Regional Initiative “The Future of the Welfare State” - Regional Conference

The regional conference the Future of the Welfare State in the Western Balkans is the backbone of an initiative launched by a group of independent think tank organizations and researchers from the Western Balkan countries with the aim to achieve a common impact in the welfare state areas in the region.

Since there are numerous obstacles and challenges in the Western Balkan countries that require a clearly focused social response, the idea of the regional initiative is to create a space for long-term debate and targeted action through the annual regional event with the presence of the most prominent researchers and leaders in society. As part of the inclusive regional process, the annual conference will point out strategies how to social scientists can support policy makers effectively in shaping a sustainable social policy framework that addresses the needs of vulnerable groups.  Thus conceived, the regional conference presents an important mechanism and channel of influence with a vision to become the most relevant event dedicated to the welfare state issues in the region.

Under the informal title the Social Davos of the Western Balkans, the first regional event on the future of the welfare state will gather more than 150 researches, policymakers and advocacy groups from the EU and the Western Balkans in May 2018 in Belgrade. The aim is to establish a wider and longer-term dialogue between them in order to:

  1. Address the key challenges facing the social welfare state across the Western Balkans;
  2. Assess progress made in modernizing social protection (including pensions), social inclusion (including active labour market programs), health and long-term care, and education (including early childhood education) systems in the Western Balkans;
  3. Outline potential future reform scenarios for the social welfare states of the Western Balkans, including the possibilities for regional approaches of peer support and mutual learning in the context of European integration processes; and
  4. Promote the role of scientific research to aid the development of evidence-based policy making across the Western Balkans, through the identification of an agenda to close core knowledge gaps.
During the two-day conference, panel sessions and parallel workshops will be thematically focused on the challenges and options of the welfare states in the Western Balkans. Debates about challenges will primarily address the problem of inadequate level of development for a comprehensive welfare state, pronounced social problems, inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the government and public sector, unfavourable demographic situation that generates pressure on social expenditures, drivers of reforms and agents of change. The conference participants and panellists will discuss strategic choices and options to overcome these obstacles and challenges.