On Relocation of Informal Settlement "Gazela" in Belgrade

Caring for quality living conditions means fighting poverty and fulfilling basic needs: food, health, education, employment, housing and social and cultural inclusion. Poverty and social exclusion are issues in developed countries, as well as in Belgrade and Serbia. As a result of deep changes during the past two decades, there has been a steady rise of the number of poor and socially vulnerable in Belgrade. Many citizens have been facing existential problems, trying to meet basic needs.

The citizens who until recently lived in the Gazela settlement and who were resettled to a better place to live, are, unfortunately, a small portion of the citizens of Belgrade who live in poverty. As its priority development program, the City of Belgrade continues to provide the resettled citizens with basic infrastructure, child education, adult education, health protection services, building a humane environment inside and outside of the community to help them adapt to a new cultural frame as quickly and smoothly as possible. The century of knowledge that we stepped into, globalization process, new scientific innovations, the era of intertwined, diverse and unsteady values – these are some of the factors of important social context in which the City Administration is implementing its poverty reduction programs.

To live in Gazela settlement under the Bridge meant to live and raise a family, grow up and fight for existence in dwellings made of cardboard, planks and branches or in the back of an old truck or RV. It meant to be a citizen born and raised under the Bridge who did not exist as a part of social and political community. The life in Gazela settlement was constant danger, hunger, unnecessary death due to curable illnesses, involvement in criminal activities and constant uncertainty of not being an official citizen and thus not being able to exercise your rights as a citizen. The children did not go to school. All these bleak images that only begin to describe the poverty, distress and huge gap that divided these people from a dignified life are the matter of contemporary history now, to great satisfaction of the City Administration, all socially responsible citizens and international public.

The all inclusive and conceptually well built platform, the aim of which was to change the tragic scenario of a non-existent life to a well balanced and happy life story to the extent it was possible, gave good results.

The social inclusion program for resettled Roma communities was implemented through social security and health care services, professional care for pre-school and school children, quality living conditions programs and humanitarian aid, with the help of Belgrade Red Cross. The completed and ongoing programs are implemented in cooperation with international community representatives in Belgrade.

The Mayor’s Office formed the Work Group for Coordination, Monitoring and Supervision of Implementation of Resettled Roma Communities Inclusion Program. The Working Group is presided by the Vice Mayor, while several City Administration Departments are responsible for effective implementation of the program, depending on their respective field of work. The Work Group and the relevant departments, in cooperation with the representatives of EBRD and EIB overcoming many financial, technical and logistics difficulties, have successfully completed the resettlement and formation of new communities at locations: Lipovica, Municipality of Barajevo, Makis, Municipality of Cukarica, Kijevo, Municipality of Rakovica, Boljevci, Municipality of Surcin and Varos, Municipality of Mladenovac.

The City of Belgrade will continue to organize activities that will provide better quality living conditions for the citizens living at the five new locations. Within this programme, priority will be given to ensuring basic care for children, elderly citizens, as well as other family members, regular health care and primary education and employment.

It is important that social integration should be based upon sustainable existence and support provided by the City services. The City of Belgrade will engage all its capacities to implement the projected programmes and undertake all necessary measures in order to integrate the families and individuals moved from the Gazela settlement into the wider social community.

According to the programme followed by the City of Belgrade, the goal of this strategy for fighting poverty and exclusion is not only reduction, but prevention of social problems as well. Economic recovery and successful economic policy are prerequisites for implementation of long term sustainable social protection programmes, with social policies always being closely intertwined with economic policies. Without such preconditions the implementation of the very social programme is a very hard and demanding, albeit not an impossible task. Along those lines, the City of Belgrade continues intensive work on integrated development and timely and careful monitoring of changes and needs of citizens living in unfavourable social conditions.