Programme: Europe and South Caucasus

PCi gives annual awards to journalists and media for stories on multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia

In PCi organised Media Consultation dialogues (the backbone of media work in our Balkans programme) which bring together media professionals from Kosovo and Serbia to analyse the media scene, one thing has persistently popped up as an issue – the lack of stories about ordinary life, about living together, about peaceful coexistence. The media picture that Albanians and Serbs get about one another from Kosovar and Serbian media is almost exclusively bleak, black and white and full of divisive narratives.

To counter such narratives, last spring PCi launched an annual award for the best stories about interethnic coexistence in Albanian and in Serbian language and in two categories – audio/visual and written submissions. The award ceremony for the best stories in Serbian was held on February 28th in Belgrade’s Media centre. The Albanian language awards ceremony will be held on Thursday the 3rd of March.  

The jury consisted of three of the most prominent and distinguished Serbian journalists, Jelena Obućina from Newsmax Adria, Tamara Skrozza from the news agency FoNet and Milivoje Mihajlović who works for the public service broadcaster, RTS.

The first prize in the audio and video format was awarded to Zorica Krstić Vorgučić from Radio KIM for her TV story “Why is it important to speak the language of our neighbours”. Thanking the jury and PCi, Ms. Krstić Vorgučić said that it is impossible to escape the fact that Serbs and Albanians are distanced from each other and that they live parallel lives. “Language is important for changes to happen and most Serbs do not speak Albanian. There are some new initiatives, some new language courses and I hope that things will change for the better”.

The first prize for the written format went to Jelena Jorgačević, a reporter from the Belgrade weekly newsmagazine “Vreme” for her story “Encounters on Destroyed Bridges”. “We need to  inform the public about what is going on and things are far from perfect. But we, journalists, do not have to be pyromaniacs and fan the flames of hatred”, said Jelena as she received the award.

The jury members emphasised that in divided societies, journalists can do much more to improve inter-ethnic relations. Tamara Skrozza said that “the importance of the awarded stories lies in the fact that they go way beyond daily news reporting and deal with real life which is always much more complex and even beautiful than daily news make it appear to be.”

Research report: Understanding dialogue in Ukraine

A survey of participants in track-three dialogues was conducted between March and April 2018 by the Mediation and Dialogue Research Center, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, with support from PCi. This was to test hypotheses developed during an earlier study about patterns and risks relating to track-three dialogues in Ukraine. ‘Understanding Dialogue in Ukraine: A survey-based study, Analytical Report 2018’ can be downloaded here in English, Ukrainian and Russian.

Armenia: Training manual to promote action plans for youth engagement in governance

A training manual was produced as a component of the project ‘Progressing Youth Participation in Armenia on Governance and Peace’, which supports UNSCR 2250 on youth, peace and security. The manual has four modules which support users in:

  • increasing understanding of peace and peacebuilding together with the basics of conflict transformation
  • developing communication skills in support of non-violent dialogue
  • communicating approaches and tools related to decision making in line with UNSCR 2250 leading to the development of action plans for youth engagement in governance

Download the training manual in Armenian here

Youth participation in decision making and peacebuilding in Armenia

PCi worked with YCCD (an Armenian NGO) to promote youth participation in decision making and peacebuilding in Armenia, supporting UN Security Resolution 2250 calling on governments to include youth participation in local, national and international institutions, in efforts to end conflict. A short film was produced to capture the project’s impact (available in Armenian with English subtitles).

PCi expression of solidarity with Ukrainian peacebuilders

We abhor the violation of peace and territorial integrity in Ukraine and the senseless destruction and loss of life brought by the unjustified military action being perpetrated by the Government of the Russian Federation. We appeal for an immediate cessation of attacks on Ukraine and for the protection of civilians. We are gravely concerned that the war will lead to long-term intractable conflict with great human and environmental costs and express our solidarity with peacebuilders and civil society actors across all parts of Ukraine who are working bravely to maintain the social fabric of their communities and upholding principles of shared humanity.

Since 2016 we have witnessed first-hand the courageous work of peacebuilders who have made heroic attempts to transcend the divides created since 2014 and their patient commitment to peace. The present military action works directly against the declared intent of the Russian leadership to establish brotherly relations with its neighbour and develop a vision for indivisible security in Europe.

The present military action is not only outside of international law, but we firmly believe that it is fundamentally against the interests of the Russian Federation, a permanent member of the United National Security Council with a particular responsibility for maintaining international peace and security and a prime stakeholder and beneficiary of the present system of international security.

We empathise with the calls of our friends and partners inside Ukraine for international assistance and coordinated action to end the violence and aid the people of Ukraine and urge international friends and allies to provide all diplomatic and humanitarian assistance.

Kosovo-Serbia: Addressing COVID-19 – allowing local voices to be heard

PCi works to amplify local voices, especially those of marginalised groups, in support of equitable development. We worked with our partners Aktiv, Civic Initiatives and Peer Educators Network to ensure non-majority communities in Serbia and Kosovo are better aware of – and able to advocate for – municipal services to which they are entitled.

In response to COVID-19, PCi worked with Aktiv to create a ‘Rapid Response Crisis Group’ (RRCG) to ensure that non-majority communities in Kosovo were receiving equitable access to information that sought to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In this first of the video stories which will be produced by all three partners, Aktiv sheds more light on the efforts of the RRCG to ensure equitable access to information. Click here for the film with English subtitles

Improving access to mental health information in Kosovo

PCi are working with partners, among others, to ensure non-majority communities in Serbia and Kosovo have better access to information on COVID-19. The goal of the ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development – ALVED’ project is to strengthen the capacity of citizens in Kosovo and Serbia to advocate for an effective and equitable distribution of public services and for a greater inclusion of non-majority communities in local decision making.

The project is funded by the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund of the United Kingdom (CSSF) and implemented by a network of five organisations, including our partner Peer Educators Network (PEN) from Kosovo, who actively work to bring social change through community work led by youth. With their first video-cast published as part of ALVED, PEN is providing information about the effects of the pandemic on mental health, as well as some advice on how to cope with this situation. The video is available in English, Albanian and Serbian language, and was shared across social media by a network of organisations working with diverse groups in Kosovo, including non-majority communities.

Armenia: Youth Research Report

PCi has produced a research report focusing on the participation of youth in decision making and peacebuilding in Armenia in the context of the political changes since April 2018. The research was conducted in the framework of the project “Progressing youth participation in Armenian on governance and peace”, which is implemented by Peaceful Change initiative and Youth Cooperation Centre of Dilijan and is funded by the UK Government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund. 

Download the report here

PCi’s partner NGO Aktiv advocating for Language Rights in Kosovo

As part of the ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development – ALVED’ project, PCi’s partner organisation Aktiv produced a video-cast that discusses language rights in Kosovo. The video-cast analyses how the pandemic crisis has shed light on weak institutions unable to provide a timely translation of information into Serbian at key moments, leaving members of the Serb and other non-majority communities in Kosovo at a disadvantage. The video is available in Serbian, Albanian and English language.

New Research on Civil Society in Serbia and Kosovo

Peaceful Change initiative is pleased to present new research, jointly undertaken by the Universities of Belgrade and Prishtina, which explores the current landscape of cross-community initiatives in Serbia and Kosovo. 

The research – which was undertaken as part of the UK-government funded project, ‘Amplifying local voices for equitable development’ – sought to explore two key dimensions. First, the standing of civil society organizations (CSOs) amongst the very constituencies and communities that they claim to represent. Second, the new issues which have mobilized citizens who had not previously been civically engaged, the reasons for why such mobilizations have been successful.

One of the key recommendations deriving from the research is that civil society should continue to promote equality, solidarity, and reciprocity, and to counteract divisive and ethnicized narratives on identity and dealing with the past. As such, civil society organisations should be encouraged to engage with difficult topics and issues that concern communities, and not only foster issues deemed less political in their cross-community initiatives.

As Dr. Jelena Loncar, an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade, and one of the research leads, concluded, ‘in Kosovo civil society is more forward looking, more optimistic than in Serbia, with more developed intra- and inter-community co-operation at the local level. On the other hand, in Serbia, the main impression is a lack of hope and motivation for activism, with participants insisting on the lack of expertise, resources and visions of the future. At the same time, we noticed there are emerging youth organisations that give hope that grassroots activism is possible.’

Dr. Vjollca Krasniqi, a Profesor of Sociology, at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Prishtina, who also spearheaded the research, emphasized that, ‘the history of conflict has left a difficult legacy, both in Kosovo and in Serbia, and also for civil society organisations. They have to restore trust – promote tolerance and co-operation – between communities. One important finding is that civil society organisations believe cross-community initiatives are important and relevant to foster inter-ethnic relations, even despite the fact the main narratives remain divided.’

Dr. Orli Fridman, head of the Center for Comparative Conflict Studies at the Faculty of Media and Communications (FMK), Singidunum University, and an advisor on the researcher, added that ‘the strength – even the beauty – of the research is its rich empirical data. There are some excellent quotes from participants demonstrating the presence of the fieldwork itself. As a result, the report reflects a complex and more nuanced reality on the ground, which challenges what is out there in terms of daily discourses.’

The research is available to download from the PCi website by visiting:

For further information about the research, please contact Ian Bancroft (ian.bancroft@peacefulchange.org).