PCi supports the calls put forward in the recent joint statement by Ukrainian civil society, among the signatories of which are our partners whom we have seen work tirelessly to build understanding across divisions at least since 2014. We support the call for approaches to international peace work that, in the words of the statement, “bring a new imagination and new approach”.
Acknowledging the unprecedented nature of the conflict that was unleashed on 24th February 2022, we support the call to maintain solidarity across peace movements. As committed peacebuilders, we do not take this lightly. While looking to end war our community must not lose sight of the principles of dignity and justice that are the essential components of a sustainable peace.
The civic organisations in Ukraine, including a wide range of peacebuilders, mediators and dialogue facilitators, have formulated a set of positions they urge peace movements in countries supporting Ukraine to process and internalise when calling for their governments to end the war by ending the provision of military support. The statement emphasises that:
Ukrainian voices should play a central role in organised actions for peace in Ukraine, following the principle ‘nothing about me, without me’.
Calling for an end to armed resistance is a call to surrender, that it is not a path to peace by peaceful means, as demonstrated by the treatment of persons in occupied Ukrainian territories or of dissenting voices in Russia itself.
Ukrainian civic organisations are asking for adherence to the UN Charter and to human rights law, and that any compromise of these principles would set a dangerous precedent for other revisionist powers and therefore to global peace more broadly.
Framing the conflict as a proxy war is an offensive narrative that denies Ukrainians their own agency and choice to follow a democratic future.
The statement is important and acknowledges the cost being borne across many countries and appreciates the sacrifices being made to support Ukraine in its resistance to aggression and occupation.
Peaceful Change initiative strongly condemns the threats made against academics from the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.
We stand in solidarity with our colleagues Jelena Lončar, Stefan Surlić, and Marko Veković, who have demonstrated considerable courage and determination in the face of attempts to brand them as ‘traitors’.
Such intimidation constitutes a fundamental attack on academic freedom. It is imperative that scholars be free to pursue knowledge and explore ideas without fearing for their security or safety. We are encouraged by the outpourings of support and solidarity they have received.
The research each has undertaken has contributed to the body of understanding about relations within and between Kosovo and Serbia. They have fostered vital links that have deepened understanding about the perceptions of different communities, and explored themes that shine a light on some of the contemporary challenges facing Kosovo and Serbia.
It is for these reasons that PCi supported an academic exchange between the Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade, and the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Prishtina, as part of our UK-government funded project, ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development’ (ALVED).
Their research is intended to guide and inspire other aspiring academics, who should be free to pursue their academic interests without fear of reprisal. The academic community should be about debate and disagreement, no matter how sensitive the topic, not self-censorship deriving from concerns about what their peers will think.
Where such incidents are not firmly condemned, they are tacitly supported. As such, it is incumbent on all authorities to voice their opposition to such acts and to ensure that they are thoroughly investigated. All perpetrators should be brought to justice.
We will continue to support all those who seek to improve understanding between those in Kosovo and Serbia, for the future of our communities depends upon deepening our knowledge about one another.
PCi’s second Media Award shines a light on positive stories of multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia.
Peaceful Change initiative celebrated the winners of the second ‘Media Award for stories on multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia’ in a ceremony which took place simultaneously in Pristina and Belgrade on 16th March 2023.
Nowadays, the news is almost always associated with the negative sides of life, particularly these past years of pandemic, and now war in Europe. Through this award, Peaceful Change initiative aims to promote and reward media content from Kosovo and Serbia which emphasise the positive, particularly when it comes to depicting the reality of multi-ethnic co-existence of communities. Ultimately, the goal is to contribute to the narrowing of the present divisive narratives in the media in Kosovo and Serbia and encourage the production of more stories centred around the real experience of communities.
The first prize in the Albanian language written category was awarded to Serbeze Haxhiaj, investigative journalist and news editorfor her piece in Balkans Insight. She commented: ‘for me, honestly, it’s not about individual accomplishment or an individual award. It’s about what I’ve got to do and how I can contribute to the peace and reconciliation process in my Kosovo and help to lay down the heavy burden of the painful past’.
Journalist and writer Ilir Gashi is the recipient of the first prize in the Serbian language written category for his piece in Kosovo 2.0. He added: “all of us who work in these scorched fields of no-man’s land, between the long lines of deeply dug tranches, also have the privilege of witnessing life as it grows out of cracks, everywhere.”
Dr Ismet Hajdari, journalist and member of the Albanian language jury, said: ‘the importance of this project consists in encouraging journalists to deal with topics that are rarely written and reported on. Taboo topics must not exist. The media has an obligation to illuminate all issues that are considered to be of interest to Kosovo society.’
When speaking about this year’s entries, Serbian language jury member Milivoje Mihajlović said: ‘the greatest quality is maybe the fact that these stories are so different from mainstream reporting and that from each and every one of the stories you can see the huge desire people have for living a normal, humane life’.
Participants of the Media Award, Pristina
Media Award, Pristina
Media Award, Belgrade Media Centre
Winners, Media Award, Belgrade Media Centre
Media Award prize certificate
Interview transcription: For this article, I received a prize from Peaceful Change initiative. That is an initiative which for several years been implementing a programme in Kosovo and in Serbia. It is a programme which serves to assist a better integration of the Albanian minority in Serbia and the Serbian minority in Kosovo. Within their programme, there is also an award for reporting which brings people together, rather than putting a distance between the nations which is, unfortunately, the dominant discourse both in Kosovo and in Serbia.
This award was organised by Peaceful Change initiative as part of the ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development’ (ALVED) project, support by the United Kingdom Government Fund for Conflict, Stability and Security (CSSF).
On International Women’s Day, civil society from Kosovo and Serbia are united in their calls for more women’s voices to be heard in the normalisation process. The signatories also voiced their concerns about the failure to incorporate gender-specific considerations into the various dialogue agreements and, in particular, the Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia.
To mark International Women’s Day, this 8th March, we the undersigned call for more women’s voices to be involved in the process of normalising relations between Kosovo and Serbia.
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 specifically acknowledges the vital role that women play in the promotion of peace. Furthermore, Resolution 1325 also calls for the equal participation of women in peacebuilding processes.
A global study on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 found that the participation of women led to a 20% increase in the possibility of a peace agreement lasting two years, and a 35% increase in the possibility of it lasting fifteen years.
As such, we call for more meaningful participation of women in negotiations pertaining to relations between Belgrade and Pristina. In over a decade of talks pertaining to the Dialogue, very few women have been given an opportunity to engage in the process.
We are also concerned by a failure to incorporate gender-specific considerations into the various dialogue agreements and, in particular, the Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia. There is a need to better mainstream gender perspectives to ensure that each and every decision within the dialogue process takes into account the specific needs and concerns of women.
Women and women’s groups – whether from civil society, business, politics, academia, or elsewhere – bring particular skills and insights that benefit the overall peacebuilding process. Such voices are also vital for the long-term sustainability of any agreement reached between Serbia and Kosovo.
If women continue to be excluded from the process of normalisation, then it will be to the detriment of both Serbia and Kosovo, and indeed the expressed aims of the European Union and its member states.
Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP)
Center for Peace and Tolerance (CPT)
Community Building Mitrovica (CBM)
Centar for Democracy and Education – Valley
European Fund for the Balkans
European Movement in Serbia
Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society (BFPE)
Human Rights Council – Bujanovac
Dr. Jelena Lončar, Academic
Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS)
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
Media Center Caglavica
New Social initiative, Mitrovica (NSI)
NGO Be active 16
Peer Educators Network (PEN)
Rahim Salihi, Civil Society Activist, Bujanovac
Valon Arifi, Civil Society Activist
Violeta Haxholli, Kosova Democratic Institute
Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians
Professor Vjollca Krasniqi, University of Prishtina
Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Kosovo (YIHR KS)
Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Serbia (YIHR Serbia)
PCi launches a new study looking at the status of women in the media in Kosovo and Serbia.
PCi’s latest report, Women in media, examines the position of women in the media and gender inequality in the newsroom in Serbia and Kosovo. The study presents results from a consultation with close to a thousand media professionals in both Kosovo and Serbia as part of PCi’s Western Balkans project ‘Amplifying local voices for equitable development’ (ALVED). The report also sets out recommendations on how the findings from the study can be addressed.
The launch event, which took place on 2 March simultaneously in Pristina and Belgrade, was attended by a number of local media and civil society organisations, as well as representatives from the Serbian office of the ‘Commissioner for equality’ and the British embassy. We heard from the lead researchers of the study Dafina Halili (Kosovo) and Tamara Skrozza (Serbia), who presented the key findings of the study. We also had the pleasure to welcome activist Valmira Rashiti (Kosovo Women’s Network), Zorana Antonijević (gender expert and activist) and Ms. Majlindë Sinani Lulaj (Deputy Ombudsperson) to the event panel.
Some alarming figures on the status of women in the media in Kosovo and Serbia are highlighted in this study. Notably, one in three women working in Serbian media and one in four in Kosovo media have been victims of sexual harassment. Another stark figure, close to 30% of women working in Kosovar and Serbian media have been discriminated due to their age or appearance. Additionally, seven out of ten women are considering changing jobs due to the inequality they suffer in the media profession.
William Hopkinson, First Secretary Political, UK Embassy Belgrade commented: ‘As the discussion has highlighted, the report does not make for comfortable reading’. He noted: ‘If the media cannot address issues of inequality, society cannot move forward’. Unquestionably, gender inequality in the newsroom and a lack of female leadership in the media reinforces and maintains harmful gender perceptions and stereotypes.
HMA Nicholas Abbott, UK Ambassador to Kosovo, said: ‘I am very impressed by the research study which puts in one place a series of serious issues that warrant a serious discussion. I hope therefore that the report and today’s event is but the beginning of action’. Abbott added: ‘The recommendations in the report are very straightforward and achievable. I encourage you to do follow up activities to ensure that the recommendations do happen’.
The studies will contribute to PCi’s ongoing engagement with media in Kosovo and Serbia to take strategic action that broadens the space for narratives that contribute to strengthening relations and promoting democracy and human rights. Explore the reports and recommendations on this link.
A delegation of civil society from Kosovo and Serbia had the opportunity to meet key interlocutors from various EU institutions in Brussels.
A delegation of civil society from Kosovo and Serbia had the opportunity to meet key interlocutors from various EU institutions in Brussels. Members of the Kosovo-Serbia Rapid Response Mechanism presented ideas about the role civil society can play given the current tensions on the ground and hopes for a comprehensive agreement between Belgrade and Pristina.
The delegation met with the respective rapporteurs for Kosovo and Serbia, Ms. Viola von Cramon-Taubadel and Mr. Vladimír Bilčík, plus the team of the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák. They also met with officials from the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and the European External Action Service (EEAS).
Of note, several interlocutors spoke of a sense of momentum that apparently exists within member states regarding the EU enlargement process. This comes as something of a surprise given the profound feeling in the Western Balkans that accession is stalled. Regular perception surveys show growing ambivalence towards the EU path, particularly in Serbia, reenforcing the need for a more strategic approach to communications to reassert not only the European perspective, but to reiterate that the EU remains the region’s largest donor and trading partner.
The participants – whilst acknowledging the need for confidentiality during negotiations – raised concerns about the lack of transparency regarding both the structure and content of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. They proposed to engage with their respective governments to request that more information be placed into the public domain. Furthermore, concerns were raised about the dilution of reporting on Chapter 35, covering the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, particularly the intermediate benchmarks.
The participants also reiterated that civil society should be seen a resource and an ally both in the dialogue and in broader reform processes. With the relations in specific communities, civil society offers early warning capabilities that can help identify specific grievances and help reduce the scope for misunderstandings by relaying perspectives around an issue from local actors.
The civil society organisations reaffirmed their commitment to complementing and amplifying messages that are grounded in the need for compromise, confronting their own governments where needed to challenge specific narratives about some aspect of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. This was deemed increasingly imperative due to recent tensions in north Kosovo, including the deployment of Special Operations Units and the resignation of Kosovo Serbs from Kosovo institutions, and discussions regarding a comprehensive agreement between Serbia and Kosovo.
The Kosovo-Serbia Rapid Response Mechanism will continue to meet on a quarterly basis to formulate joint approaches to the problems affecting communities in Serbia and Kosovo. In addition, they will meet on an ad hoc basis as when required to, for instance, voice their concerns about a particular instance of divisive rhetoric or an event that threatens to harm the very environment in which dialogue is taking place.
Writing for Social Europe, PCi’s Project Manager for the Western Balkans presents a background of the present crisis of the Kosovo institutions and their relationship to the internationally mediated dialogue which should lead to the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. The article draws attention to the gaps between the agreements that the process has facilitated and their implementation on the ground, highlighting an absence of voices from beyond the political elites of both countries as a key missing element from the dialogue.
The explosive tensions of recent weeks have exposed the limits of the dialogue brokered by the European Union.
The evolving relationship between Kosovo and Serbia, facilitated by the European Union, is facing its sternest test since 2011, when barricades throughout north Kosovo reflected a situation threatening to spiral out of control. Hopes are high for a final agreement in the coming year or so, to normalise relations between the two, and so are the diplomatic stakes. To supplement however this path towards sustainable peace, the EU must consider how it can better engage those constructive voices from civil society thus far largely neglected.
For the last year and a half, the predominantly Serb north of Kosovo has been gripped by soaring tensions—amplified by Russia’s war in Ukraine and concerns about the stability of the western Balkans more generally. Last July, Kosovo moved ahead with plans to end the use on its territory of vehicle licence plates issues by the Republic of Serbia. Simultaneously, it announced that Serbian identity cards would no longer be valid to enter Kosovo, Belgrade having long rejected those issued by Pristina.
While the latter argument was swiftly resolved, the former lingered on. Kosovo resisted repeated pleas from the EU and the United States for a delay. As the stakes rose, Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s president, reiterated calls for the establishment of an ‘Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities’. This was a central element of the Brussels Agreement to normalise relationships, brokered by the EU in 2013, but which remains unimplemented.
Also critical to that agreement was integration of policing, albeit with a commitment that the commander of the Kosovo Police in the four northern municipalities would be a Kosovo Serb. The situation escalated in November with mass resignation of Serb police officers—ostensibly because they refused to impose warnings and then fines on their own community.
They were swiftly followed by elected officials (mayors and municipal assembly members), judges, prosecutors, local-government employees and others who had transferred to the Kosovo system in the past decade or so. It is a profound blow to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, a key dimension of which is the integration of Kosovo Serbs through the 2013 agreement.
The security vacuum created by the resignations has been partly filled by members of the Kosovo Police special operations units, replete with long-barrelled weapons and tactical uniforms. Though professional and well-trained, they are ill-disposed to such tasks as patrolling traffic. Their numbers have been supplemented by mainly Albanian-speaking police brought from elsewhere in Kosovo.
There have been various reports of harassment and intimidation, including an assault on a prominent civil-society figure. Trust between the local community and the police has broken down, with patrols having been shot at on several occasions.
The arrest on December 10th of a Serb former member of the police led to renewed roadblocks, which would ultimately stand for some 20 days or so. There were a spate of accompanying incidents, including shootings, vehicle burnings and attacks on journalists. A reconnaissance patrol by the EU’s rule of law mission in Kosovo (EULEX) was targeted with a stun grenade, leading to widespread condemnation. The barricades have been dismantled but the crisis is far from over.
Point of contention
Though the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue has been imperfect, sizeable steps have been taken. The presence of the institutions of Kosovo in the north had been becoming more routine. Many more Serbs possess Kosovo ID cards and even passports. Money flows from the public purse in Pristina to north Kosovo.
A major point of contention remains the Association/Community of Serb-majority municipalities. It was conceived as the primary mechanism for integrating the functions sustained by the Republic of Serbia in Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008 after a violent conflict, having previously been treated as a province of Serbia in the former Yugoslavia. Education, healthcare and waste disposal, to name but a few, are vital services which remain under Belgrade’s remit.
The association/community has, however, been fundamentally opposed by Pristina—despite a ruling in 2015 by Kosovo’s Constitutional Court obliging its establishment. Many fear that it would serve as an instrument of ethnic division, with some going so far as to describe it as Kosovo’s own Republika Srpska, the predominantly Serb entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina which frequently pushes for secession. Kosovo’s prime minister, Albin Kurti, has publicly rejected it.
The EU continues to believe that a vital window of opportunity exists finally to reach a binding deal on the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia. The incumbents in Belgrade and Pristina enjoy the requisite support to take difficult decisions—whether they are willing to is another matter. Russia’s war in Ukraine has focused minds across Europe on the need for a lasting solution to the impasses in the western Balkans. There have even been suggestions that spring 2023 is essentially a deadline, though this feels ambitious given the experiences of recent months.
The latest developments, however, have again exposed an element missing in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue—substantive engagement of civil society in Kosovo and Serbia. The process has been elite-led, with negotiations conducted largely in secret. There is little in the way of transparency. The definitive content of agreements remains disputed and open to interpretation.
While ‘constructive ambiguity’ may be deemed necessary to facilitate difficult compromises, it permits the evasion of commitments if and when it comes to implementation. Several agreements have come a cropper, with both sides blaming one another for the deadlocks then hampering progress. Constructive ambiguity has proved a short-term fix with a long-lasting hangover.
Priorities have been set in Brussels—by and between the respective negotiating teams—to the neglect of the communities on the ground directly implicated. Many wonder, sometimes out loud, just how they have benefited from over a decade of negotiations, plus those ultimately leading up to Kosovo’s ‘supervised’ independence.
Even 20 years on from the end of the war, rarely do citizens’ concerns come in first place. Kosovo and Serbia meanwhile face a common challenge—emigrating populations making their homes elsewhere.
Critical voices have been intentionally marginalised and ultimately found themselves resorting to unconstructive mud-throwing. Yet influential civil-society figures are vital to help prepare communities for the day after an agreement is reached—figures who can help navigate the pitfalls of implementation as promises are made, fulfilled and then forgotten.
Destabilisation resulting from a potential breakdown of the dialogue would have a profound impact on various communities in Serbia and Kosovo. It is thus imperative to invest resources in those capable of managing conflicts in their localities and building structures resilient to malign influences. These voices confront disinformation and divisive rhetoric, building confidence within and between communities.
As the tenth anniversary approaches of the Brussels Agreement—arguably one of the high points of EU diplomacy—it is appropriate to reflect on the process and the structure of the subsequent dialogues. The destination of Kosovo and Serbia remains broadly the same—membership of an enlarged EU. Yet that horizon has become increasingly distant.
Building genuine and lasting peace in such a challenging and often unfavourable context requires that the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue be opened to constructive voices from civil society. It is they who can genuinely represent their communities and articulate a vision for the future, unbound by the diplomatic necessities and niceties as sensed in Brussels.
Following a gathering in Gračanica/Graçanicë, a diverse group of civil society organisations from Kosovo and Serbia have adopted the following joint statement calling for new constructive voices – voices that look to the future whilst retaining a keen eye on the past; voices that seek out partnerships and coalitions beyond the red lines that are supposed to define them; and voices that stand up publicly against divisive and derogatory rhetoric.
The constant cycle of escalation and de-escalation in relations between Kosovo and Serbia represents a failure of political imagination.
The energy taken up in contending with the latest crisis distracts from the mountain of pressing issues which directly impact the day to day lives of citizens in Serbia and Kosovo.
The trend is already for people to be leaving Serbia, Kosovo, and elsewhere in the Western Balkans, especially amongst the youth. As new barricades are erected, so new bags are packed. Very few are likely to return. The future of our countries will be lived elsewhere.
Many groups deemed outside the spectrum of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue are fundamentally ignored. The Roma community, for one, finds itself marginalised in both Serbia and Kosovo.
With the prospect of violence more pronounced than it has been for a decade, it is time for new constructive voices to be heard – voices that look to the future whilst retaining a keen eye on the past; voices that seek out partnerships and coalitions beyond the red lines that are supposed to define us; voices that stand up publicly against divisive and derogatory rhetoric.
We, the undersigned, endeavour to maintain channels of communication that reduce the possibilities for misunderstanding and disinformation. Too often we have talked past one another, insisting on the pertinence of one point whilst underestimating or completely ignoring the existence of another.
We think we understand the minutiae of an issue but fail to consider how it is understood or viewed by other communities. We all should be committed to listening with open ears and open minds.
Only by sharing perspectives and perceptions from our respective communities can we start to move towards a common path for the future. Many of the problems our respective communities face are almost identical, yet we rarely acknowledge this fact.
If ever there was a time for solidarity in the last decade it is now. The war in Ukraine is a painful reminder of the stark realities of war, even as the legacies of our own remain close to hand.
The cause of peace requires not just words to that effect, but images and relationships that embody togetherness. We stand opposed to all undue projections of force and all narratives of hate and division.
The futures of Kosovo and Serbia are inescapably tied-up with one another, and an agreement on the normalisation of relations is a vital first step in building a better tomorrow. But it is only a first step.
Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC)
The Balkan Forum
Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
Centar for Democracy and Education – Valley, Bujanovac
Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of the Balkans, Belgrade
Center for Peace and Tolerance (CPT)
Community Building Mitrovica
European Fund for the Balkans
Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society (BFPE)
Forum for Development and Multiethnic Collaboration (FDMC)
Goraždevac Media Group
Institute for Territorial Economic Development – InTER
Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade
Kosovar Center for Security Studies (KCSS)
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
Milan Antonijević, Lawyer, Serbia
New Social Initiative (NSI)
NGO Be Active 16, Presevo
NGO Livrit, Presevo
Peer Educators Network (PEN)
Rahim Salihi, Civil Society Activist, Bujanovac
Radio Astra, Prizren
TV Prizreni, Prizren
Valon Arifi, Civil Society Activist
Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in Kosovo (VoRAE)
Vjollca Krasniqi, Academic, University of Pristina
In 2022, violent conflict was at its highest since World War II, leading to record levels of forced displacement and global humanitarian needs. In this light, the imperative for building peace has become ever more urgent.
As a result of escalating civil and political unrest, “peacefulness” deteriorated for the third consecutive year, according to the Global Peace Index. Two billion people live in conflict-affected areas around the world due to ongoing and new conflict outbreaks. Further, conflict and violence have displaced an estimated 84 million people.
Peaceful Change initiative works on programmes in North Africa, Europe, the South Caucasus region, and more recently in Mozambique. We are witness to the deterioration of peace and the need for peacebuilding in these contexts.
For example, in Europe, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, one in four Ukrainians are now either out of the country or displaced within its borders. The number of refugees from Ukraine seeking safety and support is just under the eight million mark.
In Mozambique, the armed conflict in Cabo Delgado affects thousands of families. More than one million people have been internally displaced due to violence perpetrated by non-state armed groups. The severe food shortage, a direct impact of the climate crisis, which is gravely affecting Mozambique, has worsened this conflict.
But, in the darkness there is light. After 10 years of working alongside others to build peace in Libya, we can see the positive impact of peacebuilding first hand. In 2022, the country recorded the largest increase in peacefulness in the North African region and the largest improvement globally.
Building peace means encouraging better, more inclusive governance, strengthening, and supporting social cohesion, resilience, and trust within and between communities. The work of peacebuilders is critical to breaking the cycles of violent conflict and building the institutions and relationships that support long-term and sustainable peace.
As we look back at 2022, we are proud of the work of peacebuilders everywhere. This has been a year marked by achievements and challenges for Peaceful Change initiative, which you can read more about in our Annual Report. Here, we want to highlight a few of the lessons we have learned through building peace in 2022.
Integrating gender into community-level peacebuilding is not a linear process
Since 2013, Peaceful Change initiative has been supporting community-level peacebuilding initiatives in more than 40 Libyan municipalities. Last year, we launched a report which captures our experience and lessons learned from nearly 10 years of integrating gender into our peacebuilding programme in Libya. Some of the key lessons learned are highlighted below.
Talking about gender in context-sensitive ways through approaches co-designed with Libyan project participants and partners is key. In practice, this means, for example, using cultural and religious references and role models to make the case for women’s participation and leadership.
Working with both men and women ensures community buy-in, support from men who act as ‘allies’, and mitigates potential risks arising from challenging social and gender norms. Additionally, providing opportunities and support to women, with grants and training for example, to strengthen and practice leadership skills is key to increasing their participation, confidence and visibility.
Our gender mainstreaming approach has been successful in increasing the number of women participating in project activities, improving the quality of their participation, and ensuring the representation of women from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Progress, however, has not been linear; whenever a crisis occurs we see setbacks in women’s participation. Additionally, projects designed and carried out by women are not always transformative with regards to gender roles. Building on the learning we have gathered to date we will continue to integrate gender into our peacebuilding programmes in Libya.
Solidarity can be forged even in times of high tensions
Through 2022, Peaceful Change initiative’s Western Balkans team has been working with a diverse group of civil society organisations from Kosovo and Serbia in order to develop a Rapid Response Mechanism capable of reacting to instances of divisive rhetoric or destabilising incidents which can negatively affect relations within and between communities.
By sharing perspectives on specific issues, the mechanism has helped deepen understanding about the sources of grievance within particularly communities, whilst reducing the scope for a lack of awareness or misinformation.
Additionally, the joint stances developed and adopted by the group demonstrate how solidarity can be forged even in times of high tensions. Some examples of such solidarity include a call for new constructive voices and an expression of profound concern about the impact of a lack of progress in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue on local communities.
Conflict sensitive aid is paramount in Northern Mozambique
In late 2022, we visited Mozambique for the first time, at the request of one of our partners in the humanitarian and development sector. Visiting the conflict-affected Cabo Delgado region gave us first-hand experience of the difficult and complex situations that international organisations there must navigate when delivering aid, and the vital importance of a conflict-sensitive approach.
Many humanitarian and development organisations have been working in northern Mozambique for decades, but in recent years have found themselves working amid a fast-moving and unpredictable security situation. We have been working to generate a conflict analysis, including an assessment of conflict-related risks that aid agencies may encounter, and strategies they can take to mitigate these risks.
We are providing conflict sensitivity training and guidance, as well as guidance on adapting aid programmes so that they can measurably contribute to better social cohesion. We will look to expand this work in 2023 to meet a growing demand.
Ukrainian civil society inspires action amidst tragedy
Peaceful Change initiative last worked in Ukraine in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, working with communities in Kherson and Donetsk who today find themselves at the frontline of the war or in areas under occupation. At the time we took great inspiration from the participants in our work, for their determination to contribute to building a democratic post-Maidan Ukraine and to their preparedness to transcend differences and seek to understand compatriots with different views about the past, the present, and the future. Their painstaking efforts to rebuild relationships after the military violence of 2014 took a definitive setback with the Russian invasion of 24 February 2022. This is in addition to the incalculable loss of life and physical destruction that we see every day.
Our Ukrainian partners, remain an inspiration re-affirming again their commitment to build a united country, at the foundations of which will be an active civil society that brings represents and serves all parts of its community also applying the skills and values of peacebuilding.
We will join efforts with our partners in 2023, working on social cohesion issues in some of the communities that, while untouched by the military invasion, have been at the forefront of upheaval as a result of the war. Peaceful Change initiative will also work to develop models of engaging citizens for inclusive recovery in those places that have felt the full brunt of Russia’s assault.
Looking ahead to 2023
Looking ahead to 2023, we will continue to ensure our peacebuilding work is locally driven as we expand our Conflict Sensitivity work to Southern and Eastern Africa region. We also aim to support civil society and peacebuilders across Europe and South Caucasus region to address the heightened risks and vulnerabilities in the wake of the Russian war in Ukraine.
Above all, we want to thank the organisations we work with, our team and our funders, without which our peacebuilding work is not possible.
Dear Journalists, Editors, Journalism Students, and Writing Enthusiasts,
We want to inform you that the deadline for the submission of your articles for the Media Award 2 has been extended until 1st of February 2023.
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/or Serbia.
For this year’s award, 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 and published in the past, anytime from 1st of January 2022 (until 31st of January 2023), 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 January 2023 (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.