Civil society organisations from Kosovo and Serbia speak out together to emphasise the importance of building goodwill and trust in order to make it possible for political agreements to take hold, bring peace and benefit their societies.
The so-called status quo is taking communities on a collision course, deepening divides and entrenching misery. People don’t know where they stand, nor what they can expect for their societies. The only predictability is frustration and disappointment.
The narrative of coercive diplomacy – that agreement is being forced upon us – only undermines the sense that implementation will happen in good faith. We need to be able to believe that the stakeholders are dedicated to their process for the right reasons. They must stand up for the commitments they enter into on our behalf.
Ambiguity can no longer be constructive. Uncertainty breeds uncertainty. People don’t know how moving to the next stage will affect their everyday tangible needs, including implications for their own jobs and access to services. This is not simply a question of transparency. Decision-makers must be proactive in addressing the legitimate concerns of citizens whilst emphasising the benefits that can and must be grasped.
Any agreement must also be underpinned by specific guarantees. To create certainty in and for the future, steps forward need to be irreversible. We must cease to live in a cycle of integration and disintegration. People must have the confidence to invest in themselves and their careers, and ultimately their communities.
Many people already feel that the system does not work for them. Reforms that address essential needs, including the fight against corruption and developing an effective judicial system, cannot be addressed effectively. Civic voices are not as strong as they should be in public policy, and the possibility to build civic alliances is compromised. Issues of concern to the public are politicised in a way that they cannot be brought up by civil society.
Narratives among politicians and in the media too often emphasise difference and separation. The tangible result is outward migration, further depleting our societies of the very human capital on which we depend. Instead, we want to live in societies that celebrate diversity and see it as a strength. Trust between people is a necessary condition to move beyond the obstacles that our communities have been experiencing for many years.
Whilst integration into the European space will dissolve some of the divisions that we see today, reform must be pursued as an end in itself, not simply as a means to enter the EU. The dialogue is an essential but insufficient part of this journey. It must be supplemented by complementary processes that transform relations within and between communities and lay the foundations for a peaceful and prosperous future. Without this, we risk repeating the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past decade and more.
A diverse group of 40 civil society organisations, activists, and media outlets from Kosovo and Serbia express their profound concern about the impact of a lack of progress in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue on local communities.
Given the recent EU reports and developments on the ground, we the undersigned are concerned about the impact of a lack of progress in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue on local communities in Serbia and Kosovo. It is people on the ground who suffer most from the persistence of tensions and mistrust. All sides must therefore desist from inflammatory rhetoric that harms and damages relations within and between communities. The scope for ambiguities must be reduced through transparency and accountability. All citizens must be clear about what has been agreed to, whilst the process of dialogue itself must be brought closer to the very citizens affected by it.
The scenes of the Serbian Ortodox Church’s Patriarch Porfirije being greeted on the streets of Prizren send a positive message of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence; images and sentiments that provide hope for the future of relations within and between Serbia and Kosovo. We commend all parties for their constructive approach – in particular, Gazmend Muhaxheri, the mayor of Peja/Peć, who attended the proceedings – and hope that these foundations can be built upon.
However, we also call for tangible progress on a number of other fronts. In Kosovo, there is a fundamental lack of dialogue and cooperation through elected institutions. Srpska Lista parliamentarians are failing to represent the needs of the Kosovo Serb community. The continued absence of their MPs from the Kosovo Assembly means that their constituents and the daily problems they face are not effectively voiced. We call for Srpska Lista’s immediate return and active participation.
Many agreements are barely mentioned today. The main bridge in Mitrovica remains closed to traffic, despite extensive EU investment. Both parties should engage to resolve the demarcation of Mitrovica North, which has hampered the reopening process. Additional steps must be taken to ensure the Bridge serves as an inclusive and shared space that connects people from both sides of the river Ibar.
With respect to the issue of licence plates, all parties should work constructively to find a solution that will not harm people on the ground. The new crossing points agreed to previously should be opened forthwith to make it easier for citizens to travel without unnecessary distance and delay. The free flow of people should be a fundamental part of the normalisation of relations.
The mutual recognition of diplomas has stalled, leading to shortages of vital staff in key public institutions in south Serbia and in Kosovo, for instance, including those pertaining to health, education, justice, and access to services more broadly. It is the most profound example of the consequences of a lack of implementation of what has been agreed to, and should be addressed without further delay.
In south Serbia, there is a sense that the integration of the Albanian community is being damaged by the strained relations between Belgrade and Pristina. The seven-point plan for integration should be a priority for the new Serbian government, including the inclusion of Albanian representatives in its Coordination Body for the Municipalities of Preshevë/Presevo, Bujanovc/Bujanovac and Medvegjë/Medvedja. Concerns pertaining to the conduct of the census in Medvegjë/Medvedja should be addressed immediately, and there should be a thorough review of the passivation process.
We, the undersigned, fully support any process that can bring new momentum and positive energy, and which can benefit citizens from all walks of life. Building trust and confidence is vital for future relations within and between communities.
Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC)
Association for Heritage and Cultural Creativity Presevo
Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP)
Centre for Peace and Tolerance (CPT)
Civic initiative (Gradjanske inicijative)
Community Building Mitrovica (CBM)
Centar for Democracy and Education – Valley
European Center for Minority Issues Kosovo (ECMI)
European Movement in Serbia (EMIS)
European Fund for the Balkans (EFB)
Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society (BFPE)
Gorazdevac Media Group
Human Center Mitrovica
Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade
Junior Chamber International Prizren (JCI- Prizren)
Kosovar Center for Security Studies (KCSS)
Kosovar Gender Studies Center
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
Mitrovica Women Association for Human Rights
Ministria e Lajmeve Presevo
Media Center Caglavica
NGO Budi Aktivan 16 Presevo
Peer Educators Network (PEN)
Professor Vjollca Krasniqi, University of Pristina
We are inviting you to write your story on a slice of life that depicts a reality, be that positive or a challenge, from the prism of multiethnicity in Kosovo and Serbia. The Media Award accepts applications until December 31st, 2022, which means there is three months’ time to research and write a story that shows how different nationalities coexist in Serbia or Kosovo.
For the year 2022, PCi has doubled the first prize in both categories (audio-visual and written format) to € 2,000 Euro and looks forward to receiving your entries.
Should you have a story that was written in the past, anytime during the period between 1st of January 2022 and the 31st of December 2022, you are eligible for the Media Award 2.
One of the main criteria for eligibility is that these stories must be written in Albanian or Serbian language and must have been published on or before 31st of December 2022 (earliest date of publication must be: 1st of January 2022).
For additional information about the Media Award criteria, please refer to the documents below. The Call for Application is available in English, Serbian and Albanian language.
Azerbaijan’s military action against settlements on Armenia’s sovereign territory violates international law and cannot be justified by any of Azerbaijan’s declared statements on provocations, the mining of Azerbaijani’s territory, or ongoing frustrations at the pace of implementation of the 2020 ceasefire agreement. We appeal for an immediate cessation of military action for the protection of civilians and a return to ongoing dialogue formats.
PCi’s peacebuilders and our partners have long-standing relations with civic and political actors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan and have a profound respect for those who have been committed to a peaceful transformation around the parameters of the conflict between the two countries. We have deep empathy with the people of Azerbaijan who experienced considerable suffering and acknowledge outstanding grievances from previous wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We are convinced, however, that a military or force-based resolution to the present situation can only cause harm to the neighbourly relations without which a lasting peace is impossible.
We call on civil society and independent actors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to act in line with principles that look ahead to peaceful relations between the two countries by withholding from rhetoric that supports or justifies military action, by not posting information that has not been verified, and by using ties that have been built over years of working for peace to in the region to verify facts, understand perspectives, and provide moral support to one another.
In a first-time hybrid event, PCi publicly launched the 2nd annual Media Award for multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia at a press conference which was simultaneously held in Belgrade and in Pristina. Members of the two juries (the award is awarded for media content in both Albanian and Serbian language) and some of last year’s Award winners spoke about the significance of the award.
A Jury member for Serbian language, Jelena Obućina, said that the Award is an excellent incentive for both journalists and media to pay more attention to stories about ordinary life and peaceful coexistence. Her Albanian language colleague, Violeta Oroshi, agreed from Pristina, adding an invitation to journalists to tell the positive stories which do exist, but rarely find their way into media space.
Filip Švarm, the Editor in chief of the Belgrade weekly VREME, the media which won the first prize last year, said that “in a time which is burdened with dark news, it is so important to show life and cooperation between nations”.
Ardiana Thaçi, the winner of 1st prize in audiovisual format in Albanian, said that “it is the duty of majority language media to report on the lives of minorities”, as she did in her award-winning piece.
Through the Media Award, PCi aims to promote and reward media content from Kosovo and Serbia that explores themes related to the co-existence of communities, with the ultimate goal to contribute to the narrowing of the present divisive narratives.
The call for entries is open for stories published between January 1st and December the 31st 2022 and the first prize in both categories (audio/visual and written format) is € 2,000 Euro. For detailed information about how to apply, please click on the Terms of Reference below, available in English, Serbian, and Albanian languages.
Peaceful Change initiative is delighted to announce that for the second year running, we are inviting journalists, editors, media representatives, and others, to share with us their stories on multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia. The original idea for the Award came as a result of a series of Media Consultation Dialogues which have brought together well over a hundred most relevant journalists, editors and media experts from both Kosovo and Serbia to discuss how to improve the media scene, especially when reporting about each other’s communities.
For the year 2022, PCi has doubled the first prize in both categories (audio/visual and written format) to € 2,000 Euro and looks forward to receiving even more entries this year. We have every reason to believe that this will become a traditional annual award.
The call for entries is open until December the 31st 2022 and the entries will be evaluated by a professional jury which will select the winning stories and media outlets, since the winners in both categories also win an award for the media where they were originally published.
For detailed information about how to apply, please click on the Terms of Reference below, available in English, Serbian and Albanian languages.
PCi endorses statement of Ukrainian mediation and dialogue practitioners on the application of dialogue during Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Thirteen Ukrainian organisations with experience and expertise in the areas of mediation and dialogue have issued a joint statement to bring the attention of international donors and programming organisations to key aspects of the present context for the application of dialogue and peacebuilding approaches. The statement has been supported by a further 14 dialogue and mediation organisations.
The organisations preparing the statement express their appreciation of the unprecedented support directed towards Ukraine and propose seven points to be taken into consideration with respect to developing appropriate peacebuilding and dialogue approaches in the country at this time:
The armed aggression in Russia must be understood in its full context, including as a violation of the very cornerstones of the post-World War II world order.
Political-level (Track One) negotiations between the warring parties should continue on peace and humanitarian issues and formats may be considered for the involvement of civil society in such processes.
Dialogue between citizens of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus during active hostilities is not appropriate to the current phase of the conflict, no matter the location of the talks, and does not reflect ‘do-no-harm’ principles.
Dialogue and dialogue approaches can and should be used as a tool to strengthen resilience, social cohesion and unity within Ukrainian society, and these should be supported even during the hot phase of the conflict. Similarly dialogue between the civil society of Ukraine and international counterparts should be encouraged.
Support is needed to citizens of Russia and Belarus who are opposing their own authoritarian regimes and the aggression in Ukraine.
It is essential that peace and dialogue methodologies introduced into Ukraine be adapted to take into account the specificities of Ukraine and are respectful of the approaches and tools that Ukrainians have prepared for their own practice since 2014.
Ukrainian mediation and dialogue experts have highly developed capacities and are currently ready to (i) invest their efforts into development of the conditions under which it will be possible to convene dialogue at the civil society level; (ii) study and adapt available conceptual approaches and formats of dialogues; and (iii) initiate the development of methodologies and approaches to the design of prospective dialogue processes.
PCi endorses in full the points presented by Ukraine’s mediation and dialogue community and encourages all international peace actors looking to make a contribution in Ukraine at this time to acquaint themselves with the full statement and the reasoning behind the principle points, which are well laid out. Furthermore, PCi encourages peace actors in Ukraine to contribute to the dissemination of the statement which is available in both English and Ukrainian.
Peaceful Change initiative is calling on journalists, editors, media representatives, and others, to share with us their stories on multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia. The idea was initiated by the Media Consultation Dialogue, an integral part of PCi’s Balkan programme.
With gratitude to all who have applied so far for the Media Award, PCi hereby announces an extension of the deadline for entries by three months. This means that stories published/broadcast between now and November 15th can also compete for the Award. The new deadline for submitting applications is now November 16th 2021. Stories going back to 15th August 2020 are also eligible.
The reason for the deadline extension is to try and stimulate journalists to generate media content which explores the positive sides of multi-ethnic co-existence. All entries sent so far remain in contention, but we want to give journalists and editors additional time to pursue stories that qualify for recognition by PCi’s Media Award. Good luck to all who want to compete for the Award.
For detailed information about how to apply, please click on the Terms of Reference below, available in English, Serbian and Albanian languages.
Stories published between 15 August 2020 and 15 November 2021 are eligible for the Media Award. To apply click on the following link: https://forms.gle/3XWBbGFMMJqBtiw47. The application deadline is 16 November 2021.
In Kosovo, the measures taken by governing authorities to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 has mirrored other governments across Europe. However, ensuring such measures don’t negatively impact Kosovo’s non-majority communities has further tested the government’s capacity.
Peaceful Change initiative’s project ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development’ (supported by the UK Government’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund) has worked through their partner NGO Aktiv, working in Kosovo and Serbia, to establish a Rapid Civic Response Group.
The Group is made up of 22 civil and community activists from across Kosovo representing the Serbian, Albanian, and Gorani communities. It is creating vital channels for the real-time flow of information, thereby facilitating the identification of problems which may otherwise have remained ignored. They include:
Poor information dissemination in non-majority languages
Poor and/or lack of translation in non-majority languages
An increase in security incidents in Serbian communities
Challenges accessing economic-aid
Inadequate and/or lack of institutional response
Aktiv and the Rapid Civic Response Group have taken steps to lobby the Kosovo government and other relevant actors for urgent steps to address these problems. Their approach includes:
Request to improve communication with non-majority communities addressed to the Government of Kosovo
COVID-19 is highlighting vulnerabilities among marginalised communities around the world. In Georgia, Abkhazia remote communities, situated far away from urban centres have learned to cope with their isolation, even though they face additional challenges when situated adjacent to conflict-affected areas. The introduction of measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 have stretched livelihoods and coping mechanisms to breaking point. For example, travel restrictions have led to a shortage of essential goods and the lack of water supply has made it difficult to maintain good hand hygiene; in addition, the distance from decision making is challenging the effectiveness of public health mechanisms. Peaceful Change initiative and their partners have been supporting schools in isolated communities in this region to deal with these challenges, filling gaps in COVID-preparedness and supporting local groups to organise and meet the challenges of the pandemic.