Changing landscape of Western Balkan social policy frameworks requires broader community engagement and comprehensive knowledge of dynamics influencing social development. Welfare states in the Western Balkan countries are faced with different challenges caused by high unemployment, increased inequalities and migration, ageing societies as well as requests for further fiscal consolidation.
Allocations to welfare measures amount to around 50% of national budgets, however their delivery practices are highly inadequate and insufficient in response to the citizens’ needs. All of which indicate that current social policies are inadequate for ensuring sustainable social development.
In parallel, much of the research in areas related to socio-economic policies is carried out by research community, think tanks and practitioners. However, despite their contributions to providing evidence and indicating achievements, shortcomings and limitations of social development, lack of their synergetic actions reflect their moderate leverage and inputs towards policy designers.
Recognising the need to mobilise knowledge as well as to facilitate relationships between policy makers and research community, PERFORM supported a group of Western Balkan think tanks and researchers working on social policy and employment issues to initiate a diverse forum of stakeholders in order to contribute to the development of sustainable social policy frameworks.
As a facilitator, PERFORM supported the work of the Center for Social Policy in organising meetings and establishing dialogue with key regional researchers from social policy background in their efforts to enhance cooperation with decision-makers and other interest groups. Research meetings resulted in the establishment of a Regional Network the aim of which is to initiate discussion and increase understanding among research communities, civil society and policymakers in the Western Balkans on the key issues of social policies and the welfare state. The Regional Network promotes the use of existing research capacities and creates synergies of regional influence that can provide options to policy makers for improving social dimension in the Western Balkan countries. The Regional Network gathers think tanks and research institution from seven Western Balkan countries:
- Albania - Economic and Social Analytics (ESA)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina - Center for Development, Evaluation and Social Science Research
- Kosovo - Instituti GAP
- Macedonia - Finance Think
- Montenegro - Juventas
- Serbia – Center for Social Policy
PERFORM, in collaboration with the Center for Social Policy, supported the development of position paper of the Regional Network entitled The Welfare State in Western Balkan Countries: Challenges and Options, which will serve as an advocacy tool for policy designers. As such, the position paper created a foundation for further debate between various stakeholders from social policy arena for the upcoming conference Future of the Welfare State in the Western Balkans.
The expected results from this intervention are the establishment of regional network that produces policy options for a more efficient and effective welfare state. In addition, collaboration between social science research groups, decision makers and CSOs will be strengthened through series of cross-sectoral meetings, regional conference Social Davos of the Western Balkans, and active participation in the work of regional network. These results are expected to contribute to intervention outcome through establishing structured dialogue process (platform for cooperation) between different stakeholders and systemic linkages to political reform process, i.e. development of sustainable social policy framework.
The expected systemic change is the continuation of cooperation between different stakeholders and provision of relevant evidence-based knowledge that can feed into reform processes through the Regional Network. With synergies within research community strengthened, there will be an increase in evidence-based research carried in the areas related to the social welfare. It is expected for political institutions to reach out for expertise to the broader community, namely the Network, as a source of relevant scientific evidence. Greater engagement of actors outside the government arena, i.e. research community, think tanks, CSOs and private sector, will position these actors as opinion leaders in the policy debate and political reforms of social system.
21/08/2017 The Future of the Welfare State (article by Z.Sunderic)