The President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, addressed today the CIVIL Conference “Between Aspirations and Reality”, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the civic association.

President Pendarovski expressed the expectation that in the period ahead we will continue to build a democratic state in which the success of one will not be at the expense of the success of the other and in which the laws will apply to everyone – equally.

The following is the integral text of the address.

Distinguished members and supporters of CIVIL,

Respected guests, media representatives, dear friends,

On December 10th, 1948, almost 71 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, confirming that recognition of dignity and equal and unalienable rights of all humanity are the foundations of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Only two years later, December 10th was declared International Human Rights Day.

Today, there is almost no constitution in the world that, at least formally, has not incorporated the provisions of the Universal Declaration, which, unfortunately, are not always and everywhere applied and respected. There is no better way to prepare for this important international day than to pay tribute and recognition to those individuals and organizations who have been fighting for human rights and freedoms in North Macedonia for years.

One of the most active civic associations in this field is CIVIL – Center for Freedom, which has been actively promoting and defending human rights and freedoms for 20 years, advocating for sustainable peace and civil reconciliation in the Macedonian society.

CIVIL began to operate in a turbulent time when our country was facing major humanitarian and security challenges. But it did not dwell solely on them, but on trying to offer solutions to the new problems that our society was still facing.

Distinguished Attendees,

Of the hundreds of successful CIVIL activities and projects, I will highlight just a few that I think are of particular importance.

First, it is the Citizens’ Charter as a reflection of the Universal Declaration. This Charter recognizes that the real participation of citizens in shaping our society is necessary to overcome the greatest challenges, such as poverty, violent extremism, growing inequality and climate change. The Charter is a call for civic activism to take its rightful place in the informal but necessary control over us, politicians and officials, in order to work for the common good.

This Citizen’s Charter, which has been adhered to by many free citizens and civil associations over the years, affirms the rights and freedoms that belong to us all, such as freedom of assembly and association or freedom of expression, under which everyone has the right to share, discuss and promote his views and ideas, to support others’ ideas or express disagreement.

These freedoms are key to CIVIL’s second activity that I want to talk about, namely the commitment to media freedom. In the midst of years of media gloom, CIVIL launched the Civic Lenses project, which aimed at contributing to the liberation and decontamination of the media space and encouraging citizens to build a free society through citizen journalism.

With its Civic Lenses, CIVIL has contributed to strengthening freedom of expression and media literacy. With numerous conferences, forums, campaigns and publications, you are doing a very valuable job – educating the Macedonian public and promoting a culture of dialogue.

Free media is one of the prerequisites for true democracy. And here I come to the third segment that I would like to talk about, namely free democratic elections. For the past 11 years, since 2008, CIVIL has been conducting electoral monitoring with new, effective election observation and civic education methodologies. By advocating for democracy and the rule of law, you incorporate advanced European standards and criteria that are important to European integration in our system.

The fourth group of projects addresses one particularly relevant topic, namely environmental protection. For years we have witnessed the visible negative trends in this area and therefore we must act urgently and in continuity. Pollution and climate change are our reality today, affecting our quality of life, our health, our economic processes, our infrastructure.

A few weeks ago I met with representatives of about a dozen CSOs and initiatives that appealed to me for support in this area. As President, I will publicly call for increased engagement by more authorities to mitigate the negative effects we all feel. I know that CIVIL does a lot of work in this field, and one of the newer projects called “The Greens Are Coming” gives a fresh momentum to the green agenda in North Macedonia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

By raising public awareness of the real issues and problems that are not always visible on the political front, the civic sector helps citizens shape society and thus directly contributes to our efforts to transform it into a progressive and prosperous state.

I expect that in the period ahead, we will continue to build a democratic state in which the success of one will not be at the expense of the success of the other and in which the laws will apply to everyone – equally. In which the rights and freedoms will be protected instead of privileges. And, at the core of our joint venture for a free and just society, the dignity of the individual and citizen to remain.

Dear friends,

Congratulations on your jubilee, congratulations on your persistence and perseverance in these 20 years and I wish you well in the next 120 years.

Thank you.

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