Rediscovering the civic spirit and getting together around common causes are two tendencies identified in Romania in the past 3 or 4 years
Rediscovering the civic spirit and getting together around common causes are two tendencies identified in Romania in the past 3 or 4 years, as more and more citizens have joined hands to support issues of public interest, be they local or national. People are taking courage to express their will, send petitions, cooperate with one another in order to draw the authorities’ attention over their discontentment and improve their living conditions. For about 3 years now, the Declic Community has helped them in this respect.
Very active on social networks, this NGO urges people to mobilize and write petitions and provides them with counselling on how to organize themselves to claim their rights, says Tudor Brădăţan, the executive manager of the Declic Community: “The Declic Community is the largest community of active, committed citizens in Romania. In 3 years of activity we have managed to reach out to a number of 370,000 people, whom we constantly provide with information and calls for action. By action I mean signing an online petition, participating in an action or event, in a protest or rally or in a meeting with the authorities’ representatives. Furthermore, we have come up with a method of raising money, through which our members are invited to contribute money for the causes they believe in.”
Tudor Brădăţan came with the idea of setting up this platform several years ago when the Save Roşia Montană action started. The action was meant to prevent the intensive exploitation of gold in the locality of Roşia Montană, in the Apuseni Mountains, by means of cyanides, which are harmful to the environment.
At the time, people were rather reticent in joining hands for a common cause, Tudor Brădăţan recollects: “Many asked us why we didn’t make a petition addressed to the authorities, because they should have known the problems of Roşia Montană better. As we became aware of the success of these petitions among citizens, we wanted to set up a larger community of people who could mobilize rapidly and get information fast on certain issues so as to build a successful social campaign for the citizens. If the authorities act against people’s interest, it’s good for the citizens to have the means to put heads together and pressure the authorities into paying attention to their wishes.”
Declic Community provides support not only for major issues of national interest but also for local issues, says Olga Popescu, the organizer of this online community’s local actions: “We provide a lot of support to those who launch online petitions on the website and approach issues that we consider relevant. We teach them how to mobilize people, to reach out to more citizens, not only online but also offline. At present, there are around 800 submitted petitions. Yet this number is changing. Some of these people did not start a campaign to back their idea. Others have reacted quickly and thought out campaigns in support of their idea. The success rate is 50% and we are happy that many of these campaigns have been successful.”
Olga Popescu has given us examples of campaigns initiated by citizens, which turned out to be successful. ”The most recent success we’ve had, following a campaign supported by several citizens, was to convince local authorities in Piatra Neamt to move a bear from the Zoo to a nature reserve in Brasov. They succeeded that after two years during which they put constant pressure on the mayor, given that things moved very slowly. Their determination made this campaign successful, as the bear was living in a cage, in improper conditions. Now the bear is in a forest in Brasov where even wild animals kept in captivity are taken care of. “
But maybe the most successful undertaking of the series of actions conducted by Declic Community was the large-scale mobilization for the large scale protests staged last year in several cities across the country, targeting a couple of legislative initiatives aimed at reorganizing the justice system.
Tudor Bradatan once again: ”Perhaps one of the campaigns for which Declic is best-known is#REZIST. We launched this symbol and invited members of Declic to change their profile photo on social networks, in order to add this slogan. Then we carried on. After Ordinance 13, there were the justice laws. On that occasion, we mobilized once again and created some yellow little hands as placards with the slogan All for Justice. They were practically financed through modest donations by the Declic members. A problem that not many people are aware of will never be a problem the authorities will be quick to solve. That was very obvious in the case of the justice laws. It was public pressure that made the MPs back off. From the government’s proposal last summer, targeting the justice laws, to the final version the Parliament has passed, it’s been a long way. Many of the stipulations that consider toxic were not included in the final version of the law. “
It’s been a while since the very first Save Rosia Montana campaigns. Long enough, it appears, for the civic spirit to get stronger, according to Tudor Bradatan. We are now witnessing an enhanced level of civic involvement also because people have realized their voice can be heard through cooperation and assertiveness, and the petition is the first step by means of which ordinary citizens can set the public agenda, the Declic Community members say.