IOCC opened its Belgrade office in 1992 at the invitation of the Serbian Orthodox Church to respond to the crisis created by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. From emergency distributions of family food parcels and hygiene kits, to installations of plastic greenhouses, IOCC helped thousands of families to recover from war and international sanctions. In Serbia, and throughout the former Yugoslav republics, IOCC has focused on long-term, self-sustaining activities in order to address the diverse and changing needs of the society.
IOCC has continued a longstanding microcredit program designed to provide loans and enhance microenterprises of refugees and displaced persons in western Serbia. The program, which was originally funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and (BPRM), is operated in partnership with a local NGO "DUGA", from Šabac.
In UN Administered Serbian Province Kosovo and Metohija, in cooperation with the Serbian Orthodox Church, IOCC continued providing assistance to local villages improving the teaching environment in local primary schools, community and preschool centers. As well, in cooperation with the Visoki Decani monastery, IOCC continued its programs focused on the development of agricultural production.
Through its Gifts-in-Kind program, IOCC has provides shipments of English books, baby food, baby kits, hygiene kits and school kits to vulnerable people throughout central Serbia. In cooperation with the Visoki Decani monastery, a part of the GIK assistance has been distributed throughout Kosovo.
IOCC continued and expanded its programs in supporting development programs, focused on providing support and assistance to specialized state institution for children and youth, in Serbia.
Programs Implemented Previous to 2009
Since 1992, IOCC has implemented humanitarian programs in Serbia (and Montenegro) worth tens of millions of dollars and which provided assistance to more than 1.5 million people. Among the activities were:
- Community Development and Mobilization programs increased the ability of community-based organizations to provide local solutions to local problems. IOCC built the organizational capacity of a core group of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), refugee and IDP (internally-displaced person) associations; strengthened and expanded their network; enabled them to efficiently represent and advocate for the rights of displaced people and to participate in the decision-making processes related to their status and to implement projects that provide the necessary assistance to IDPs in order to help them make informed choices about their future.
- Refugee Return and Assistance programs that facilitated the reintegration of refugees into their home countries. In cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Commission Humanitarian aid Office (ECHO), IOCC supported permanent returns to Bosnia-Herzegovina through the provision of legal assistance, information dissemination, transportation of household belongings, agriculture mechanization and return support kits that contained household appliances, tools and other items that facilitated a new beginning.
- Agriculture and Food Production programs helped rural populations raise their levels of nutrition, standard of living and agricultural productivity. IOCC promoted the establishment of agricultural associations and cooperatives, enhanced their organizational capacity, and built a regional agricultural consultant network called "Agro-Link." IOCC enabled rural populations to secure regular food supplies, participate at all levels in the decision-making processes related to sustainable agricultural and rural development, and familiarize themselves with the latest developments in agricultural science and technology.
- Educational and Training programs equipped beneficiaries with transferable skills. In cooperation with the People’s Technical University "Božidar Adžija" and an extensive network of local partners, IOCC worked to educate people of all ethnic backgrounds, thus increasing their employment opportunities and making them less dependent on social welfare and humanitarian assistance.
- Business Development programs gave people the tools to work their way out of poverty with dignity. IOCC provided the working capital necessary for dozens of agro-businesses and small businesses. The program achieved a 100 percent loan repayment rate.
Other past IOCC programs in Serbia include: a dental hygiene campaign for primary school children; introduction of information technology in rural and suburban elementary schools; flood recovery activities, support to social welfare institutions through the provision of clothing, food and medicine; and income-generating activities for physically handicapped individuals.
Serbia stories from the archives