The Association for Democratic Initiatives (ADI) was established in 1994 as an initiative of group of citizens and civil society activists at Macedonian Red Cross, local branch in Gostivar. ADI had modest beginnings. Its initial projects focused on initiatives that promoted civic education and voter education for parliamentary and local elections in 1991 and 1996, respectively. During the elections, the work included recruitment and training of more than 500 volunteers to monitor the elections. To facilitate this, several workshops and training seminars were organized. The development of a network of local volunteers was established to increase coverage of voting places and ADI organized a system to monitor the media during the campaign and election periods. ADI managed to rent an office, buy computers and the necessary equipment for normal functioning of the organization with a donation from the Norwegian Embassy.
1997 – 2001
During the conflicts in Kosovo (1999) and Macedonia (2001), ADI has taken the role of “breaking the ice and filling the gap” and mobilized the civil society for providing humanitarian response during the crisis.
Upon escalation of the conflict in Kosovo and the ethnic cleaning, large number of refugees came to Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia. In Macedonia more than 250 000 refugees were settled. ADI established 9 offices in the municipalities where the refugees were settled: Kumanovo, Skopje (2), Tetovo, Gostivar, Kicevo, Debar, Struga and Resen. ADI provided legal assistance on the rights and responsibilities of the refugees, as well as information on family reunion, traveling abroad etc. At the same time, ADI had set up and worked on a database oriented towards an easy access to information to localize refugees. A database was programmed, concentrating mainly upon those refugees located in private households throughout Macedonia. Five hundred volunteers (initially mainly local students and also Kosovar refugees wanting to contribute) gathered and processed the information. Every day the data were updated by volunteers, personally by refugees looking for their relatives, by other organizations, by fax and via e-mail. Volunteers were constantly entering the new information into the database. The search was possible by the following means: Personal inquires, telephone hotline and on the internet at www. refugjat.org. ADI managed to connect over ten thousand families. Most of the specialized relief agencies were using this database for tracing people, aid planning, food distribution and community programs. All these activities were supported by the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives.
2001 – 2014
This period has directed ADI to post-conflict activities and confidence building as well activities outside of Macedonia. ADI was founder and member of the steering committee of two regional networks Balkan Human Rights Network and South-East European Refugee Assistance Network, supported by FRESTA a Program of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Also, ADI became member of the European Committee on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and member of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). Within these networks, ADI implemented numerous of projects related to protection and promotion of human rights, minority rights and supporting democracy processes.
Following the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which provided peace in Macedonia after the ethnic conflict in 2001, ADI had undertaken major projects for monitoring the implementation of this agreement to ensure that its provisions were adopted and respected.
Under the Diversity and Democracy Program for South-East Europe (SEE) supported by the Minority Rights Group International during the 2003 – 2006, ADI was focused on promoting the public participation of ethnic minorities in the political and economic realm in Macedonia. ADI organized workshop on Power-sharing in South-East Europe (2003) gathering 30 participants from the SEE as well a workshop on Ethnic Data Collection in Development (2005) gathering 40 participants, human rights and civil society activists, representatives of the public institutions and experts from the region of SEE. ADI also held staff trainings in order to increase their awareness on the provisions of the Framework Convention for National Minorities and translated numerous advocacy guidelines on the ethnic minorities into local languages. In 2003, ADI obtained the special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations which was light motive for all further engagement in the promotion and implementation of human and minority rights standards in our country.
During 2006, the Association for Democratic Initiatives (ADI) continued to consolidate and strength its existing programmes with a focus on the process of decentralization and strengthening the capacities of the civil society on national level. In the frame of the project “Power sharing: A new concept of decision-making processes in multicultural municipalities”, supported by the EU funds, ADI intensively monitored the process of decentralization in four municipalities in Macedonia, and strengthened the cooperation with local authorities, governmental sector and representatives of the international community in the country. As a result of the monitoring, ADI published a report and provided information on the process of decentralization in Gostivar, Struga, Kicevo and Debar as well as the beginnings of the implementation of Badinter’s principle on local level and possible ways of development of this model and procedure.
During the period of 2006-2008, ADI implemented the project Civil Society in Action: Partnerships for Positive Social Change. Civil Society in Action was part of the Civil Society Strengthening Project (CSSP), implemented by Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) and funded by USAID. The project aimed to help citizens and local government officials to work closely together to improve local conditions, provide support to those who are in need, and promote more open and responsible local municipal governments. ADI, awarded small grants to 15 civil society organizations from the region of Gostivar, Tetovo, Kicevo and Debar for implementation of projects in the area of combating corruption, improvement of health care, improvement of quality of life, local economic development and social inclusion of vulnerable groups. ADI mentored the grantees over the course of the project and provided the assistance to all their needs and requirements. ADI efficiently and effectively have managed the granting programs including the process of applications, preparation of grant agreements, receipt and review of technical and financial reports, technical assistance coordination to grantees, site visits and monitoring, and dissemination of successes and useful information.
Also, in this period of maturity, ADI implemented numerous trainings on human and minority rights as well provisions of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, targeting more than 500 participants: local councilors, civil society representatives, journalists, representatives of public institutions/agencies, business community. The aim of these trainings implemented in the frame of various projects were to strengthen capacities of the Municipal Councils, Local Commissions for Equal Opportunities, Local Commissions for Community Relations, CSOs and media on human and minority rights; as well to strengthen the links of communication between the relevant national and local institutions established to promote and protect the rights of minorities.
ADI was selected as one of the five implementing organizations to implement the Community Forum Program supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) in the period (2008 – 2014). Overall objective was to support the participatory development of communities on local level. Target group were citizens, CSOs and local self-government. The realized activities were tailor-made trainings/consultancies for local self-government (administration, CSOs, Units of LSG and local initiative groups) provided to stimulate development of local communities through organizational strengthening and increased citizens’ participation. Also, technical assistance for realization of the selected projects was provided. These activities were implemented in the form of Community Forum, Budgetary Forums and Inter-municipal Forum in 8 urban and rural municipalities.