Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Snezana Paunovic took part in the 146th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain.
In the General Debate with the theme of “Promoting peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies: Fighting intolerance”, Parliament Deputy Speaker Snezana Paunovic pointed out that, unfortunately, intolerance and discrimination still exist in almost all societies. The fight against intolerance is not simple and dialogue, education and political readiness are needed to yield any visible results. Education, as one of the key and primary means of prevention, is the basis for combating intolerance and discrimination. Education promotes inclusion and peaceful coexistence. States are obliged to take legal measures in the fight against discrimination, first of all creating national normative frameworks that should guarantee equal treatment of all citizens before the law. They are obliged to promote the positive values of mutual understanding and respect for human rights. Only by respecting the individuality and uniqueness of each individual, together we create a more tolerant and solidary world. By accepting cultural differences, we build an environment that exudes peace.
She pointed out that Serbia is implementing extensive reforms in the field of non-discrimination, with the aim of harmonising the legal framework with relevant international and European standards. On the international level, Serbia is a signatory to numerous conventions, eight of the nine most important human rights treaties created under the auspices of the UN have been ratified. Serbia is an example of good practice in that it is the first UN member state to adapt the principle of "leave no one behind" from the 2030 Agenda to its normative framework. Also, the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Strategy for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination for the period from 2022 to 2030.
Prevention and protection against discrimination is one of the priorities of the national policy of the Republic of Serbia. In 2009, Serbia adopted a general anti-discrimination law which specified the constitutional norms on the prohibition of discrimination and laid the legal foundations for protection against discrimination. It had also adopted the Law on Gender Equality as well as laws on labour, social protection, patient rights, the police, youth, laws on secondary education and upbringing, higher education, advertising, foreigners and criminal code. Our commitment to the protection of the rights of national minorities also received its legal framework of its own in the form of the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities and the Law on National Councils of National Minorities.
At the very end, Deputy Speaker Snezana Paunovic sent a strong message:
"I was born in Kosovo-Metohija. I was born and I come from a place where three months ago the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church was forbidden to enter and hold a liturgy, even though the seat of our Patriarchate is there. Where on Christmas someone shot at children just because they are Serbs. Where they beat you in the street just because you speak Serbian. There are many people like me who have not been able to return home for 24 years because someone decided that they do not have the right to do so. It is our obligation, as responsible people, as parliamentarians, to fight for basic human rights, one of which is that everyone can live where they were born. Let us hear each other and not allow such injustices to be inflicted by an individual's decision. We must not allow the basic human rights of a nation to be violated in the 21st century - a nation that cannot go to its territory where it has a monastery from the 12th century."