Programme: Europe and South Caucasus

Civil Society in Kosovo and Serbia take Stance against Division

PCi hereby presents in full a joint statement issued by civil society organisations and activists from Serbia and Kosovo laying out a series of calls and commitments that respond to the present context of relations in the region.

Joint Statement of Kosovo and Serbia Civil Society Actors

Witnessing that Kosovo-Serbia relations are not improving despite the ongoing dialogue process, we express our deep concern for the deterioration of the situation on the ground and in the daily lives of citizens. There is a need to safeguard and protect the human rights of minority groups in Serbia and Kosovo.

Concerned that the dialogue is being used to distract from important issues such as the deterioration of the rule of law, corruption, and human rights challenges.

Recognizing contextual differences regarding the levels of democracy, the rule of law, and separation of power, which influence the process of normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo:

We call on the governments of Serbia and Kosovo to:

  • continue the dialogue in a substantial and sustainable manner;
  • promptly implement already reached agreements;
  • refrain from inflammatory rhetoric against minority communities and populist narratives regarding mutual relations and history;
  • commit to transparency and ensure civic participation;  
  • take prompt measures to develop internal processes of integration;
  • respect the rights of minorities; and,
  • work on confidence-building measures to bring communities together. 

We call on the International Community:

  • to support dialogue and the normalisation agreements that not are not at the expense of democracy in Kosovo and Serbia;
  • to focus on substantial solutions instead of resolving daily disputes among the parties in dialogue;
  • to support civil society in the wider sense (CSOs, academia, cultural institutions, media, trade unions, etc.);
  • to work on normalization and sustainable relations between two parties;
  • to foster a wider inter and intra-societal debate  on  possible solutions and priorities in the dialogue.

We commit to:

  • further impel substantial and continuous debate between civil society in Serbia and Kosovo;
  • exchange information about issues, context and developments in both societies in a timely manner;
  • have joint reactions on the alarming issues that deteriorate the situation on the ground and have a detrimental impact on relations between communities;
  • keep in focus on-going challenges not being resolved, which are marginalized due to current issues or incidents;
  • maintain a space for civil society proactive leadership in creating better relations and improvements in human rights and the everyday lives of citizens;
  • recognize differences among processes in Serbia and Kosovo and react in line with those processes asking for steps in the right direction;
  • involve other civil society actors for a continuing dialogue among civil societies actors and enable substantial involvement for each and everyone.

Signatories:

  1. Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC)
  2. Advocacy Training and Resource Center (ATRC)
  3. Assist Kosovo Center – ASSIST, Prishtinë
  4. Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE)
  5. Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  6. Balkan Policy Research Group
  7. Crno-beli svet, Mitrovica North
  8. Center for Advocacy and Democratic Development (CADD)
  9. Center for Peace and Tolerance (CPT)
  10. Centar za regionalizam, Mitrovica
  11. Civic Initiatives
  12. Council for Human Rights – Bujanovac
  13. Democracy Plus (D+)
  14. Drita Dibrani, civil society activist
  15. European Fund for the Balkans
  16. Forum for Development and Multiethnic Collaboration (FDMC)
  17. HANDIKOS, Kosovo
  18. Independent Initiative for Blind People, Kosovo
  19. Institute for Development and Integration (IZHI)
  20. Institute for Territorial Economic Development (InTER)
  21. Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade
  22. Kosovo Law Institute (KLI)
  23. Kosovo Center for Security Studies (KCSS)
  24. Kosovo Democratic Institute (KDI)
  25. Leadership and Development (LAD)
  26. Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
  27. Mitrovica Women Association for Human Rights (MWAHR)
  28. NGO Advocacy for Society Development (AFSD)
  29. NVO “PLEJADA” Prizren
  30. NVO Communication for the development of society CSD, Gračanica
  31. NGO Aktiv
  32. New Social Initiative (Mitrovica)
  33. OJQ “Drugëza”
  34. OJQ “VISION 02” Istog
  35. OJQ Aureola
  36. OJQ Qendra e Gruas “ATO” Vushtrri
  37. OJQ Roma in Action Gjakovë
  38. Open Society Foundation, Novi Sad-Beograd
  39. Rahim Salihi, civil society activist, Bujanovac.
  40. The Balkan Forum
  41. Unioni i Punëtorëve Social të Kosovës
  42. Valon Arifi, civil society activist
  43. Vjollca Krasniqi, Academic, University of Prishtina
  44. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE)
  45. Xhejrane Lokaj, civil society activist
  46. Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) Kosovo
  47. Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) Serbia

Media Award in Kosovo and Serbia: Deadline for applications is extended

Peaceful Change initiative is calling on journalists, editors, media representatives, and others, to share with us their stories on multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia. The idea was initiated by the Media Consultation Dialogue, an integral part of PCi’s Balkan programme. 

With gratitude to all who have applied so far for the Media Award, PCi hereby announces an extension of the deadline for entries by three months. This means that stories published/broadcast between now and November 15th can also compete for the Award. The new deadline for submitting applications is now November 16th 2021. Stories going back to 15th August 2020 are also eligible. 

The reason for the deadline extension is to try and stimulate journalists to generate media content which explores the positive sides of multi-ethnic co-existence. All entries sent so far remain in contention, but we want to give journalists and editors additional time to pursue stories that qualify for recognition by PCi’s Media Award. Good luck to all who want to compete for the Award. 

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 15 August 2020 and 15 November 2021 are eligible for the Media Award. To apply click on the following link: https://forms.gle/3XWBbGFMMJqBtiw47. The application deadline is 16 November 2021.

Third Media Consultation Dialogue tackles empathy for “the other” in Serbia and Kosovo

PCi’s Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development (ALVED) project has been gathering media experts, journalists, editors, civil society and institutions from Kosovo and Serbia in what will eventually be a cycle of eight Media Consultation Dialogues (MCD). Their goal is to bring together media related experts from Kosovo and Serbia who would not normally have a chance to meet and discuss their respective media scenes. The overarching goal is to try and galvanize change in a rather toxic media pool of division and hate speech. The project is funded by the UK Government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).

Having tackled a PCi commissioned comprehensive study of the media scenes in Kosovo and Serbia during the first MCD, the second one looked into the media regulatory bodies. The third Media Consultation Dialogue was held online on March 3 2021, and titled “Unpleasant Truths and Unfounded Beliefs”.  The discussion focused on a universally acknowledged belief by all participants that empathy for “the other” is very conspicuous by its absence. Three questions were discussed in detail:

  • Why is it so difficult to see the suffering of “the other”?
  • What could the Media and the Civil Society do to facilitate reconciling with the past, including reporting on unpleasant truths?
  • How could the Media (and possibly the Civil Society) change the current state of affairs?

Just like after every other Media Consultation Dialogue, together with its participants, PCi will draft a set of conclusions and recommendations to be shared with media outlets, civil society and state and international institutions. To access the document entailing the Conclusions and Recommendations click here in English, Albanian and Serbian.

Update on Second Media Consultation Dialogue in Serbia and Kosovo

The second Media Consultation Dialogue (MCD) looked closely at the work of the media regulatory bodies in in Kosovo and Serbia since one of the conclusions of the first Media Consultation Dialogue was that their work does not contribute enough to the elimination of hate speech and “othering” in the media.

The Media Consultation Dialogues are an integral part of PCi’s Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development – ALVED project. The Dialogues bring together media experts, journalists, editors, civil society representatives and also some institutions that do not usually communicate with each other. Their goal is to engage in constrictive dialogues in areas important for the media in both Kosovo and Serbia.

The Media Consultation Dialogue 2 was held online on February 24 2021 and the focus was on the Media Regulatory Bodies – specifically on the difference between their work as laid down by the law and the difference between the theory and practice of their work. The discussion revolved primarily around:

  • How media regulators ensure that public interest is served and what does public interest actually mean?
  • What exactly are the differences between the theory and practice?
  • How to narrow down those differences and improve the overall media scene in Kosovo and Serbia and help the media play a more constructive part in creating a cohesive and constructive relationship between the two societies?

Further to the Dialogue and consultations with all participants, a set of Conclusions and Recommendations was compiled and in the next few weeks will be shared with local, national, and international institutions that work in strengthening the independence of media in Kosovo and Serbia.

The Conclusions and Recommendations are available in English, Albanian and Serbian language

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

Peaceful Change initiative is calling on journalists, editors, media representatives, and others, to share with us their stories on multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia. The idea was initiated by the Media Consultation Dialogue, an integral part of PCi’s Balkan programme. 

The call for entries is open until mid-August 2021 and the entries will be evaluated by a professional jury who will select the winning stories and media outlets.

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 15 August 2020 and 15 August 2021 are eligible for the Media Award. To apply click on the following link: https://forms.gle/3XWBbGFMMJqBtiw47. The application deadline is 16 August 2021.

PCi’s partner on the Kosovo-Serbia project launches small grants scheme

PCi’s partner on the Kosovo-Serbia project, People in Need (PIN), has launched a small-grants scheme to support local-level, community-based initiatives that can help deal with the impact of Covid-19 on local communities, whilst cutting across ethnic divisions.

More than 100 applications were received, out of which 12 grassroot organizations were selected for support. They are:

  1. Centar za aktivizam Vranje (Center for Activism in Vranje) //Vranje & Bujanovac
  2. Centar za ravnomerni regionalni razvoj (Center for Equal Regional Development) – CenTriR & Ruža Lebane //Lebane
  3. Education Code & Ana Morava //Gjilan/Gnjilane & Lipjan/Lipljan
  4. Primo la toleranza //Štrpce/Shtërpcë
  5. Qendra e Kujdesit Ditor “PEMA” (Day Care Center “Pema”) //Gjilan/Gnjilane
  6. Qendra për jetë të pavarur (Center for Independent Living) //Peja/Peć
  7. Shoqata Beyond (Association Beyond) //Bujanovac
  8. Udruženje građanja Odbor za ljudska prava Vranje (Citizens’ Association Committee for Human Rights in Vranje) //Vranje & Bujanovac
  9. Udruženje Roditelja “Podrži me”, Sever (Association of Parents in the North “Support me”) //Leposavić/Leposaviq
  10. Udruženje Romkinja Bujanovac (Association of Roma Women in Bujanovac) //Bujanovac
  11. YMCA Movement – Peja branch //Peja/Peć
  12. Youth Association for Human Rights //Lipjan/Lipljan

Our partner PIN will be launching similar small-grant schemes in the future, offering more opportunities for support, especially to those who are in a more vulnerable position.

Supporting marginalised communities in Georgia impacted by COVID-19

This report has been produced by PCi’s partner organisation in Georgia, IDP Women’s Association Consent. The report summarises quantitative and qualitative research carried out by Consent and their partners in isolated communities in three regions of Georgia on the way they were impacted by the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the report in English, click here. For the report in Georgian, click here.

Ukraine: Local tensions addressed by Dialogue Initiative Group in Beryslav

PCi supported by the Institute for Peace and Common Ground, trained 12 dialogue facilitators in 4 communities of Kherson region. A Dialogue Initiative Group was established in Beryslav where two community members and a representative from the local authority were trained as dialogue facilitators. The Dialogue Initiative Group sought to explore the ways in which dialogue could be more firmly embedded as a formal approach to resolving differences, as well as enabling and promoting more participatory decision-making. 

In Beryslav, controversy had arisen from the Decommunisation Law that was passed by the Ukrainian Parliament in 2015, with some statues requiring removal, due to their connections with the Soviet past. Residents of Beryslav held different perspectives on Soviet history and there were varying attitudes towards the symbols. In June 2015, a monument to Lenin was destroyed by local activists, which increased tension and division in the community.

In order to reduce tensions around a remaining statue, the Beryslav Dialogue Initiative Group conducted a dialogue with individuals representing a range of opinions on:  “How to improve a memorable place taking into account the current legislation of Ukraine and the different views of the city’s residents?”  Common ground was found on the way forward with citizens representing different perspectives agreeing to work together on a project for the reconstruction of the remaining statue, that would fulfil the law of Ukraine but also take into account all historical periods of the city and opinions of its residents. The work of the Dialogue Initiative Group helped to improve understanding between the parties in the community and contributed to the removal of tension around the remaining statue, it also improved the interaction between groups with differing opinions in the city.

Ukraine: Using a Dialogue Initiative Group to build trust in Muzykivka village

Muzykivka village is located in the Southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, which borders the Crimean peninsula. When the government of Ukraine began to reform the system of territorial administration Muzykivka was an early adopter, uniting with four other villages to form a new amalgamated community in 2016. The reforms led to more decision making and budgetary power at the local level; this change required “creativity and responsibility” in the words of the community head.

The lack of power that local authorities had experienced in the past led to a situation where decision making was not responsive and this impacted services, but also resulted in a form of public disengagement whereby problems were not aired and discussed but rather remained pent up.

The Institute for Peace and Common Ground began working in Muzykivka in the summer of 2018, building up a Dialogue Initiative Group with facilitators trained to identify conflict issues, analyse them and design a process by which they could be addressed. People in the community also built the skills to engage people to take part in these dialogues: “All participants really like this approach”, said one of the trainees. “Some of them started to use dialogue principles in their work and everyday life. For example, a local government representative started to use the tools he acquired for communicating with people bound for military service and he has noted how relations have become better.”

Armenia: Youth as advocates for peacebuilding

Peaceful Change initiative worked with an Armenian NGO, Youth Cooperation Centre of Dilijan (YCCD), to promote youth participation in decision making related to peace and governance issues. This supports UNSCR 2250, which urges governments to include youth participation in local, national, and international institutions, in efforts to end conflict.

15 young activists from Yerevan, Tavush, Shirak, Lori, Kotayk and Ararat regions participated in the six-day training held in Dilijan in August 2019. They were equipped with the skills to become ‘trainers’ and take their skills back into their communities, to work with other young people to engage them in peace and governance issues.

The training was structured around a Training Manual that had been developed with support from PCi. It sought to improve understanding, among the youth, of peace and peacebuilding in Armenia, and explained the basics of conflict transformation.

Arman, a 28-yearold civil society activist, said: “It was useful to know that peace is not just a general term and that it can be used in both a positive and negative way.” It also sought to develop communication skills that support non-violent dialogue and outlined approaches and tools that support the development of action plans for youth engagement in governance in Armenia.

Following the training, Marika, a 26-year-old teacher, said: “Now I am ready to go back to school and to work with the new materials, the Training Manual will be very helpful!”

Download the training manual in Armenian here