Region: Kosovo

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).

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.

First Media Consultation Dialogue tackles portrayal of ‘the other’ in Serbia and Kosovo

Peaceful Change initiative held the first of a series of Media Consultation Dialogue, conducted as part of the project: Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development. Media Consultation Dialogues look to engage media experts and professionals from a range of backgrounds and who hold different perspectives, to assess different elements of the media scene and propose new approaches to tackling conflict-generating narratives.

The first Dialogue took place over two separate online sessions on 17 November and 1 December 2020. It reflected on findings of a recent study on divisive narratives in the media in Kosovo and Serbia and discussed critical factors that enable unhealthy portrayals of Kosovo and Serbia in one another’s informational space. The discussions proposed:

  • Finding ways to give media outlets more and more diverse information about their neighbouring country, to help journalists move past worn-out narratives that dominate the present media space.
  • Finding ways to incentivise journalists and media outlets to research, produce and publish different types of stories.
  • Pooling resources, so that media representatives receive more information about one another’s societies on a more regular basis.

A summary of the discussions can be found here

PCi’s partner People in Need (PiN) announces a small grants scheme for communities in Serbia and Kosovo

PCI’s partner in the project Amplifying local voices for equitable development has announced a small grants scheme to support local-level, community-based initiatives that help deal with the impact of Covid-19 on local communities, whilst cutting across ethnic divisions.

Full details of the grants scheme can be found at the following links:

People in Need Kosovo website
People in Need Serbia website
People in Need Kosovo Facebook page
People in Need Serbia Facebook page

The final deadline for applications is 31 January 2021.

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).