Institute for Democratic Engagement Southeast Europe (IDESE) has been born from long-term and fruitful cooperation of representatives of the two premier research institutions in SEE whose goal was to go beyond research and innovation, but to induce changes that would be evidence based in the region. Run between Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina at its inception, IDESE aims to bring on board representatives of universities and think tanks from other SEE countries – Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo*.

Our aim is to capture the momentum of two former Yugoslav cities being selected the cultural capitals of Europe – Rijeka in Croatia (2020) and Novi Sad in Serbia (2021). 

Not least as these open, welcoming, multicultural, multi-ethnic cities with long academic traditions provide a welcome contrast to the pervasive political discourse on both sides of the border that sadly, feeding on Serbian-Croatian hostility, remains chauvinistic.

We are engaged in assembling and empowering progressive human capital that is urgently lacking in Southeast Europe. We believe that no facet of society, including the economic, can flourish without an educated and responsible elite, sorely lacking at the moment. IDESE aims to produce specific strategies of grounding progressive political cultural change by carefully selecting and nurturing highly educated compelling minds. Advancing already established joint activities, we offer several programs, some of which are already shaped and underway, with others providing a more comprehensive, root and branch influence in the SEE region.

An insecure and anxious environment encourages emigration of reproductive and capable layers of the population. The region of Southeast Europe is thus stripped of everything from demographic to social and intellectual potential for progressive change, leaving it ever more lagging behind the developed parts of the world. The region has today fallen to one of the least advanced in Europe, leading the world only in brain drain. The people(s) of these countries have lost trust in institutions, seeing before them only a broken system of values; unsurprisingly, this leaves them little choice but to abandon their countries.

We are strongly convinced that this regression is above all a consequence of a conservative, provincial political culture, prone to authoritarianism and collective hysteria that has taken root in our midst far too long.