Working Paper 180

Public Advocacy in Serbia: translating democratisation in a double semiperiphery


Marek Mikuš

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 180

International development actors have promoted ‘public advocacy’ in post-Milošević Serbia as a form of NGO intervention that they expected to strengthen ‘community’ participation in local-level decisions and support the policies of ‘civil society building’ and ‘democratisation’. The introduction of public advocacy was underpinned by the nesting model of a double semiperiphery (Serbia in relation to the West, the ‘local community’ in relation to the national centre), in which the centre is imagined as dynamic, active, and the source of innovations, whereas the semiperiphery is static, passive, and receiving those innovations with some delay. By analysing both the transmission of public advocacy knowledge through textbooks and training sessions and the actual unfolding of several advocacy campaigns, I show how doing advocacy in Serbia involved an active and creative process of multi-stage translation between the meanings and interests of ‘communities’, ‘decision makers’, foreign donors, and NGO workers. These findings complicate the ideological underpinnings of advocacy: the spatial model of the centre/semiperiphery, the scalar model of the local/national, and the institutionalist dichotomy of the state/society. At the same time, it is shown how the theoretical framework of ‘policy translation’ may benefit from a closer focus on brokers and brokerage.

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