I don't stand for injustice!
I don't stand for injustice! is a national-level human rights campaign which went on in Serbia during 2014 & 2015. The main idea behind the campaign was to empower citizens to more decisively stand up in defense of their rights, especially when faced with any form of human rights violation conducted by state organizations. Campaign also aimed to motivates citizens not to tolerate injustice to them or others a silence is probably the worst thing we all could do. So, the campaign offered 2 useful resources to citizens of Serbia who had their human rights violated in any way:
1) Free legal aid mechanism which allowed over 4 000 people from Serbia to submit more than 4 500 legal aid requests in relation to a huge variety of human rights issues they faced in their relation with the state.
2) Public advocacy part of the campaign which allowed us and the citizens to recognize and propose solutions for alleviation of systemic issues negatively affecting the state of human rights in Serbia.
The campaign was essentially aimed at reducing systemic obstacles to fulfillment of the human rights of citizens of Serbia. The issues with policies and practices existing with state institutions in Serbia. Also the project aimed to empower citizens to more decisively stand up in defense of their rights, thus besides helping themselves, also help (by putting individual-level pressure on the state institutions) influence public policies and reform of public administration.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
Objectives were achieved by means of significantly reducing systemic obstacles to fulfillment of human rights and strengthening the overall awareness and ability of the public to influence public policies. Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) was the leading philosophy behind the campaign as interventions guided by HRBA empower people (rights-holders) to realize and comprehensively exercise their rights thus raising public awareness and influence. The campaign provided service of free legal aid to citizens who couldn't fulfill various rights with the state, most of the citizens disadvantaged (poor, different minority groups) which in essence allowed, besides individual-level benefits where legal aid seekers were able to fulfill their individual rights.
One of the innovations was creation of a mechanism that involved the public in identifying and proposing changes towards the systemic issues. So, instead just involving citizens as end users of the legal aid the campaign gave necessary resources to hundreds of people to just let us know of the issues they recognized, most often not affecting them personally. Other innovation was that public Internet-based database featuring policy analysis of the identified issues was established. No one before covered so many different human rights issues in such a public and easily accessible way. The final innovation was the most intense use of social media resulting in more than 35 000 following us on Facebook which set a record in Serbia for a campaign
The campaign had a two-fold impact. First impact was on the individual level. More than 2 500 people out of 4 000 who submitted legal aid requests used this help to fulfill their right which otherwise it is safe to assume most of them wouldn't achieve. This legal aid mechanism also had an effect on the state institutions as the true bureaucrat always loves the citizens who doesn't complaint or legally or otherwise questions his/hers decision. The second effect was probably even more substantial information obtained during legal aid providing process was used to identify, analyze and successfully advocate for alleviation of more than 80 systemic issues negatively affecting human rights in Serbia. Laws, by-laws and other policies and practices of more than 3 dozens of state run institutions were amended thus providing more long-term and sustainable solutions which don't only affect an individual citizen but communities and the state as a whole.
Probably the biggest challenge for the campaign was a sheer volume of legal aid requests doubling in number almost every year of the campaign which lead us to believe that the whole idea was really on the right track of everyone's needs. This put tremendous strain on small team of people run by Goran Mitrovic, and which included only 2 - 3 lawyers, depending on the time period. The second biggest challenge probably was the resistance of many state organizations to change their policies and practices. This resistance ranged from just refusal to communicate with the campaign team over findings and proposals that we made in order to help solve the issues negatively affecting the human rights to even different sorts of pressure exerted on the team and even threat of violence. Team members were chased out by state organizations staff from public spaces for distributing leaflets, utilities bills for our office were increased 4-fold, we were insulted and spammed via email, social media, etc
We already knew that people don't like injustice but during this campaign we learned that most people are actually prepared to do something to help themselves and others, which was somewhat a surprise for the team. This solidarity and activism is lacking as average citizens in Serbia feels that fight with the system is not useful and wont do anything in terms of effects. We learned that citizens lack true opportunities and especially resources which they can utilize in order to properly address the injustice inflicted by the state. That is why when faced with injustice many of them don't do anything about it and that's probably the worst case scenario for the community. We tried to teach people to communicate with the state in written rather than verbal manner and to utilize any possible resource, especially legal remedies in order to strengthen the rule of law.