We are, in particular, deeply concerned about the graffiti daubed on a building near where Ms. Todorović lives. It is imperative that such matters be urgently investigated by the appropriate authorities. No individual should be subject to threats of physical violence.
All citizens must be entitled to openly express their views on all matters without fear of reprisals or ramifications. This also applies to the issue of Kosovo’s status.
The normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia can only be achieved through open and sustained dialogue, of which disagreement is a fundamental part.
For over a decade, the respective governments in Kosovo and Serbia have been involved in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, reaching compromises through face-to-face engagement under EU mediation.
The recent agreement between Kosovo and Serbia is a recommitment to continue talking; to continue finding solutions that can benefit all communities. Whilst there has been a spike in tensions, we firmly believe that only through dialogue can de-escalation be achieved and the foundations for progress put in place.
Regardless of one’s views on Kosovo’s status, one should be able to express them openly and confidently. Attempts to silence voices such as Ms. Todorović’s must be widely denounced.
Articulating a vision for the normalisation of relations between Kosovo and Serbia requires voices willing and able to speak truth to power. In the absence of consensus, it is even more vital to create safe spaces where ideas can be proposed and different viewpoints heard.
The stifling of alternative perspectives – especially through tangible threats – will ultimately damage not only relations between Kosovo and Serbia but the evolution of democracy.
We stand in solidarity with Ms. Todorović and remain committed to debating issues that cause tensions within and between Kosovo and Serbia, with a view to finding solutions that can benefit all communities.
Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP)
Center for Democracy and Education – Lugina, Bujanovac
Community Building Mitrovica
Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society (BFPE)
Kosovo Law Institute
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
Lugina Lajm Portal – Bujanovac
New Social Initiative
Prof. Vjollca Krasniqi, University of Prishtina
Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE)
Youth Initiative for Human Rights Kosovo
Rahim Salihi, civil society activist, Bujanovac
Ramadan Ilazi, Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (KCSS)
Peaceful Change initiative – as part of the UK government funded project, Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development (ALVED) – has been regularly convening civic actors from Kosovo and Serbia to improve the environment for normalisation. For further information, please contact Ian Bancroft (Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org).
A two year series of Media Consultation Dialogues (MCD) convened by Peaceful Change initiative (PCi) identified several areas of common need in the media spaces of Kosovo and Serbia. Profound and fundamental challenges like the difficult financial environment and lack of resources cannot be addressed overnight. There are, however, steps doable immediately to make existing resources go further and to equip media with the requisite skills for the contemporary media environment.
Building trust through self-regulation
Developing new capabilities
Speaking with a common voice
A partnership-driven approach
The reality facing media outlets in Kosovo, Serbia, and elsewhere in the Western Balkans necessitates a partnership-driven approach that dilutes some of fundamental challenges they face in terms of limited resources. Cooperation between journalists and media outlets in Kosovo and Serbia is, however, not a common practice. Aside from sporadic contacts (typically at media-focused events), there is no systematic approach to building mutually beneficial and sustained partnerships.
The purpose of such partnerships is threefold, namely to:
Broaden coverage – more issues covered;
Deepen coverage – more perspectives and sources incorporated;
Extending reach – more platforms over a wider geographical and first-language area reproducing the content.
There are various models and strategies for how such partnerships can be pursued. It could involve the exchanges of audio, video or written materials or staff, or it could be the joint production or sharing of content. Whilst there are positive examples of such partnership, they are often ad hoc and dependent upon personal ties between media editors/management. They also tend to focus upon political developments as opposed to human-centred stories.
To illustrate how such partnerships could be structured, consider the following:
Sharing of content, especially video/audio material and photographs;
Joint productions, especially for complex multimedia feature stories;
Information exchanges, especially in crisis situations;
Joint fact checking of data and stories.
There are several other areas in which such systematic cooperation can be developed, including but not limited to:
Exchanges and/or hosting of journalists;
Fellowships – similar to writers in residence programmes;
Internship and job shadowing programs for journalists;
Joint efforts to identify ‘fake news” and external influences (Disinformation Alert System).
Building trust through self-regulation
The print (and some online portals) media in Kosovo and Serbia fall under the auspices of the Press Councils, which are self-regulatory bodies working under ethical codes and professional guidelines grounded in EU standards. The Press Councils of Serbia and Kosovo are both incorporated into the European Press Councils’ Associations, but they do not cooperate directly. Given the issues pertaining to hate speech and prejudicial reporting in Kosovo and Serbia, systematic co-operation between the two could have a transformative effect on relations.
Such co-operation could include:
Periodic meetings to learn about each other’s work and context;
Provision of materials such as ethnical codes in Serbian and Albanian;
Exchange of know-how, experiences and resources;
Establishing a Joint Complaints Committee meetings regarding violation of the codes. It would be hosted by the Serbian Press Council if the violation is in the Serbian media and vice versa;
Joint reactions and public support, particularly where complaints have been upheld, thereby building trust in the process;
Joint events for journalists targeting hate speech, disinformation etc..
Developing new capabilities
The media environment is rapidly changing. There are emerging threats, particularly with respect to disinformation, but also novel opportunities. Contemporary journalism arguably requires new skills, particularly those pertaining to OSINT, social media, and data analytics. The possibilities for professional development are, however, limited. Journalists lack the time and resources to build strengthen their capacities, whilst media outlets are limited in their ability to invest in human capital.
To remain relevant in a contemporary age, journalists and media outlets must create user friendly resources – grounded in lived experience – which can help guide their peers in their day-to-day jobs. Such resources would ideally be developed in conjunction with the respective journalistic associations and academic institutions.
There are also generational gaps which need to be bridged. Whilst older generations of journalists were trained in a different context, where there was arguably a greater awareness of and familiarity with questions of ethno-national diversity, younger generations of journalists have grown up in a somewhat different context. This latter group, however, is more attune with other forms of diversity and new trends in the media. By providing opportunities for networking and other forms of collaboration, journalists from various backgrounds can enhance their understanding of and enjoy greater access to a particular community.
Speaking with a common voice
Almost every single professional media in both Serbia and Kosovo is struggling to survive. Due to shrinking sums and changing donor priorities, many professional media are registered as Civil Society Organisations to improve their eligibility. Other professional media have opened their own NGOs which can apply for funding. Calls for proposals tend to be extremely complicated, often to the extent that small media lack the capacity to apply or fulfil the requirements.
Raising awareness within the donor community about such issues will require that media in Kosovo, Serbia and the Western Balkans engage in joint advocacy. By speaking with a common voice, media outlets can send a powerful and constructive message about their specific needs. Such advocacy would also focus on the means of dispersal, including how to get beyond the classic intermediary model that means that much funding doesn’t go directly to the beneficiaries.
Such joint advocacy would also reinforce the importance of media freedom conditionality on the road to EU accession. It would focus upon questions of financial and ownership transparency within the media scenes of Kosovo and Serbia, whilst underscoring the importance of the safety of journalists and their ability to operate in a context free from political interference. Furthermore, it would underscore the vital role the media plays in underpinning democracy and the rule of law. By drawing attention to specific issues, a free media is an essential part of accountability and transparency, whilst relaying the concerns and needs of citizens.
All the ideas contained within this paper were generated during the Media Consultation Dialogues conducted by PCi, plus subsequent consultations with particular participants. The purpose of this paper is to stimulate further discussion about the approaches contained within, with PCi on hand to facilitate the development of specific proposals.
 In every one of the eight MCDs, the lack of such stories has popped up as something sorely missing from the media in both Kosovo and Serbia. Based on ideas launched in the MCDs, PCi introduced a special award for such media content and gave an annual award for two consecutive years.
In this blog post we explore the pressing need for increased conflict sensitivity skills amongst those delivering aid in Northern Mozambique.
The ongoing armed conflict in Cabo Delgado, Northern Mozambique, is creating challenges to the effective delivery of humanitarian aid by the international community. A lack of conflict sensitive approaches by some international agencies has led to unintended consequences and hindered the delivery of aid to those who need it most.
Conflict sensitivity is an approach which helps those working in conflict-affected contexts minimise the negative impacts of their actions and work towards peace. In this blog post we explore the pressing need for increased conflict sensitivity skills amongst those delivering aid in Northern Mozambique. This includes having a solid understanding of the root causes of the conflict, learning from local expertise, and adapting actions based on this understanding.
The challenges of delivering international aid in Northern Mozambique
One of the critical issues that has emerged, and is now widely recognised in Northern Mozambique, is the unequal distribution of aid between internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities. While addressing the immediate needs of IDPs is crucial, neglecting the host communities has created feelings of resentment and worsened existing tensions. It is essential for aid organisations to recognise and respond to these grievances, adopting an inclusive approach which supports everyone who is affected. Conflict sensitivity guidance can help international aid agencies understand and address such disparities and existing lines of tension, ensuring they foster social cohesion rather than undermine it.
Another widely mentioned challenge is the recent influx of international organisations working in Northern Mozambique, which brings the risk of duplicating efforts and inadequate coordination. Without good coordination, efforts may inadvertently overlap, resulting in inefficient resource allocation and missed opportunities to address the critical needs of people. Such circumstances can not only lead to inefficacy but can also fuel grievances against international agencies or ignite tensions among the communities they serve. It is important for organisations providing international aid to have a space for reflection and to come together to build a common understanding of how they can contribute to peace.
How conflict sensitivity can help international aid agencies navigate these challenges
Aid agencies working in Northern Mozambique must prioritise conflict sensitivity expertise when delivering assistance. Having a clear picture of the conflict landscape, recognising the grievances arising from aid disparities, acknowledging and addressing corruption challenges, and promoting inclusivity and local participation are essential steps towards ensuring effective and sustainable aid delivery.
International organisations have a responsibility to invest in conflict sensitivity training and expertise, which will help them to navigate complex conflict dynamics, build meaningful relationships with local communities, and deliver aid that addresses the diverse needs of people affected by conflict. Building these skills include recruiting staff who have an excellent understanding of the communities agencies want to work with, and ensuring these staff can inform and influence context analysis and project design and adaptation.
We are working to strengthen conflict sensitivity skills amongst national and international humanitarian and development organisations in Northern Mozambique. We do this by helping agencies conduct and make sense of conflict analysis, to identify and prioritise conflict sensitivity risk and design mitigation strategies, and to design, adapt and monitor projects based on this knowledge.
This blog was written by Lorenzo Giuliani, Project Officer for the East and Southern Africa team. Learn more about why we are working in Northern Mozambique on this page, and how we are working there on this page.
Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region has been experiencing conflict since 2017. Militants aligned to Islamic extremist groups have killed thousands and displaced more than a million people. Whilst some of these militants came from neighbouring countries, Mozambicans also joined in significant numbers, motivated by their socio and economic marginalisation as inhabitants one of Mozambique’s poorest regions. Recent discoveries of natural resource wealth in Cabo Delgado are perceived to have benefitted only the richest elites, further exacerbating local grievances.
Against this backdrop, local and international humanitarian and development agencies have been continuing to deliver much-needed support to communities across Cabo Delgado. This support has included supplying food aid, building shelter for displaced people and supporting healthcare and education. However, delivering humanitarian and development work in conflict is a complex endeavour, fraught with the risk of exacerbating tensions by helping one group over the other, or having materials and supplies diverted by armed groups or powerful elites.
We work with organisations delivering humanitarian and development projects in conflict situations, supporting them to minimise the potential for their projects to do harm, and to take advantage of opportunities to deliver their work in a way that actively reduces tensions.
We have been supporting WeWorld to strengthen its conflict sensitivity since 2021, including developing a global Conflict Sensitivity Toolkit. Our work with WeWorld’s team in Cabo Delgado has included developing an understanding of conflict dynamics and conflict sensitivity risks in the communities with which WeWorld is working. We also support WeWorld’s project team to prioritise, mitigate and monitor these risks using our Conflict Sensitive interactions matrix.
Three key takeaways from our conflict sensitivity work in Mozambique
Local staff embedded in communities were invaluable in helping WeWorld understand the context and how to manage risks.
WeWorld had recruited local mobilisers who lived locally to the communities with which they worked and who were tasked with getting to know the people with which they were working, visiting communities daily and spending time speaking to project participants and local leaders.
The knowledge and relationships that local mobilisers brought was essential in helping Mozambican and international staff based in the regional headquarters of Pemba understand how the project may be received in the communities, what potential risks and pitfalls would be and how to mitigate these. Providing local mobilisers with the space to give their perspective and be part of redesigning activities to mitigate risks was a valuable part of reflection and planning sessions.
Having the space for teams to critically reflect on their work is an essential part of being conflict sensitive.
Conflict sensitivity is often approached in a very technical way, with a focus on using various tools to produce outputs (analyses, matrices etc). These tools are valuable to stimulate thinking, but it was in joint reflection sessions where the real work of deepening our conflict analysis and developing ideas for how exactly activities should be implemented or adapted happened.
It is hard to capture all the nuance of these discussions in an analysis report or a matrix, but the process itself is essential to bring a team together around understanding and implementing a project in a conflict sensitive way. In a humanitarian context like northern Mozambique, space for organisations to reflect and regroup is not a given, it needs to be created and external facilitators can be useful in that respect.
Conflict sensitivity requires a whole-of-system approach.
Our work with WeWorld in Mozambique to date has focused on the conflict sensitivity of a specific project in Cabo Delgado, working with that project team. However, there are barriers to being conflict sensitive that a project team alone cannot remove. This can include how projects are designed in the first place, whether there is organisational appetite for making the difficult decisions to adapt or completely transform approaches, the flexibility of donors and how committed they are to being conflict sensitive.
Conflict sensitivity is something that all levels and departments of an organisation need to understand, including procurement and communications teams. It is also critical that donors operating in conflict contexts understand conflict sensitivity and that this is reflected in how they design, select and monitor projects.
Next steps: expanding our conflict sensitivity work to new regions
Our work with WeWorld will continue, expanding to cover WeWorld teams in Kenya and Tanzania under an EU-funded project that aims to strengthen youth participation in peacebuilding in the Swahili Coast region. PCi continues to call for and support greater attention to conflict sensitivity amongst agencies working in Northern Mozambique.
PCi’s trustee Joan McGregor and Senior Peacebuilding Advisor Raj Bhari have been working with ILO to produce a new guide: Promoting Social Cohesion and Peaceful Coexistence in Fragile Contexts through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
The guide is aimed at TVET practitioners to consolidate their role as active promoters of social cohesion and peaceful co-existence.
The guide seeks to strengthen the role of skills development policies and programmes in peacebuilding efforts through inclusive learning methodologies and training in relevant core skills.
It also provides practical guidance on how to adapt training, to mixed community groups, embed conflict resolution skills, cooperation, and other relevant core skills into training curricula, and create conflict sensitive, inclusive, and diverse learning environments for all.
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.
Libyan society is undergoing significant change as a result of the revolution/conflict in 2011, bringing substantial opportunities for a more inclusive political system and more accountable security services. At the same time, the revolution/conflict has weakened relationships between some communities in Libya, as well as exposing longer-term inter-communal conflicts. As such, successful transition depends on a comprehensive peacebuilding approach that helps communities to share perspectives, overcome grievances and map out a common future. PCI and AFAQ Libya have developed a policy brief that outlines an agenda for such an approach in Libya.
PCi worked with Libyan communities to foster transformational leaders able to manage the conflicts affecting their communities. This work was conducted for the European Union, as part of its support to civil society in Libya, and delivered through EUNIDA. Lessons learned from the project were made public in June 2014, along with the training material used. A short video was also released, giving an insight into the challenges for, and role of, local leaders in building peace in Libya.
This policy briefing, reflects on the present situation in the east of Ukraine as experienced by the populations on both sides of the line of contact in the east – in the NGCA of LNR and DNR, and with areas under government control. The paper seeks to contextualise these differing experiences and offers a set of recommendations, with the aim of proposing a peacebuilding agenda for local and international organisations.
In 2015, PCi supported the establishment of a conflict-sensitive mechanism known as the Social Peace Partnership in Ubari, following successful delivery of a Social Peace and Local Development programme in 2014. The Ubari Social Peace Partnership has played a role in reducing tensions and preventing the outbreak of violent conflict.