Stories of Hope – RUHAMA

Stories of Hope – RUHAMA

RUHAMA- Bringing a ray of light into the lives of people in need

Humanitarian organization „RUHAMA“ became member of Bosnian national network in November 2013. This NGO has been dedicated in helping socially most handicapped population, the old and disable people for ten years. This is the only organization in Zenica-Doboj Canton for Health and Palliative Care for people above the age of 60 years. The Team of 12 doctors, 12 nurses, 90 volunteers (from 12 to 22 years), social worker physician, lawyer and craftsman (plumber and electrician) has been carrying out all services of supporting people in need. The specific objective of program „ Home Care“ is continuation of regular and systematic support to the home visiting program , run by Ruhamas medical team and volunteers, and it includes the following : Help in the house, medical care, dentist, personal hygiene, recreational and educational center.

From many patients Ruhama Centar and their specialists took care for in the last year, one elderly lady made extraordinary progress. This is her story.

–          Two middle-aged woman brought their mother from Sarajevo, which is away from Zenica 80km. They begged for help to their mother, who had a severe stroke, fed with feeding tube and was in a semi-conscious state. They were stressed and through tears explained that the doctor said that their mother will live just one to two more weeks. Specialists fro Ruhama promised these two ladies that they will do everything in their power to help their mother, but with a touch of suspicion, because the old lady was really in a very difficult situation with all forms of long-term complications of decompensation (decubital wounds, thrombosis, pneumonia) .

After standard admission procedures in Ruhama, physicians reviewed patient records, discharge papers and other medical reports and opened a medical card and planned implementation of health care for this 72 years old lady.Every day is the therapy had an adequate diet that is made  for individuals who feed on the tube. Continuous staff in a light and calming ambience discussed with patient though she was in a semi-conscious state. After some time the old woman was first opened her eyes and began to respond to their inquiries. The physical therapist started working with her and she slowly started sitting and learning to walk again. Defectologist was also in the team and was trying to eliminate speech disturbances, because she had aphasia (damage of the speech center). Complete treatment, which lasted a year has led to the success of this old lady: she talked, walked up and started to react to what is happening around her.

This is only one successful example which would not happen if project „Improving the provision of Social Service Delivery in South Eastern Europe through the empowerment of national and regional CSO networks“  wasn’t recognized as important by the European Union.

Stories of hope – OCI/OGI

Stories of hope – OCI,OGI

Granny Milica and her geronto family

Organization for Civil Initiatives, member and partner of IRIS network, has been implementing Ministry’s of family, defenders and inter-generation solidarity  program “Helping at home to elderly persons” in the areas of municipality of Kistanje and Promina where share of elderly and disabled persons, in total population, is very high. Most of the older population in these areas live in hard conditions and cannot use institutional types of care for elderly and disabled.
Implementation of this program has greatly improved the lives of beneficiaries, from which many weren’t able to carry out basic life needs. Particular problem is that, these municipalities are pretty far from bigger cities like Knin, Šibenk and Drniš (cca 20km).
To all the beneficiaries of the program, contractors of the program, on everyday basis, carry out administrative tasks (personal documents, health insurance, orthopedic help, social care, Caritas, Red Cross), deliver the medicines or supplies to them or as needed, take them to the doctor.

One of fifty beneficiaries of the program, in the area of municipality of Kistanje is granny Milica Vranjković from Smrdelje. A place 15km away from Kistanje. This fragile older lady is born in 1927, lives alone, has no pension and receives social benefits in the amount of 80 EUR per month. Her health is seriously disrupted and no one comes to visit her except from the employees of the program “Helping at home to elderly and disabled”. Recently, she was sick with a cold, but didn’t want to go to hospital. She just kept saying she’ll get out of bed if her’s Rada and Dušanka come to see her (Rada and Dušanka are her geronto housewives) and sit with her, and when her handyman Ilija (also a person from the program) prepares the firewood. When needed the drove her to the doctor in Kistanje, brought her medicines and supplies and made her meals. The workers visit her even after their work time because this older woman considers them as her family. Beside the friendship and warm words, she feels like  can count on them. She takes her indigence much easier because they help her with house work and personal hygiene.  Every day, nanny Milica stands with her cane by the window and waits for Rada, Dušanka and Ilija.

The social dimension of EU Enlargement

The social dimension of EU Enlargement

On Tuesday 1 April, the round table ‘The social dimension of EU Enlargement’ organized by the IRIS Network, SOLIDAR, ASB South East Europe (SEE) and FEPS took place in the European Parliament involving MEPs Knut Fleckenstein, Maria Eleni Koppa and Marino Baldini and representatives of DGs Employment and Social Affairs and Enlargement. The main questions for the debate concerned the latest developments since the adoption of the EP resolution on enlargement (based on the report of MEP Maria Eleni Koppa) in 2013 which highlighted the neglect of the social dimension of the EU enlargement process.

Participants from the IRIS Network highlighted measures that are needed to be put in place, in order to strengthen the social dimension of the EU Enlargement process and to enhance the socio-economic transformation of candidate countries. And good practices were presented that showcase how civil society organizations are working to advance social cohesion and active inclusion in the Balkan. In addition, the IRIS Network’s book “Comparative Analysis of the Role of Civil Society in Providing Social Welfare Services in the Western Balkans” was presented.

The comparative analysis presents the legal and institutional framework for the provision of social service by civil society organisations in the Western Balkans and their role in this field. The situation in each country is described in special chapters together with recommendations and examples of good practices. Partcipants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia discussed the following general conclusions and recommendations outlined in the baseline study to:

  • Establish systems of support for the NGO sector, coordinated with the work of line ministries in order to enable greater efficiency and long-term sustainability of the NGO sector.
  • Build national systems of financing that can help to define the priorities for the development of the NGO sector and its interactions with the public service sector.
  • Strengthen the monitoring and policy making capacities of line ministries in order to support the development of the entire social protection system as well as NGOs providing social services.
  • Implement concurrent advocacy work for the development of the NGO sector and also to introduce of a quality control system in both sectors.

In 2014 IRIS Network plans to continue working together with the SOLIDAR and other members and partners to enhance the socio-economic transformation of candidate countries, the revitalisation of socio-economic rights through chapters 23 and 24 and the Europeanisation of a strong social model.

*Article from

SOLIDAR roundtable “Ensuring social…


European round table starts today at 09:30 am in European Parliament.

This round table will offer the possibility to discuss about social cohesion, active inclusion as well as the role of social service providers in the Western Balkans in promoting social progress. Members of the “IRIS Network – Improving social services in SEE” will present their daily work in the context of EU Enlargement policies. In addition, the results of the FEPS-SOLIDAR research program on the Social Dimension of EU Enlargement will be launched.

Europe has been faced with one of the worst economic, financial and social crises. The one-sided focus on fiscal and financial consolidation through austerity measures has led to increasing disparities within our society, hitting the most vulnerable groups the hardest. NOW it is time for social consolidation to increase social cohesion between and within Member States.

This roundtable will give the floor to a discussion between experts from several Member States and decision makers at EU level on the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy and to present national recommendations to promote active inclusion, cohesion and social progress. These recommendations will be based on the results of the Social Progress Watch Initiative that SOLIDAR launched in December 2013 and the baseline-study Ensure Social Progress: Recommendations to strengthen the social dimension of the European Union.

Comparative Analysis of the Role of Civil Society in Providing Social Welfare…

Comparative Analysis of the Role of Civil Society in Providing Social Welfare


One of the first activities in the project was to develop a baseline study which will present legal and institutional framework for the provision of social welfare services by civil society organizations and their role in providing these services in the region of the Western Balkans. The study is based on desk-analysis and series of semi-structured interviews with the stakeholders from CSOs and public institutions from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia.


In Federation of BiH social protection is the primarily in jurisdiction of the specific entities and cantons. A whole range of entity and cantonal laws are regulating this area. Also, the Brcko District has its own jurisdiction, but not the public institutions of social protection.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina there are 117 public social work centers which employ 1087 workers..

There are no clear data on the number of CSOs in B&H working in the field of social service delivery. Nevertheless, it is estimated that 1/3 of 4629 active CSO in B&H are working in the field of social service delivery. Out of total funds reallocated from the government to CSO in B&H, CSOs engaged in social protection field received only 9% of the funds, which makes about 4 millions Euros. In addition, international donors invested 2.9 millions Euros in CSOs providing social services. Official data on how much the public institution are investing in the sector of social policy, apart from donations, is not clear or does not exists.

Republika Srpska

According to the regulations of Republika Srpska, work in the area of social pro­tection may also be carried out by NGOs. Rights implemented by the provision of services to beneficiaries can also be exercised in partnership between the public, private and nongovernmental sectors. There are 45 CSW, 20 social work services and 9 institutions in Republika Srpska. Unfortunately, there are only isolated examples of CSOs delivering social services in Republika Srpska.


New Social Welfare Act of 2014 in Croatia stipulates that NGOs may provide services if they have a license for that, introducing the system of service ordering and service provider licensing.

Somewhere between 20 and 30 million EUR is allocated annually for social services in Croatia. One third of these funds are allocated by cities and counties, approximately 36% by the ministries and the Government, and the remaining part is from international donors.

Local self-governments play an important role in financing, planning and implementing social welfare services. The community social welfare services are mainly funded through short-lived projects. Those services are provided by NGOs, local and regional self-governments, homes and Red Cross braches. The Croatian NGO sector is dominated by small-sized organizations with few employees and budget below EUR 13,000.


The Constitution of Kosovo concentrates more on human rights and freedoms, then on issues of social justice and a state of welfare. Much more attention is devoted to gender equality and protection from discrimination, but issues of social justice and the welfare state.

Thus, the system of Kosovo legitimizes the typical liberal values, unlike the rest of the region, which still cherishes the tradition of European social democracy. The Line ministry has a underdeveloped capacity to administer the social welfare.

Process of decentralization has given municipalities great authorizations in the healthcare and social welfare areas. As a rule, Issues relating to health care generally have precedence over social welfare.

Municipalities can contract the provision of social welfare services and family protection services to NGOs. The NGO sector develops under the influence of donors. There is ample data indicating that it is not well-rooted in civil society. 80% of funds for civil society come from international sources, and about 8% from budget funds. As in other countries, dependence on donors has led to the fact that NGOs, in their work, reflect donor interests rather than the interests of the citizens and communities they are supposed to represent

NGOs complain of the weak technical capacity of public services, which is an obstacle to cooperation. There are no efficient mechanisms of cooperation between public and non-governmental sectors.

The role of NGOs dealing with victims of domestic violence and people with disabilities is significant. The latter are less engaged in providing services, compared to organization of sporting and cultural events and advocacy work. However, there is no systematic data on local social welfare services, both in the state and in the NGO sector.


Montenegrin Law on Social Welfare introduced a licensing system of service providers (organizations and individuals, i.e. professionals). According to this system, all licensed organizations can deliver social services in the local communities. Nevertheless, licensing system is not functional yet.

Non-governmental organizations are financed from the central lottery fund and from the local government. Total allocations for NGOs in the 2011th amounted to about 1.5 million, which is three times less than in 2010.

In Montenegro, there are 275 local social welfare services. The largest number of identified local social welfare services addresses children, the elderly, children and persons with disabilities. The majority of non-governmental organizations are dealing with children, persons with disabilities, persons with development disabilities, victims of violence, young people, etc. The focus of the public sector is on children, the elderly and children with disabilities. The main difference is the openness of the NGO sector to “non-traditional” user groups.

Almost 80% of all local social welfare services in Montenegro are provided by NGOs.


Social services are divided into two groups under the Law on Social Services: (1) assessment and planning, and (2) service of direct social work that originate from the assessment of beneficiaries needs – daily services in the community (daily care, help in the house, etc.). services of the support for independent living (for example, supported housing, personal assistance, training for independent life, etc.), counseling-therapeutic and social-educational services (support for families in crisis, counseling, family therapy, mediation, SOS hotlines, etc.) and services of accommodation.

The social protection system consists of centers for social work, institutions for the accommodation of beneficiaries and other facilities (shelters, intake centers etc.) as well as NGOs that deal with the provision of services. Centers for social work which are funded by central and local budgets have the most important role in the social welfare system.

Centers for social work are overburdened with administrative work and have less time to work with beneficiaries and the community. At the same time CSW is de facto an institution that deals with coordinating and planning protection for municipalities.

Serbia has updated information on the level of development of services that demonstrate that local services are relatively developed, but there are significant regional disparities.

Home help for the elderly is the most common services. It was followed by daycare centers for children and youth with disabilities. Each municipality has a program of one-off financial assistance. Developed municipalities have developed social services.

NGO sector in Serbia is dominated by small organizations relaying on volunteer work.

NGOs do not have adequate professional capacities in the social welfare area yet. They often relay on professionals from centers or institutes for the accommodation of beneficiaries for the demanding professional tasks.

In the last couple of years, the share of foreign financing is growing.

29 % of all local social services are provided by NGOs.

Round table – Podgorica, Montenegro

Round table – Podgorica, Montenegro

SOS Telephone for Women and Children Victims of Violence – Podgorica (SOS Podgorica) in collaboration with the Ministry ofLabor and Social Welfare, held a round table discussion with the topic “Providing of social services to the most vulnerable groups: Challenges & Opportunities in the implementation of new Law on Social and Child Protection” on Friday, 28th March of 2014 in PR Center Podgorica

Over 50 participants including members of National Network, representatives of UNICEF, UNDP, Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, Social Welfare Centers and media discussed main problems in implementation of the new Law on Social and Child Protection.

Key speakers were Mrs. Biljana Zeković Executive Director of the SOS Telephone for Women and Children Victims violencePodgorica, Mr. Predrag Boskovic Minister of Labour and Social Welfare of Montenegro, Mr. Rastislav Vrbenski UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Montenegro, Mr. Benjamin Perks UNICEF Representative in Montenegro,and Mr. Igor Vucinic Chief Directorate of risky groups, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.

Biljana Zeković, director of SOS Telephone Podgorica, Montenegro coordinator, opened round table introducing IRIS network and National Network of Montenegro.” Network consists of 30 credible organizations that deal with providing support to children,youth, the elderly, victims of domestic violence, persons with disabilities and migrants. Great interest of a large number of organizations and institutions for our Network speaks about the importance of this topic and how strong are the initiatives fornetworking and cooperation of all sectors” said Zekovic.

In the opinion of Predrag Boskovic, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare of the Government of Montenegro, the Law on Social and Child Protection in Monetengro is better than the laws that apply in the region and that today the social and child protectionis improving each year. “If we want to have quality social and child protection in Montenegro, it is impossible to separate state responsibility and accountability of NGOs. In order to achieve the best results it is necessary that there is good communicationbetween them and based on that to identify problems and work together to resolve them” said Boskovic.

Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Representative to Montenegro, thinks that reform of the social welfare system should include five steps. The first step is to reform the legal framework, the second is to strengthen the institutional framework, the third is to build the capacity of providers of social services, the fourth increase in the number of day care centers, until now there is only eight day care centers in municipalities of Montenegro and the fifth step is to change behavior and attitudes towards inclusion ofchildren with disabilities. He emphasized the enormous contribution of civil society to reform of social and child protection.

Rastislav Vrbenski, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Montenegro, said that a comprehensivereform of the social welfare is one of the key undertakings of the Government in the ongoing process of EU integration. In his opinion, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is making great efforts to improve the legal and institutional pre-conditionsnecessary for the harmonization of international standards and best practices from the region and the European Union. Vrbenskisaid that the UNDP and UNICEF in this area will still provide ​​technical support with special emphasis on the development and adoption of a series of ordinances that need to: provide adequate implementation of the newly adopted Law on Social and Child Protection, the formation of the Institute for Social and child welfare, the establishment of the Directorate for the development of social and child protection.

Roundtable was attended, beside already mentioned, by representatives of CSO networks that provide social services in Montenegro to specific target groups such as youth at risk, the elderly, persons with disabilities, victims of domestic and migrant workers; and representatives of the institution: Centre for Social Work – Berane, Center for Social Work Crikvenica, Center forSocial Work – Podgorica, Podgorica Health, Bureau for Refugees, Centre for Child and Family Support Bijelo Polje, Center for Mental Health

Public debate in Serbia

Public debate in Serbia

Public debate was held in National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia at Friday, 7th of March 2014.
Main topic of discussion was “Perspectives on Sustainability of funding support to children and vulnerable groups beneficiaries of social services”. The debate was organized by member of IRIS Network “Educational Center” Leskovac, “Society for the Development of Children and Youth – Open Club” in collaboration with the Government Office for Cooperation with Civil Society.

The aim of the conference was to encourage a consensus among decision-makers, experts and civil society around the needs of effective coordination and use of available local resources and future EU funds earmarked for social inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Public debate was opened by National Assembly Speaker Nebojsa Stefanovic, after which Mr Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Serbia Representative, greeted the present. Among the key speakers were: Gordan Velev, IRIS-regional networks of social service providers, Sasa Stojanovic – MODS Association for the Development of Children and Youth Outdoor Club, Brankica Jankovic, State Secretary, Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, Ivana Cirkovic, Director of the Government Office for Cooperation with NGOs, Marija Sijan, the Fund for the social inclusion of children, Zarko Šunderić, SIPRU Fund for Inclusion, Milena Banovic, Government Office for cooperation with Civil society organizations.

Hall of the National Assembly was filled with around one hundred representatives of NGOs that deal with social service provision and over 20 journalists from different media houses from Serbia.  Some of the most important and popular media informed public about the event, and we raised important questions about social services and child protection in wider public in Serbia.

CSO representatives from all around the Serbia had chance to emphasize their biggest problems and concerns and also to ask questions to government representatives. Owing to the huge interest for this event and important topic we discussed, many people didn’t have a chance to participate. Because of that we had had live stream of the debate and also live twitter chat in which people could ask questions and give comments to speakers in the debate.

Open debate – Kosovo

Open debate – Kosovo

Open debate in Kosovo was organized 13th February 2014. in Governmental Building of Kosovo. Around 50 present representatives from Government, Local Institutions and non-governmental organizations that deal with the provision of social services discussed on the main topic “The role of institutions and non-governmental organizations in providing social services and their challenges”.
Biggest part of the discussion was related to domestic violence, which remains a serious problem in Kosovo, with about 420 cases already having been reported this year. On average, the police registers somewhere around 1,000 such complaints per year and the majority of those reporting it, 4 out of 5, are women. According to Naime Sherifi, executive director of the Centre for Protection of Women and Children, the centre has sheltered some 881 victims of domestic violence since 2000. She further adds that “the situation is troubling” and that six to ten women die each tear due to spousal abuse.  Despite boasting a female president and gender quotas in the parliament, Kosovo is still very much a patriarchal society where women are mostly responsible for the home and children. Women also tend to have an average of two years less education than men and are faced with a staggering unemployment rate of 30.9 %.

“Laws related to social services scheme in Kosovo should be subject to increased monitoring associated with determining the level of their application by the relevant state institutions” was one of the main recommendations made on this debate.

Croatian national network

Croatian national network

Meeting for interested organizations from region of Slavonija, Baranja and Middle Dalmacija took place in town Osjek on 25th of December.  In inaugural meeting 33 representatives of organizations engaged in the development and delivery of various types of social services discussed of and established Croatian National network.

KONEKTA – National network of Serbia

KONEKTA – National network of Serbia

Education Center Leskovac( EDC) organized meeting for establishment of Serbian network of CSOs on 15th of December.  They named new network Konekta and it is opened to all interested service providers. Through this project , members of the network Konekta will receive expert support through active , mutual learning and exchange of experiences (peer review method ) and direct mentoring support in the following areas : minimum standards of social protection , licensing organizations and individuals for provision of social services and the accreditation of training programs , entry criteria and priorities of beneficiaries receiving social care, control of the organization and services , monitoring and evaluation, etc.

To make this network more efficient and visible EDC made website ( with all partner organizations.

Konekta consisting of 20 organizations from Arilje, Brus, Coka,  Dimitrovgrad, Golubac, Ivanjica, Kikinda, Knjaževac, Krupanj, Krusevac, Ljubovija, Novi Pazar, Presevo, Prokuplje, Sjenica, Topola, Trstenika,  Valjevo, Velika Plana and Vlasotinca.  About 700 users receive services provided within the existing network Konekta.