Theme: Civil society and peacebuilding

Understanding divisive narratives in Serbia and Kosovo

Peaceful Change initiative is pleased to present research undertaken by Ipsos in order to understand how divisive narratives are generated and disseminated in mainstream media in Serbia and Kosovo. The research is available here: Understanding divisive narratives qualitative research – online focus groups

The findings and recommendations of this research Understanding divisive narratives – media analysis will be used to guide a number of Media Consultation Dialogues (MCD), which will engage media professionals from a variety of backgrounds in order to discuss ways and means of ensuring that divisive narratives become less prominent in mainstream discourse.

This research has been commissioned in the framework of a two and a half year project ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development’; funded from the UK Government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).

Citizens must not be held hostage by the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue

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.

Signatories

  1. AKTIV
  2. Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC)
  3. Association for Heritage and Cultural Creativity Presevo
  4. Balkan Forum
  5. Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP)
  6. Centre for Peace and Tolerance (CPT)
  7. Civic initiative (Gradjanske inicijative)
  8. Community Building Mitrovica (CBM)
  9. Centar for Democracy and Education – Valley
  10. European Center for Minority Issues Kosovo (ECMI)
  11. European Movement in Serbia (EMIS)
  12. European Fund for the Balkans (EFB)
  13. Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society (BFPE)
  14. Gorazdevac Media Group
  15. Human Center Mitrovica
  16. Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade
  17. Junior Chamber International Prizren (JCI- Prizren)
  18. Kosovar Center for Security Studies (KCSS)
  19. Kosovar Gender Studies Center
  20. Kosova Info
  21. Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
  22. Mitrovica Women Association for Human Rights
  23. Ministria e Lajmeve Presevo
  24. Media Center Caglavica
  25. NGO Budi Aktivan 16 Presevo
  26. NGO Integra
  27. Peer Educators Network (PEN)
  28. Professor Vjollca Krasniqi, University of Pristina
  29. Pozitiv 365 Presevo
  30. Rahim Salihi, civil society activist, Bujanovac
  31. Radio Astra Prizren
  32. Radio Peja/Pec
  33. Sbunker
  34. TV Prizreni
  35. The Future Bujanovac
  36. Valon Arifi, civil society activist
  37. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE)
  38. Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Kosovo
  39. Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Serbia
  40. Youth Trails Presevo
  41. NGO Livrit Presevo
  42. Humanitarian Law Centre Kosovo
  43. New Perspektiva

Dear Journalists, Editors, Journalism Students and Writing Enthusiasts,

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.

Applications are received online through the Google Form link below: https://forms.gle/SHBtT7pVmm2unyZd8

Should you have any questions, please reach out to us via email at: media.award@peacefulchange.org.

Good luck!

The Peaceful Change initiative (PCi) Team

Call for cessation of military action on the territory of Armenia

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.

PCi’s Second Annual Media Award Launched

Press conference, a number of people gathered to watch the launch

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.

To apply, please click on the following link: https://forms.gle/3XWBbGFMMJqBtiw47.

The application deadline is 31st December 2022

Press conference, a number of people gathered to watch the launch

PCi’s Media Award in Kosovo and Serbia: Call for applications is open

Award Ceremony Media Award 2021 Serbia

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.

Stories published between the 1st of January 2022 and the 31st of December 2022 are eligible for the Media Award. To apply, please click on the following link: https://forms.gle/3XWBbGFMMJqBtiw47.

The application deadline is 31st December 2022

Award Ceremony Media Award 2021 Serbia

Civil society in Kosovo and Serbia call for the rule of law to be respected in Deçan/Dečani

Civil society organisations from Kosovo and Serbia have come together to condemn a recent statement by the mayor of Deçan/Dečani, Bashkim Ramosaj, vowing that the decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo on Deçan/Dečane Monastery’s land ownership will never be implemented. The signatories to the statement call for the rule of law to be upheld.

Civil society in Kosovo and Serbia call for the rule of law to be respected in Deçan/Dečani

We, the undersigned, are concerned by the negative and lasting consequences of the recent statement by the mayor of Deçan/Dečani, Bashkim Ramosaj, vowing that the decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo on Deçan/Dečane Monastery’s land ownership will never be implemented.

All judgments of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo should be upheld. The constitution provides important guarantees to all Kosovo’s citizens, yet such guarantees only have real meaning if court decisions are implemented by physical and legal entities throughout Kosovo.

A failure to implement legal judgments only leads to uncertainty for all Kosovo’s citizens, and only serves to undermine faith and trust in the rule of law in Kosovo.

We urge all those holding elected office to refrain from giving statements which only serve to undermine confidence in the rule of law.

Signatories

  1. Aktiv
  2. Civic initiatives (Gradjanske inicijative)
  3. Center for Peace and Tolerance
  4. Democracy + (D+)
  5. Forum for Development and Multiethnic Collaboration (FDMC)
  6. Gorazdevac Media Group
  7. Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade
  8. Kosovo Law Institute
  9. Media Center Caglavica
  10. New Social Initiative (NSI)
  11. NGO Be Active 16, Presevo
  12. The Future, Bujanovac
  13. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE)
  14. Vjollca Krasniqi, Academic, University of Pristina
  15. YIHR Serbia
  16. YIHR Kosovo
  17. YUCOM
  18. Valon Arifi, Civic activist

PCi work in Syria

Peaceful Change initiative have worked with civil society in Syria, working in both Opposition and Government-controlled areas of the country. Our work has included:

  • facilitating dialogue between Syrian Arab, Kurdish and Assyrian community leaders on coexistence in Hassakah Province
  • convening and building the capacity of a network of community leaders to prevent, manage and resolve local conflicts and maintain/expand civilian space. 470 human security and community safety initiatives were  implemented, including through small grants
  • capacity building for civil society actors, focusing on transformational leadership for peace-building; cross-divide dialogue between youth
  • convening conflict-sensitive assistance capacity building and reflection process for international donor governments, international aid agencies and Syrian NGOs

We have worked with partners to introduce innovative technology-based solutions to support their work in conflict-affected areas. This has included the development and management of a Community Peacebuilding Training Portal with written and audio-visual material designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of a network of 60 track-three peacebuilders based in Syria and in refugee communities in Turkey and Jordan.

Leadership and governance video resources in support of peaceful change in Syria can be found in Arabic with English subtitles here

Video One: Leadership and Transformation

Video Two: Transformational Leadership

Video Three: Peace Capital

Video Four: Good Governance 1

Video Five: Good Governance 2

CSOs condemn hate speech against Albanians by Serbia’s Interior Minister, Aleksandar Vulin

Civil society organisations in Kosovo and Serbia have come together to condemn the use of hate speech targeting Albanians by Serbia’s interior minister, Aleksandar Vulin.

We, the undersigned civil society organizations from Kosovo and Serbia, strongly condemn the offensive and derogatory language by Serbia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Aleksandar Vulin, against Albanians. We urge the Serbian government, respectively the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, to react and condemn the use of such hate speech by Minister Vulin and appeal against the use of the word ‘Šiptar’.

On May 20th 2022 Minister Vulin used the word ‘Šiptar’ repeatedly to refer to Albanians, and his statement to the media has since been published on the official website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia. In 2018 the Serbian judiciary found the word ‘Šiptar’ to be offensive and it was labeled as hate speech. Despite this, Minister Vulin has actively and consistently used the word when referring to the Albanians, and continues to do so without any consequence to his public position. Public officials who use hate language have no place in government.  

Hate speech undermines the diffusion of European values in our societies, including the normative framework on human rights, rule of law, and the functioning of a democratic and tolerant society. Additionally, when hate speech is used by senior government officials freely, to target a particular ethnic-group, it can have devastating consequences, as it fosters discrimination, ethno-political radicalization and potentially leads to violence. The rhetoric used by Minister Vulin in his speech is the same rhetoric media and officials used during the nineties to dehumanize the Albanian population and foster maltreatment, human rights abuses, and ultimately war crimes in Kosovo.

The use of hate speech by senior government officials, such as the case with Minister Vulin, emboldens those in our societies who work against peace and the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and ultimately against a European future for all countries in our region.   

Signatories

  1. Aktiv
  2. The Balkan Forum
  3. Balkans Policy Research Group (BPRG)
  4. Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCBP)
  5. Civic Initiatives
  6. Center for Peace and Tolerance (CPT)
  7. Democracy Plus (D+)
  8. Foundation BFPE For a Responsible Society
  9. The Human Rights Council – Bujanovac
  10. InTER
  11. Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade
  12. Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (QKSS)
  13. Kosova Democratic Institute (KDI)
  14. Kosovo Law Institute (KLI)
  15. Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
  16. New Social Initiative (NSI), Mitrovica
  17. Rahim Salihi, Civil Society Activist, Bujanovac
  18. Valon Arifi, Civil Society Activist
  19. Vjollca Krasniqi, Academic, University of Pristina
  20. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE)
  21. Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Serbia (YIHR Serbia) 
  22. Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Kosovo (YIHR KS)

Public Statement on the war and dialogue from Ukrainian mediators

PCi endorses statement of Ukrainian mediation and dialogue practitioners on the application of dialogue during Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Thirteen Ukraine 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Support is needed to citizens of Russia and Belarus who are opposing their own authoritarian regimes and the aggression in Ukraine.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.