A Youth Initiative in the Western Balkans
This project was partially supported by USAID and the Balkan Trust for Democracy
The Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe (CDRSEE) held a unique workshop that brought together 25 young curious minds from the region of the Western Balkans. At a small hotel in a Greek village by the sea, these 25 young participants were encouraged to think out of the box, come up with innovative ideas and become leaders of a better future in the region where they reside.
The results were more than satisfactory. The youth participated in top-class training in transitional justice tools, leadership skills and management and, at the end of the workshop, came up with three original and creative ideas that reach towards their common vision for the region. These projects were the Balkan Cafe, CellNet and Caravan Fest. The young participants were then encouraged to run the above-mentioned projects on every level (idea development, fundraising, administration, etc.), and CDRSEE committed to facilitating their work.
"We must make way for the new generations for if we do not, they will impose themselves anyway"
"The young delude themselves about their future; the old folks about their past"
The Second workshop also had very positive results. The group met again for 3 days in Skopje (22-25 January), where they briefed each other on the individual steps they took, and the feedback they got from their communities. They also set new goals for the future. Apart from becoming a cohesive group and forming long-lasting relationships, the participants demonstrated genuine commitment and dedication, enthusiasm and passion for their ideals and purpose.
The objective of "Building a Future Together" was to facilitate a long-term, lasting, and genuine reconciliation process through creative but structured cross-cultural dialogue. The youth workshops provided a platform for creative ideas for how the subsequent, younger generation can add value to the reconciliation process in Southeast Europe.
The long-term goals were to:
- Empower the youth of SEE to assume responsibility for their own futures;
- Cultivate inspiring and effective future leaders through dialogue and leadership training;
- Encourage agreement on the identification of a common set of values;
- Enhance the work of civil society by increasing linkages and synergies between NGOs and projects.
The shorter-term goals underlying the specific project activities were to:
- Openly discuss the importance of an increasingly multi-cultural and multi-national continent of being able to understand different value systems and points of view;
- Provide an opportunity for networking between young people from the Western Balkans who cannot travel to each other's countries as freely as their parents could;
- Counterbalance the brain drain by providing learning opportunities and stimulating experiences to the youth who stayed in the region rather than leaving for work or studies abroad;
- Give young people a voice in shaping their own future, thus giving them ownership and hopefully leadership of the process of reconciliation;
The objectives of the training are for the participants:
- to feel ownership of the process of ‘Building a Future Together'
- to feel motivation and dedication
- to identify common/shared values
- to learn new skills
- to generate new ideas
- to create a strategic action plan for this 18-month project.
The first workshop of the ‘Building a Future Together' project offered two training sessions: the first session was led by the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), and the second by the Oxford Leadership Academy (OLA).
The International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) – represented by trainers Federico Borello and Lydiah Bosire - provided expertise on the different mechanisms for dealing with past wrongs and human rights violations. The focus was on present solutions to past wrongs with a global context. These sessions revealed many of the possible solutions to overcoming the legacy of recent wars and dictatorships.
The second part of the training began with the self, with each individual participant's goals, purpose and vision, on the road to articulating a common vision. The Oxford Leadership Academy provided strategic focusing for leaders. Brian Bacon facilitated the discovery of each participant's own personal vision of the future, which led to a common vision of a better future in the Western Balkans. Through the process of articulating one shared vision and strategy, the group geared up inspiration and enthusiasm to make the plan succeed.
The two training courses complemented each other. ICTJ provided an objective, scientific view of how to deal with post-conflict societies. The material was sensitive and difficult, but the approach was professional and technical. The perspective was detached and from afar within a global context. Oxford Leadership provided a very personal and soul-searching way of entering into the process of this project.
ICTJ Session – Objectives:
SKILLS - Provide participants with the capacity to evaluate transitional justice measures in their own local context, and to be able to engage with stakeholders in government, civil society and among international organisations.
KNOWLEDGE – Provide participants with a comprehensive general overview of transitional justice, and especially the overarching theme of reconciliation.
ATTITUDE – Imbue participants with the confidence to evaluate measures leading to reconciliation in their countries, and give them enough tools to enable them to take part in the transitional justice dialogue in their countries.
OLA Session – Objectives:
The purpose of this module was to develop the leadership skills of community NGO activists and leaders and assist them in developing a strategic focus for their project.
- To develop a personal focus and a common vision of a better future in the Western Balkans
- To identify shared values, priorities, strengths and assets as a team
- To learn the secrets of managing people and understand the keys to effective leadership during turbulent times
- To explore with each other possible synergies in their work
- To create an action plan to achieve their common vision as a group
- To discover the motivation and enthusiasm to make the action plan succeed.
RESULTS: The Vision
On Day 6, the group articulated the following results:
The VISION of the future for youth in the Western Balkans fell into the following seven subject areas:
- Youth Empowerment
- Respect and Tolerance - values
- New Balkan Image
- Economic and Political Cooperation
- Advocacy/Civil Society
- EU Integration
Below are the subject areas and their elements. The participants were asked to vote on the top three most important subject areas.
- Youth Empowerment (27 votes)
- New People, new ideas, new direction (youth leadership program)
- Youth engagement in politics
- Reducing youth unemployment in the Balkan region
- Respect & Tolerance – Values (26 votes)
- Equal opportunities for all
- Raising awareness of human rights and eliminating prejudices
- Beyond tolerance: Acceptance in the Balkans
- Respect of yourself and others, acceptance of plurality
- Tolerant individuals in tolerant society
- Understanding and respecting cultural diversities
- Reconciliation of the people in the Balkans
- Supremacy of moral and spiritual values over material ones
- Freedom of mind through expression and movement
- The Balkans Dolphin Aquarium
- Multi-Dimensional/New Balkan Image (15 votes)
- An improved Balkan image
- Multidimensional Balkans, instead of one-dimensional
- Eat globally, feed locally
- Re-Balkanization: Edgy, developed, rebuilt, creative, peaceful, prosperous, revived
- Improved Economic Political Co-operation (7 votes)
- Political, economic, and cultural cooperation
- Better economy
- Working towards common ground
- Advocacy/Civil Society (7 votes)
- Advocacy-oriented civil society
- Security/Stability (6 votes)
- Supremacy of citizens over ethnic affiliation in open society
- Demilitarized state in collective security framework
- A stable multinational region where everyone feels safe
- Decriminalization of the state, which equals to professional and moral public servants
- Integration (5 votes)
- EU membership
- Mobility (No Visas)
Three Specific Goals:
“Empower youth to participate and influence the decision-making process in the local level.” (Supporting young candidates, Network, Lobbying, etc)
Respect and Tolerance
“Creation of an environment for genuine belief in civic values.”
(Education, think tanks, Media, etc.)
New Balkan Image
“Changing the perception of the Balkans within and outside the region.”
RESULTS: Action Plan
The Proposal of the Youth Empowerment group
Goal: To set up a chain of Balkan Cafes that create and spread the “Balkan Cafe Culture” amongst youth.
“Balkan Cafe Culture”: A shared appreciation of Balkan and pop cultures.
Phase I: Software
Workshop 2 (establishment of principles, instruments, cooperation with other groups, etc.)
Activities (music, literature, art, etc.)
Phase II: Hardware
Workshop 3 (specialists)
Workshop 4 (set up the first cafe)
CD compilation, etc.
The proposal of the Respect and Tolerance group
Purpose/”The Cause”: Dissemination of civic values
- a cell in every region/country
- principle of independence
- principle of self-operation
- principle of self-sustainability
- principle of coordination
- principle of cooperation
- a visionary/scientific one (think tanks, researches, initiatives, memorandums)
- an activist approach (performances, sessions, workshops, demonstrations, etc.)
Contents: Individual strategies/patterns
The Proposal of the New Balkan Image group
Max 15 minutes
Local stories, Local crew
Focus: Young people promoting the “New Balkan” image
- Research topics*
- Workshop in November
Time: 2 months
Time: 3 days
Authors and film crew
* Internet Forum as a medium for exchange of ideas – (xchange of ideas – (cellnet?)