What in 2008 began as a global financial crisis has rapidly turned into a global human rights crisis: as greater poverty and misery threaten the realization of social and particularly, labor rights, citizens protest is growing. Across Europe, actors on the far right of political spectrum are on the rise, singing along familiar xenophobic tunes, threatening migrants and minorities – portrayed as the “Other” “responsible” for jobs being lost. Despite the human rights dimensions of the crisis, government responses have been limited to austerity policies. If and when not thought through, budget cuts (presented as savings) can contribute to further marginalization of vulnerable groups.
Indicators of crisis are just as evident in the Western Balkans. Protracted transition has left scores unemployed, as foreign direct investment promised by the elites failed to materialize. State funds have been wasted on former giants – today mere remnants of planned economy, all in order to keep the social peace. Those working in the private sector are far too often left with minimum wage, on the look out for being sacked, as many others are waiting in line to fill their spots. On the other hand, unemployed and poorly skilled spend years in the limbo; facing the reality that permanent employment is a thing of the past. Sole ambitious employer has been the overgrown state apparatus, proving today as an expensive machine to run. Yet, negative selection on all levels of society has left the young and bright largely out of the system of governance, limiting space and proposals for change. Finally, these young and bright come out of an outdated educational system, which provides little practical knowledge or comparative advantages on the labor market.
For all the above-mentioned reasons, we felt a seminar dealing with consequences of prolonged economic crisis was long overdue. This time we take our participants to Skopje, where from 8 to 11 May we will discuss – what were the causes of this economic slump; has capitalism been compromised for good; which are the ways forward; and last but not the least, how to help those living on the margins.