Initiative Ne davimo Beograd

Inicijativa Ne davimo Beograd


Six years ago, a group of citizens dissatisfied with the way the capital developed, founded the Ne davimo Beograd Initiative. The initiative originated as a local social movement which, both institutionally and extra-institutionally, by participating in public debates and civil protests, pointed out the harmfulness of Belgrade's water projects in order to develop over the years into a relevant political actor who advocates in accordance with the needs of its inhabitants. The values ​​we stand for are equality, solidarity, participation, freedom, care, integrity, and on them rests the complete internal organization of the political movement. The Assembly of Ne davimo Beograd decides on the program, internal organization, and general guidelines for the development of the movement, and those decisions are later implemented by the Small Council, the Grand Council, municipal, thematic and other operational groups. Ne davimo Beograd also has a Supervisory and Ethics Board as well as a Political Council of the movement. Ne davimo Beograd through its goals, strives to promote the sovereignty and participation of citizens in all areas that concern their lives.

The public interest is the determinant that constituted the political action Ne davimo Beograd, which began with the city's urban development projects. Within this framework, environmental policy has developed as an important segment in re-examining the way in which investor urbanism, which we have fought against, de facto ignores the harmful consequences for the environment. Today, environmental protection is an organic part of the program of the political movement NDM BGD. Incorporating the environmental agenda into all the political issues we raise is what makes this movement a different green movement compared to green political parties in Serbia that citizens have mostly never heard of, or to civic environmental organizations that deny that environmental issues are essentially political questions. Environmental issues are very important for the further development of the city, but through our work, they are not presented as just one of the desirable goals but are an integral part of every political decision. The development of environmental policy was created by responding to harmful projects proposed by the Belgrade government. The most important issues we dealt with were the construction of an incinerator for waste treatment in Vinča, the issue of air quality, the destruction of city shores, the destruction of green areas, and sources of drinking water.

The construction of the incinerator in Vinča is a typical example in which we showed the politics of the fight for a healthy environment because it is a project that will allegedly solve the landfill issue in Belgrade, but at the same time will produce new environmental problems and cost citizens dearly. By analyzing the environmental studies of the construction of the waste incinerator in Vinča, we raised the issue of treating waste and air pollution as the two most important problems of this harmful project. This topic was a kind of basis for a campaign to inform citizens about environmental issues that threaten their quality of life. In addition, we have internationalized this issue by addressing the international institutions that have supported our fight for a healthy environment, showing how these are key European and global issues for all those who think about the future and must not sacrifice for the benefit of politicians and corporations. We have launched an internal investigation within the project complaint mechanism of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which provides an opportunity to verify the EBRD's responsibility for financing projects harmful to the local population and the environment. The analysis of the project and the initiation of appeal procedures led to a stronger organization of our activists who are interested in environmental issues. Today, there is an Environmental Protection Group in the movement, which is one of the most active in the movement. This group is the initiator of various actions aimed at improving and protecting the environment.

We pointed out the huge harmfulness of the incinerator for air quality in Belgrade, so this topic soon stood out as an independent one and the Clean Air Initiative emerged from it. With the help of other organizations, we managed to inform citizens and offer them guidelines and tools on how to get timely information about air pollution in their environment. In addition to information, this initiative also offered a set of short-term and long-term measures that would lead to improved air quality. During the previous two years, we managed to impose the problem of air pollution as a politically extremely relevant issue, and the citizens recognized it because they felt the carelessness of the city and the republic when it comes to the air we all breathe. The prevalence of this problem has led to the development of regional cooperation on this topic. Thus, we participated in regional protests and launched the petition "For Clean Air", which is one of our most successful initiatives.

The third framework of environmental action in our movement is the preservation of green areas and sources of drinking water. The defense of Kosutnjak from the announced construction of a residential and business complex is the most successful environmental campaign that Belgrade has organized so far - our petition called the Initiative for the Defense of Kosutnjak is the most successful and most numerous petition of this type in Serbia. It also best illustrates the organic connection of environmental issues with other issues such as urban development of the city and preservation of public goods. Ne davimo Beograd came into being as a movement that opposes investor urbanization that is destroying our shores. The Sava embankment and the Great War Island are the focal points of our struggles for protected areas that are endangered outside the law by creating wild settlements of privileged individuals for whom the law obviously does not apply as much as for all of us. Our municipal groups also dealt with the destruction of green areas, and they recently submitted objections against the upgrade of shelters in Borča, Batajnica and Čukarica for the sake of new residential and business complexes. The latest issue we are dealing with is the announced conversion of the main Belgrade water source Makiš. The intention of the city authorities is to turn the main source of drinking water for the residents of this city into residential and business complexes. This includes huge financial investments in order for Makiško polje to turn from agricultural to construction land. All this requires the relocation of the water purification plant and the reduction of the protection zone of the water source, which directly endangers the quality and possibility of water supply for the citizens of Belgrade. Water is one of the most important public goods in the NDM BGD program and we are committed to an affordable and quality water supply.

We raised environmental issues most often as a form of reactive action in order to protect the public interest and public goods, but the above-mentioned Green Group emerged from reactive action as well as increasingly proactive environmental policy as an extremely important part of the overall political program. By advocating for dealing with these topics in the field through actions, protests, planting trees throughout Belgrade, institutional struggle with both domestic and international institutions, but also by promoting these issues to the general public, we managed to inform citizens, to initiate them in this join the fight, as well as to reveal how much our institutions perceive the green agenda as a dead letter on paper. We constantly give them the opportunity to convince us of that, but so far they have not shown themselves as defenders of a healthy environment, unaware of the consequences of destroying nature.

Non-transparency and trapped institutions as well as the one-person government are certainly the biggest problems of this society. The latest projects proposed by the authorities show us that the needs of citizens are still being ignored and that the public interest is collapsing for the private profits of those close to the ruling class. The environmental agenda is not respected by institutions and is often considered irrelevant even though it is declaratively mentioned as important. At the same time, our sources of drinking water are endangered, institutions are hiding data on air pollution that is killing us so that our quality of life is constantly decreasing, and all that is paid for with our money. The region is in similar trouble. Polluted air and mini-hydropower plants that kill our rivers are the biggest challenges for the Western Balkans. In addition, we see that investor urbanism across the region is destroying natural resources. Regional cooperation has proven to be an extremely important instrument that has enabled us to connect with political actors dealing with similar issues as us and to exchange experiences and good practices. It is especially encouraging that the parliaments of Montenegro and Croatia today have political options that promote green policies and offer solutions for them.

In Serbia, the green agenda does not have its vote in parliament. However, the non-institutional struggle for a more solidary and just society in which citizens are not subjects but are actively asking about all the decisions that concern them, the Ne davimo Beograd movement, has been going on for six years. Through our political activities, we try to show that it is possible to create just such an environment and that only it can create conditions for a healthy life. Protection of public interests is only possible if the power of decision-making is returned to the hands of the citizens of Belgrade and the whole of Serbia. In the functioning of our movement, we have learned that we come to good solutions through dialogue. We are in favor of a radical change in the perspective of the city's development because today's way of managing the city is unsustainable and dangerous in the long run. From many years of actions, protests, and dialogue with citizens, we have developed and are constantly improving the program that introduces these changes. The green city is a dream that we dream and fight for every day. As a movement that nurtures political participation, we believe that we should all ask ourselves what a good city is and a good state for all of us. For Ne davimo Beograd good city for everyone is a city where we can breathe clean air, have quality drinking water, where waste is recycled, greenery is not reduced but increased, all-natural and public goods equally preserved and enjoyed in solidarity.