Peaceful Change initiative (PCi) convened civil society organisations and activists from south Serbia in Belgrade to introduce them to UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security (YPS), and design approaches of relevance to young people from their own local communities.
The participants included representatives of BeYond from Bujanovac, Be Active and Livrit from Preševo, and Naš Svet, Naša Pravila from Vranje, plus activists from each municipality. PCi has been working with these organisations to establish a network in south Serbia that can further the specific interests of young people. This includes with respect to the seven-point plan for the integration of the Albanian community, which contains several dimensions of relevance to young people, including economic recovery; education, culture, and media; and security and confidence-building measures.
The workshop began with reflections on engaging with young people in various communities in Serbia, including sentiments amongst young people and the extent to which their work is understood at the local level. This was followed by an introduction to the YPS agenda, focusing on its five key pillars – participation, protection, prevention, partnerships, and disengagement and reintegration.
The second day laid out a series of practical tools for peacebuilding, such as how to undertake a conflict mapping process and conduct a Positions Interests Needs analysis. This was followed by a discussion on how to advocate for peacebuilding and the YPS agenda, employing messages and terminology that resonate with young people not typically exposed to such discussions.
The workshop concluded with the design of tangible peacebuilding approaches, tailored to the specific challenges facing young people in south Serbia. This predominantly revolved around the Seven Point Plan pertaining to the integration of the Albanian community, and advocacy to promote a stronger role for young people in the articulation and realisation of solutions.
PCi’s work in the YPS domain builds upon valuable experiences garnered in Armenia, in conjunction with an Armenian NGO, the Youth Cooperation Center of Dilijan (YCCD), testing approaches to promoting youth participation in decision-making and peacebuilding, underpinned by UNSCR 2250 calls to include youth in local, national, and international institutions.
The participants will deliver similar YPS-focused trainings within their own communities, thereby strengthening the capacity of young people to actively participate at the local level to raise awareness about specific challenges facing youth and to develop solutions to a range of problems. These young people will also be linked to regional and international structures dealing with YPS, thereby allowing them to exchange best pratices.
During their time in Belgrade, the participants also met with representatives from the Serbian Government’s Coordination Body for the Municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja, where they had the opportunity to provide perspectives on the needs and concerns of young people in south Serbia. With the Coordination Body recently appointing new leadership, this was a timely opportunity to present the first hand perspectives of youth.
Peaceful Change initiative (PCi) strongly condemns the appalling violence against KFor peacekeepers in Zvečan, plus the attacks against journalists covering developments on the ground. This is arguably the most serious incident in Kosovo since 2011. The situation remains volatile and we add our voice to those calling for calm and restraint.
Sustainable solutions can only be achieved through dialogue, not only between governments but involving all elements of society. To this end, we stand in solidarity with those civil society organisations from Kosovo and Serbia who continue to propose constructive ideas for how to de-escalate the current tensions and build trust and confidence between the various parties. Their efforts are vital for demonstrating that a different future is possible.
The public stances they take are often unpopular within their own communities, where they often face threats and intimidation for criticising, in particular, their own political leaderships. However, at the same time, these public stances are rarely heard by other communities, such is the manner in which information exchanges are siloed. Such civic actors deserve our support in these trying moments to help amplify their messages in order to ensure that they are heard by as wide and diverse an audience as possible.
In times of crisis, it is vital that civil society continue to provide alternative channels of communication that can confront the spread of disinformation which can have a profoundly destabilising impact within and between communities. Civil society organisations, through their ties with their constituencies, can relay the perspectives of citizens who find themselves on the front lines of conflict; those who typically bear the brunt of such crises.
A failure to capitalise now could see relations deteriorate further, and the process of integration unravelling to the extent that all the gains from the 2013 Brussels Agreement, whose tenth anniversary has just passed, are lost.
Since 2020, PCi has been engaging a diverse group of civil society organisations from Kosovo and Serbia to explore common responses and approaches to issues that impact the environment for the normalisation of relations. Learn more about our work in Kosovo and Serbia.
Ukrainian civil society call for broader solidarity across international NGOs to work for a dignified and just peace in Ukraine.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.