THE FLOODS 2014-2016

This report is a summary of an activist-donor intervention of Reconstruction Women’s Fund. The polyphony of the text and unresolved personal and political stories bear witness to real life in Serbia where capital detriments stem from violence and irresponsibility.

Communication and the principles

Based on the first field reports which we exchanged with activists, we started to map and to articulate principles of our intervention in the flooded areas, faced with a casual remark that Those who lost everything have already had nothing. The first and the final steps we made in cooperation with people and groups we trust and with whom we share political understanding: Regional Center for Minorities, Danilo Curcic Legal Advisor at Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM, Roma center for women and children Daje, Women in Black…

Recommendations: In our efforts to send a message and to promote an orientation in the confused and arbitrary times of the state of emergency, we translated and distributed a binding document which hapenned to be critically actual – Concluding observations on the second periodical report of Serbia released in May 2014 by UN Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (In English language in our newsletter HERE) The message we tried to send, in cooperation as we did everything that we report on here, was a direct warning of what has been happening: …Since the basic objections of the Committee concers precisely the situation of the poorest, their enjoyment of rights to adequate housing, support of social services and enjoyment of the right to social aid, we think it necessary to invest additional efforts to provide an adequate response to housing and other needs of Roma men and women hit by the floods.

Tanja Ignjatovic from Autonomous Women’s Center sent the translated Recommendations through various women’s mailing lists with a stimulative letter: …The document comprise key objections and recommendations about numerous marginalized social groups, confirming what was said in recommendations of UN CEDAW Committee, especially in the domain of labor, trafficking in human beings and domestic violence, but also about gender mechanisms and implementation of the Law on Gender Equality, the strategies and action plans. Naturally, the Committee requests from the the state „wide distribution“ of the document, especially among state officials, judical authorities and civil society organizations      which I don’t see happening, neither by the Office of Human and Minority Rights nor by the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society – which should become a regular practice. Also, it was requested again from the state to include in discussion civil society sector when preparing a report. What the Committee would say to learn that our new government measures it efficiency by the speed in changing and passing laws, which excludes or extremely limits public discussion, not to mention readiness for negotiations and harmonization of opinions. Certainly, this important document should be used in all advocacy activities, especially in drafting new laws and monitoring of implemetation of the existing ones.

The first practical actions: we enabled communication by providing mobile telephone credits for a dozen of women who struggled with consequences of the floods isolated in remote settlements around Smederevska Palanka and Obrenovac whom activists of Autonomous Women’s Center, Network Women against Violence and Women in Black met in the field.

Agreements: In cooperation with Women in Black and Roma Center for Women and Children Daje we made decision to assist directly primarily the groups, families, individuals who have been multiply endangered/suffered (IDPs from Kosovo, refugees, Roma families and single parents). According to this it was necessary to decide on working methods and rules:

  • Direct intervention in the filed
  • Active listening
  • Assistance according to the needs of people we visit
  • Humanitarian aid is not a single act, but continual assistance and care
  •  Humanitarian assistance and care to minority, multiply traumatized and the poorest groups of people.

The criteria for assistance:

  •  Poor dwellers
  • Tenants
  • Single mothers
  • Ill and old people
  • Families with numerous children

Also, we made a decision not to pursue quantity, but to go after quality work in the field in flooded areas, so to say, to enable the flooded people at least approximately basic living conditions, which they lost, meaning also safety of the space they lived in.

Field work – process

We started with field visits to communities and families and led by feminist working principles listened to women recounting how they survived the floods. In the first encounters with women from Roma settlements which were flooded, there was a clear resemblance of experiences from the work of volunteers on SOS telephone against violence against women. Namely, experiences of women from Roma settlements show continuous „state of emergency“ living in unsafe settlements (informal, below standard, which actually are ghettos.)

From the women we learned about number of reasons for aid denial, regardless of level of their vulnerability. The core orientation of the state to compensate damage to property and/or formal reasons, were put as obstacles to people who „have already had nothing“ as the state was protecting itself from its responsibility for non-compliance with prevention and protection during the floods. Real precariat with no formal tenancy agreement, no property documents for their below stadard dwelling, even long-term inhabitants of emergency accomodation under jurisdiction of municipality or centers for social work were excluded from compensations. It is well known how water finds its path, but the compensation excluded damages from currents and groundwaters; because of neglected local drains which finished already humid flats off; or those who were not flooded in May but in October. In some locations declaration of emergency state was avoided, so people could not get certificate needed for some humanitarian assistance, since it would be an acknowledgement of the real situation.

In assisting us to file and analyse documentation, Danilo Curcic, Legal Advisor at YUCOM, created a questionnaire about previos life conditions, aid after the floods and overview of incomes and socail status. Half a year after the floods when most of these questionnaries were filled, even the families who had decrees for compensation did not receive any.

Based on the findings from the field work we step by step made decisions whom and what aid we could provide. In accordance with the criteria stated above, we made assistance in the following municipalities/locations: Mladenovac, Smederevska Palanka, Marinkova Bara, Obrenovac and informal settlement in Belgrade in Vidikovac on the outskirts. Due to the complexities of the problems we faced and the range of the needs, we rationally cut our previous plans for assistance in other two towns Kraljevo and Aleksinac. During the work we confirmed our decision to be delicate and cautious concerning the visibility of our work for protection of people we assisted and the problems which could be provoked by local and other institutions and individuals. To put it simply, these are literally vulnerable groups.We assessed the costs in segments, covering additionally the contingencies in more complex situations, with on-going reporting from the field about the works done, new needs and obstacles. 

The needs: In Roma settlements, restoration/reparation of the severe damages of the houses in May 2014 floods very often demanded additional (contingency) work, or providing permission as well as personal documents. Everywhere, the priorities were mostly windows and doors, floors (laminate), furniture, major household appliances. Also, in one case it was necessary to reconstruct the roof.

For safe habitation it was necessary to enable isolation from groundwaters or ground currents around the houses (very often Roma settlements exist on unsafe places, endangered by slides or groundwaters specifially).

Since the winter came, it was necessary to provide firewood and stoves and in the hardests situations winter sleeping bags. In some situations to enable safe living conditions it was necessary to repare warn out and unsafe electrical installations. Also, since we worked with socially disadvantaged people, to enable them to move in and function in their homes, it was necessary to pay old electricity or water bill.

01 poplave 1

01 poplave 2

In the settlement next to a fuel station on the outskirts of Belgrade, we worked to provide health care documents for the two families among others, and both had to leave under threats of Center for social work that their children will be taken as dropouts from school and for begging. For other two families the barraques were built/repared. Both were deliberatelly set on fire. More will be said about that painful settlement in this report. 

Basic information about the flooded settlements: Belgrade settlement Marinkova Bara lay along a highway. It belongs to the borough of Vozdovac. The settlement was positioned on the lower altitude than the surounding terrain. The most endangered parts are inhabited by Roma families. Poor families even pay for this accommodation as tenants. In visiting the settlement we found that four of the families are in dire needs. Here we bought front doors, window, electricity bill was payed, some furniture and essentials for a prematurely born baby. Three of these four families are tenants, and the fourth has been squatting.

In the nonformal Roma settlement in Vidikovac next to a fuel station on the beginning of highway in the exit of city zone, people live in some 40 homes. These are shelters made of boards and plastic sheets covered by discarded duvets and carpets to protect them a bit from the weather. People started to inhabit this empty field 4-5 years ago with massive evictions from bigger Belgrade Roma settlements like Gazela, Belvil and dr Ivan Ribar in New Belgrade. This is not their stable place and for security reason they resettle often. Hence they are quite skilfull in building and moving the material for the barraques. There is neither water and sewerage, nor waste collection. Distinctly the children are numerous and they lack adequate dressing and hygiene. Clearly they don’t go to school and some 90% of inhabitants have no personal documents. In this settlement basic documentation was provided for three families, followed by acquiring health care documents. Our construction work in the settlement will be discussed further. When the homes were set on fire, the fire department issued a confirmation paper to the families, but no institution provided any assistance to the families. From the money collected at Reconsruction Women’s Fund’s event „Sisters are Doing It Best“, several times food and basic hygiene was handeled to the two families when they were in dire needs and from Refugee Aid „Miksalište“ we acquired second hand cloths for the women in crisis. 

Stara mahala (Old settlement) –Karadjordjeva street in Mladenovac lays next to the very center of the town. There are more than 200 homes in the settlement. There are two streets – Karadjordjeva and Kralja Petra I. 20 containers were located and some of the people who were forcefully evicted from the former Belgrade settlement Gazela were brought here. Over 10 families live here who were deported by EU countries (readmission) and some 300 IDPs from Kosovo. There is approximatelly 1000 people in the settlement. Most of them collect and sell secondary raw materials and second hand goods which they sell on the nearby market. Most of the families are welfare and child support beneficiaries, if it is to be counted as a regular income since it stops for 3 month in summer period. Most of the houses are made of solid material. Most of the houses have electiricty, but not all of them. There is water in some of the houses or in the yards, but in some parts of the settlement there is no water at all. There is no sewerage but septic tanks which poure out with heavy rains. We assisted 12 families in this settlement. Electro instalations were repared, chimneys swept, floors were isolated, front doors and windows were bought as well as mattresses, laminates, washing machine, firewood, stove. We also provided a wall drying machine which was used in all the houses. Personal documents were acquired in some families. Part of the money donated in „Sisters are Doing It Best“ covered some of the costs for the specific women who were in the focus of the event.

In the municipality of Smederevska Palanka we worked in two settlements, Karadjordjevo and Pridvorice. According to our criteria we assisted 8 families. They were provided with windows, front doors, cement, stoves, a fridge, house appliances, laminat and ceramic tiles. One of the families who survived the floods as tenants, we helped to restore and furnish their old ruined house and settle for good.

01 poplave 301 poplave 4

 

 

The most dramatic, concerning human lives, economic and ecological damage, the flood in Obrenovac was in the focus of many organzations. Our assistance was directed to those whom we met before any aid was organized and finally to those who after almost two years were left with unfinished reparations and in hard living conditions. In the settlements Zvecka, Ciglana and Zabrezje 4 families were assisted. A kitchen was equipped, laminates, tiles for kitchen and bathroom, isolation and gypsum boards provided, house rough casted, electricity was put in place, front door and washing machine bought, bill for water paid, complete bathroom and septic tank established, plaster, doors, fridge bought.

Basic information about the families whom we assisted: Table – number of families, their socal data and space reconstructed  

poplave izveštaj eng

Women behind the numbers:

We were flooded a bit in May. We made some reparations by ourselves and it was gone. In October (2014) it was a catastrophy. Huge current hit us and everything was floating in the house. There was no furniture left. All was floating. After five minutes it was impossible to leave the house. Some twenty kilometers around we could go nowhere. The children were small. There was panic. Half a meter of water was on the window. We called firesquad, comunal service. It was very slow because the whole Roma settlement, which is at the bottom of the town, was flooded. We went back and forth to find something, but nothing dry left and we could not use anything. I tried slowly to drain the water hoping it will withdraw. My children have chronic asthma. That flat has always been humid and inhaler always accompanied us.

Our whole housholed was in floods. Water was all around and we had to go to the municipality for a certifiacte first and next to Red Cross to get food.

I did not report the damage in May so I did not get any compensation to repair the flat. The two reports were needed for the municipality to do the reconstruction. I did not get any certificate. I lived in a house with 15-16 people. One can’t live normally that way.

The administration had to accomodate quite a number of Roma families…. There they asked us: do they realy have to come to the accomodation? Don’t they have any relatives to go to? My mobile was stolen where I recorded all this. The people were told that they came with five children, why women gave birth to so many. The director said that Roma children make problems, scream. Center for social work said it gave a washig machine and it was enough.

In May last year when the floods happened, even a few things that I had were destroyed and the roof started to fall down. In the room where I sleep with my mum half of the ceiling fell in the middle of the night, as if someone dropped a bomb. In the kitchen it all fell. We hammered carpets to look like a ceiling. There is no mortar, but snow enters the bricks.

 

THE PUBLIC AND THE CRITIQUE

Sisters are Doing It Best

See you in the evening of giving to those who now need the most!!!– was the signature of the events which were named “SISTERS ARE DOING IT BEST”. The money was collected with focus on the people in concrete situations. Our choice of the panelists and their response reflected both our current of thinking and development of our work, so intersected, voices and experiences multiplied, to address the audiences present and the public who was informed through widely sent invitations.

June 9, 2014, Cooperative Oktobar: “Sisters are Doing It Best” associated, will present you the women who during the floods reported from the bicycle, from the ground and from the collective centers. Women are present everywhere and know where they are going! Our special guests: Marija Ratkovic, initiator of the action//Bicycle on Water, Carna Radoicic, film director//individual humanitarian actions, Nada Djurickovic, Roma woman activist//Roma center for women and children Daje. Sisterly dj mixing by representatives of women’s groups who in disasters and all these years of life floods and mind loosing have been here for you: Autonomous Women’s Center, Women in Black, Belgrade Women’s Studies Center, Act Women, BeFem and Reconstruction Women’s Fund.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuCsU44uAp0

July 15, café Ljutic: second gathering of the “Sisters are Doing It Best” presents the women who with their actions, work, energy and knowledge make visible social changes: Jovana Vukovic//Roof over his/her head, Regional Center for Minorities, Dusica Parezanovic//Cultural centers as solidarity spaces, Cultural Centre Rex, Violeta Djikanovic//Field report from flooded areas, Women in Black, Iva Cukic// Ministry of Space, Street Gallery. Musical summer feeling will create Sisters Engineers who are preparing unpredictable rhythms.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3j3qWaHhBI

November 25, café Ljutic, beginning of the campaign 16 Days of activism against violence against women. The money collected for a woman victim of violence, who lives in hard poverty and is a victim of floods. “Sisters are Doing It Best” presents you the women who with their actions, work, energy and knowledge make visible social changes: Aleksandra Nestorov//Network Women against Violence, Svjetlana Timotic,//…Out of Circle Vojvodina, organization giving support to women and children with disabilities who are exposed to violence, Nada Djurickovic//Roma Center for Women and Children Daje. Art installation I Wait of the feminist group Act Women and music support and mini gig by Ana Curcin. DJ Pult is in the hands of Studio B journalists Smiljana Popov& Zeljka Mrdja!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6YvNbWewlo

Sisters are Doing It Best got the profile which The Reconstruction continued to organize as periodical events with a focus, addressing the audience/public. In these first three actions we collected 69,510 RSD (nearly 700 USD) which were used as announced: for those most deprived hit by floods in Veliki Crljani near Lazarevac, settlement Karadjordjevo in Smederevska Palanka and a settlement near Mladenovac, to provide underwear, hygiene, food.

The humanitarian aspect of our work increased unexpectedly when through Autonomous Women’s Center we were offered by Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia to take over their discarded furniture in good shape. We organized and paid the transport of the furniture which was distributed to the families in Smederevska Palanka, Mladenovac and Marinkova Bara. The action was repeated at the call from the Delegation. Also, Nada Djurickovic donated roof tiles which remained when she had repaired her home some time ago and we transported the tiles to Mladenovac.

 

Solidarity is our strength

Women in Black organized in Banji Vrujci, February 5-8, 2015 meeting of women’s solidarity with participants coming from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovine and Croatia, the women who were hit by floods and other natural disasters and the activists from women’s groups who have offered solidary assistance in the flooded areas. Part of the experiences were gained working in cooperation with Reconstruction Women’s Fund. This was a precious meeting which broadens horizons.

I became different with your help. What I could not express myself I did it here and I wonder to myself.

Never give up! We should empower other people around us as well. We need to ask even if we get nothing.

We entered a Roma settlement where IDPs from Kosovo live. They had neither windows, doors nor mattresses… I like the action which is a direct help in a settlement.

We were flooded for the second time. I had another picture about Women in Black, but I have different opinion now.  

All the testimonies come from multiply traumatized women – either from suffering in the war (Bosnia and Herzegovina) or from deep poverty (Roma and other poor women). Women who testified were in situation to loose their homes more than once – women from BH in the war and Roma women because their shaky homes are subject to fire and not resistant to heavy rain. Women were hit also by other natural disasters (landfalls and landslides). Women lost their crops which are their main, sometimes only financial resource. Natural disasters deepened vulnerability which is the circumstance of their lives and permanent losses exhaust them. Definite unpreparedness and irresponsibility of the state – both Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Violeta Djikanovic: Our experiences, Women in Black, working in refugee camps during the wars, immediately after the floods and now with Reconstruction Women’s Fund show similarities since in the refugee camps we were traitors of omni-Serbian being, and the enemies, and now in Roma settlements I come as a white woman, the one with more power. In both cases we meet as the other, the different, as the system imposed on us. However, led by different value principles in encounters with real people, the imposed divisions just fall down.

Also, the situation in flooded areas and our work with refugees during the war are somewhat similar, since in both cases the State showed:

  • False care for the people (Serbian refugees were first misused for political purposes and then left alone, while flooded people were also used for the promotion of prime minister Vucic and marketing purposes),
  • Treating people as redundant – unwanted Serbian population after the failure of the war project and displaced population from Kosovo, as well as flooded Roma population, the poorest ones, manifold victims, single mothers…
  • Similar treatment of depriving people of their rights (lack of personal identity documents, making it difficult to solve their legal status), as well as ghettoization (refugee camps, informal Roma settlements)…“

Following this path, in March 2016 Reconstruction Women’s Fund contributed to the initiative Raising money to purchase a house for XX and her family. This shared initiative, which was started by Pomozi (http://pomozi.ba/) and the Feminist Antimilitarist Collective, aims at raising money to buy a house for XX, who is currently living with her ill husband and three children in utterly poor housing conditions and living there is becoming more risky every day. The ruin in question was flooded in May 2014, and thus became even more unsuitable, and being on a landslide makes it even less safe to live in. XX is one of the survivors of sexual violence during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. http://fak.pointer.ba/akcija-prikupljanja-novca-za-kupovinu-kuce-za-xx-i-njenu-porodicu-raising-money-to/2 The initiative is still open!

 

Newsletter

… Intervention in the field is our power. And when it all started, we entered a broad invisible world: the world of displaced, evicted, repeatedly flooded or burned down, elderly deprived of their rights, asthmatic kids, cancers, heart attacks, widowed ones, big families. Settlements are in horrible conditions, on the edges of towns, very poor. One can see a long history of exclusion and negligence, and the solution is either to remain invisible or to expose themselves to threats. They struggle on their own. For them our interventions are unexpected, for us they are unusual: buying a cradle, looking for a chimney sweep, building roof over a ramshackle house, lobbying for a water channel to be cleaned, for finding accommodation and against obstructing repair works. This is just the beginning…

Waiting for this report which has been developing along our work for nearly two years, we sent piece by piece our reviews, insights, snapshot facts, through our newsletter.

How Floods Became Part of the Special Focus!

https://staging.rwfund.org/ukljucite-se/newsletter/newsletter-decembar-2014

System of Floods

https://staging.rwfund.org/ukljucite-se/newsletter/newsletter-avgust-2015

Infrastructure and Support: a Place of Encounter – Floods

https://staging.rwfund.org/ukljucite-se/newsletter/newsletter-decembar-2015

Students’ work and working with students

In June 2014, students of the Belgrade Faculty of Architecture of their own accord organised extracurricular workshops New Housing Models for Flood Victims. Among others, the workshop SOS Housing – Architecture in Emergency Situations. This is known to a handful of those who initiated the whole thing, a few professors, perhaps a few others. We have learned, by chance. And we immediately got in touch with them, on purpose. We were connected by ACTION of people, who realised that architecture, or any other profession could not operate alienated from the society, and that it had no purpose unless its aim is common good.    Together we have adapted one of the conceptual solutions from the workshops to the context in which we decided to work. Settlement in Vidikovac, next to a fuel station. Settlement with no electricity or running water. Settlement in constant emergency circumstances. From the initial idea of temporary housing, students jointly created, free of charge, a draft for a movable home, in accordance with habits of its residents – young women, with children, with no institutional support.

Encounter Maja Kopta: After a long ride by bus, we got off on the stop near the Roma settlement. On one side of the street, you can see the city, and on the other – a meadow. There were several paths across the meadow, all muddy, since it was raining recently, and we got to the first line of barracks, which was barely visible from the main road. It was quite a feat to get there. When we visited for the first time, there were four barracks, surrounded by a landfill, full of garbage. It was still daytime when we arrived, but soon it began to get dark. Talking to people living there lasted for quite a while. I remember the bone chilling cold, and next to me, children running around barefoot, as if it was summer. On one side there was daily life, with its back turned to the one hidden on a seemingly empty meadow.

Ana Dusmanovic: Project of helping a Roma settlement, which we carried out jointly with Reconstruction Women’s Fund, establishes a different, more humane relation to those who need help. Although small in terms of scope, for us it was a great motivation, a good starting point for changing perspective and starting to think about improving life conditions in such settlements.

This is how Sanela’s and Milica’s house came to being. One was reconstructed, the other one built from the ground up (with “gold” window). Both houses can be disassembled, so that at the time when somebody decides to forcibly move them from there, or they themselves decide to go, the can take their home with them. FREE. Our common goal was for the houses to be built of easily available materials and safe for living, not just for temporary accommodation, with relatively simple process of assembly and disassembly, cheap.

June 2015. Milica’s house was the first one to be burned, then Sanela’s and then several others, one after the other. Arsons. We want to know why. All of this.

After a year of common work a publication was created as a manual about our experience and basic steps for constructing a home in emergency circumstances. It presents the process of cooperation of the team of (at the time) students of architecture and Reconstruction Women’s Fund: „A Model of Temporary Housing. From Concept to Realization: The Roma Settlement Example“. In January 2016 the book was printed and distributed to universities, high and secondary schools of connected professions and to public libraries. E-publication is available in Serbian on our websitehttps://staging.rwfund.org/2016/01/25/model-privremenog-stanovanja-od-koncepta-do-realizacije-na-primeru-romskog-naselja

The book in English: https://staging.rwfund.org/eng/2016/04/04/a-model-of-temporary-housing

The problems of socially and economically endangered groups were observed from an architectural point of view, which allowed to form an interdisciplinary approach in their solving. … The idea of this publication is to pass on knowledge acquired by this experience to every reader, and allow him/her to build one’s own prefabricated house for temporary living, easily and with understanding.

Many people live in the sequel of these stories and this limited report. This work also has its life. The team of students, now graduated architects, was invited by BINA (Belgrade Week of Architecture) to present the project in which we cooperated and the model through an exhibition in May (the organizers to cover the costs of the setting, printing of drawings etc.). Meanwhile the work was presented and awarded in the category Experiment/research in the Salon of Architecture in the Museum of Applied Art March 29 – April 30, 2016. It is common interest that the profession recognizes what architecture really should be. Having seen the difficulties of life in a Roma settlement, spending time with the inhabitants and working on the houses, left a very strong impression on me, and my colleagues as well. I hope that this initiative will incite young architects, and individuals from related professions, to get involved in greater numbers in solving these or similar problems.Mihailo Sladoje, for the team of students of architecture.

Debates

Day After – active aid and support to citizens endangered by the floods, was a conference in Media Center June 23, 2015 organized by YUCOM with support of Australian Embassy and the participation of the Ambassador in Belgrade. http://en.yucom.org.rs/day-after-active-aid-and-support-to-citizens-endangered-by-the-floods/ The conference panel Problems and challanges of the state and civil society organizations during and after the floods was a confrontation of exeperiences. Participants were Marko Blagojevic, Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Flood Relief and actors and witnesses from our field work Zoe Gudovic, representative of the Reconstruction Women’s Fund, Nada Djurickovic, representative of the Roma Center for Women and Children Daje, among others. It was obvious how the gap between the position of civil society and autoritarian behaviour of the state grew during the floods. Where are the key differences? The activists reminded: about state cenzorship and interrogation of citizens who during the floods informed the public about the situation in the field; about the Church public preyers and accusations of the Gay Pride, at the time preparations were in progress, for the rain and the floods; about patriotic messages to women not to interfere in building enbankments but to go home and bake bread for protectors; about rascism in collective centers against Roma; about neglect and avoidance of assisting the poorest… and the issues about the Law on elimination of consequences of the floods emerged (adopted in July 2014), which allowed the state to declare the victims to be criminals for allegedly conceling and giving false data. At that point the director of the Office for Reconstruction and Flood Relief prefigured future role of civil society in the field –to lecture citizens about the obligations and punishments concerning the truth telling to the state. Not a word about the responsibilities of the state.

And there is no Happy End.

Some month later: Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Flood ReliefMarko Blagojevic informed us this week that “Serbia would get until the end of the year (2015) new Law on risks and emergency situations management”. The context of this announcement suggests that until now the issue of preventive operation in cases of emergency situations was not resolved in national legislation and that only this law would open the doors to the new and different operation of the state in emergency situations. This statement leads the public into a serious misapprehension with the aim to blame the alleged gap in legal system for the victims and material damage in the floods from last year: Without defined obligations of the state, there is no state’s responsibility. Since the essence of this thin deceit is to show that allegedly there were no rules in place for the emergency situations, we need to affirm, who knows how many times, that the May floods were not a deed of higher powers and some god will. Serbia does have an active law for emergency situations which establishes serious obligations to a large number of actors – from the government, to ministries, mayors, presidents of the municipals and local self-governments. Key points of the law are that it is oriented primarily for preventive operation and most of the obligations put for the state representative are of such character. It has to be said again that before and during May floods the government and its members did not declare emergency situation timely; they did not mobilize civilian population, but let the chaos and induced panic among citizens; that local headquarters for emergency situations did not timely declare emergency in their municipalities and did not order timely evacuation of the population (some of them even constrained it, like the mayor of Belgrade); Ministry of Interior Affairs did not fulfill its numerous obligations according to the law on emergency situations – all of them clearly braking their legal obligations. (Sofija Mandic 29/10/2015), full text in Serbian language:  http://pescanik.net/zakon-za-oslobadanje-od-odgovornosti


 

This report is dedicated to women who live in the hardest conditions. To Ivana, who could have been exquisite master builder, to Mirjana, literacy autodidact who could have been an excellent professor and to Milica whose grace could steer a plot of fairytale – if they were allowed. 

Following texts were used in preparation of the report: Roma Needs Caused by Floods, Danilo Curcic (June 2014); Report from the field work – Flooded Areas 2014-2015, Nada Djurickovic and Violeta Djikanovic (October 2015); Report from the meeting Solidarity is Our Strength, Women in Black (February 2015).

Big thanks to Oak Foundation. Without their financial aid the activities which we realized would not be possible. Thanks go for the trust, recognition and offering assistance in the situation when it was the most needed.