Voices of Tolerance: Ivan Despotovic in Focus
Ivan Despotovic is one of the “Promoting Tolerance” 2015 fellows from Serbia. Currently, he works as a Coordinator of the Youth Office of the New Belgrade Municipality. Furthermore, he assists in the “Freedom Barometer” programme and the “Smart Cities” project of the Project Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Western Balkans. Before that, he worked as a Coordinator at the Centre for Development and Local Economy in Belgrade. Politically, he is the Coordinator of the Youth of Liberal Democratic Party for the city of Belgrade. Academically, Ivan Despotovic is a graduate traffic engineer.
Watch a video with him here, where he addresses the following questions: “Why is respect for human rights and tolerance towards minorities so important for him and Serbia?” and “Which is the major characteristic of anti-Semitism in Serbia?”
He shares the following motivation to participate in the Programme: „The concept of freedom was actually the key reason why I was attracted in my younger days to liberal philosophy and eventually got involved in everyday politics through Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), whose member I have remained until today.“
Ivan believes that: „...debating and exchanging examples of good practice with liberals from other countries, as well as exchanging experiences with the institutions of one of the most open and liberal societies, namely the United States of America’s society, will have significant influence on my personal views on building a civic society which respect human rights and promotes tolerance as the core principle."
In his essay “Major Instances of Anti-Semitism in my Country and their Underlying Reasons Behind” Ivan Despotovic shares that: “...Serbia didn’t tackle the problem of anti-Semitism better than other countries in Europe, nor is it true that there is no anti-Semitism in Serbia. Along time ago, Jews in Serbia did what Jews in the rest of the Europe are considering now – they emigrated. Every one of the above mentioned facts prove that. Also, the mere lack of physical violence does not mean that Serbia is a good country for Jewish people. The fact that a very small number of Jews live in Serbia and that a huge percentage of society tends to have negative attitudes toward Jews (according to ADL research), best describes the irrationality of local anti-Semitism and allows us to conclude that Serbia may still be fertile soil for anti-Semitism."
Ivan Despotovic reaches the conclusion that: „We need to learn from this example, because there are many other minorities in Serbia that are currently under more active threat, like Roma, Bosniask, Albanians, Croatians, etc. We need to find a way to address the problems of all the minorities, to accept them as equal members of our society, and to allow them to have a peaceful life without the need to look over their shoulders all the time.“
Find the whole essay here.
For more information for “Promoting Tolerance” Programme: here.
Photos from the seminar in Belgrade can be found here: