a lack of real cooperation with the business sector in spite of the fact that it is there where YCC Bitola receives a significant part of the budget. However, the number of companies that have projected funds for investing in projects of civic interests is small.