Serbia: Plan 2009-2010 (MAARS001)

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Executive summary

The Republic of Serbia, a south-central European country with a population of 7,498,001 (excluding Kosovo) is currently going through a politically unstable period with frequent parliamentary crises, changing foreign policy, obligations towards the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and with Kosovo, which is under UN control since 1999, declaring independence in February 2008. There is no risk of a large-scale conflict at the moment, but there is a potential of further mass migration from Kosovo to central Serbia. There are already 140,000 refugees and over 200,000 internally displaced people (IDP) living in Serbia at the moment, as a result of conflicts in the 1990s.

Economically, Serbia is in a state of transition, not only moving from centrally-controlled economy to free market, but also away from the isolation and embargoes of the 1990s. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is encouraging with 7 per cent in 2007. However, the unemployment is still at 18.8 per cent; the inflation was 7 per cent in the first quarter of 2008 and the huge external debt (37 per cent of the GDP) and increasing export/ import deficit testify to a struggling economy and potential future problems.

According to the Poverty Reduction Strategy data, 10.6 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line defined as 2.4 US dollars per day, and among them there are particularly vulnerable groups such as Roma people (an estimate of 150,000-400,000 living in Serbia), older people (16 per cent of the population is above 65) and people living with disabilities. The lack of public capacity to meet the needs of these populations and their reduced access to the existing health, education and social welfare services increases their vulnerability.

Seasonal emergencies such as floods and landslides cause substantial property damage and heavily influence the quality of lives of the poor/ vulnerable population through damaging their property, food reserves and land.

In addition to the existing body of refugees and IDPs, the position of Serbia on the fringes of the European Union means there is a steady stream of migrants trying to get political asylum in Serbia, on their way to the west. Some 500 asylum seekers are registered in Serbia every year. In addition there are between 40,000 and 150,000 rejected asylum seekers being slated for return to Serbia from Western Europe in the coming years, many of them at the risk of human trafficking upon return.

Official data shows that between 1984 and November 2006 there were 2,088 persons were living with HIV, 1,339 or 64 per cent of them had developed AIDS syndrome and 915 had died. The Red Cross of Serbia has been exploring the possibility of joining the Red Cross and Red Crescent Global Alliance on HIV to scale up its national HIV programming to reduce the vulnerability to, and impact of, HIV. A representative was present at the first round meeting held in Budapest in late 2007, and while they did not take part in the second, follow up meeting in Tashkent in mid-2008, a decision on whether the National Society will sign up for the alliance is still to be taken.

Practical interventions are guided by local needs and realities and the assigned role of the Red Crescent Society as part of the coordinated national HIV and AIDS programme. During the period 2009-2010, the National Society plans to reach people with messages on prevention and reducing stigma and discrimination, including those in key populations at higher risk through peer education, and to provide services for people living with HIV. The National Society is committed to deliver a consistent and predictable package of services in line with the strategy of the Global Alliance, Red Cross Red Crescent competence and comparative advantage, and resources that will be made available.

The Global Alliance framework is expected to strengthen and make better use of the combined capacities of the National Society and the International Federation, also by bringing in regional networks and other funding and operating partners to support community-level actions. It is currently in the planning phase and is expected to roll out in 2009.

The priorities of the Red Cross of Serbia in this context are dictated by the country's humanitarian needs and outlined in its Plan of Action 2006-2010 and the Red Cross law adopted in 2005. Through the definition of its public powers, the Red Cross of Serbia is recognized as an auxiliary to the government in the areas of health and care and disaster management. In 2009 and 2010 the Red Cross of Serbia will be building on the results achieved with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the last seven years and will work towards reaching the Federation's Global Agenda goals, while observing other essential documents, such as the resolutions of the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. This work will consist of:

- Further enhancing the disaster management system through training and advocacy, improving coordination between stakeholders at local level as well as conducting risk reduction and vulnerability/ capacity assessment activities

- Direct assistance to the vulnerable population through education programme for 2,500 vulnerable Roma children, social support to people living with disabilities and to 10,000 vulnerable older people; as well as increased advocacy on their behalf

- Raising public awareness related to health topics such as HIV and AIDS and voluntary nonremunerated blood donation among youth

- Promoting the social inclusion of marginalized children/ youth as well as non-violent conflict resolution

- Assistance to refugees in seeking durable solutions for integration

- Direct assistance to asylum seekers and to the returning rejected asylum seekers

- Raising awareness about trafficking in human beings among youth

- Enhancing the capacities and efficiency of the Red Cross of Serbia through improving procedures and practices, improving its public relations and widening its volunteers and partners base

The total 2009-2010 budget is CHF 3,745,733 (USD 3,423,887 or EUR 2,385,817).