Thinking of a Career in Emergency Management?
- BY Nicole Pelette
The Western Balkan region is characterized by a divisive and polarizing rhetorical landscape and continues to witness a youth “brain drain”. Those young people that remain continue to experience the legacies of the past, living in segregated ethnic majority areas, and often in segregated schools, with no direct memory of joint peaceful coexistence. Many young people have not traveled within the region, and others have not visited their own major cities. Some see youth, with the inter-generational transfer of traumas and constructed nationalistic narratives, more hardened in their identity and their views of the ‘other.’ Young people have little exposure to positive interaction and dialogue with people of different backgrounds, and are impacted by divisive narratives and stereotypes passed on from one generation to another, and in the media.
At the same time, there is a plethora of young activists and peacebuilders in the region who work for creating more peaceful, just and inclusive societies. These young people are reaching out to their peers and building live or virtual relationships across ethnic lines. However, they are not immune to divisive narratives and hate speech, which tends to be pervasive offline and in online platforms. Moreover, lacking sufficient representation, young people’s voices in public discussions and decision-making are not heard enough. As such, youth trying to be and work towards positive change did and are in need of support.
There have been good opportunities though, to work and support youth activism in the region, in peacebuilding, reconciliation and social cohesion processes. Emerging from the Berlin Process, a political dialogue supported by several EU Member States and the WB6, the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) was established in 2016. RYCO, is an independently functioning institutional mechanism, founded by the Western Balkans 6 participants (WB 6): Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, aiming to promote the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation between the youth in the region through youth exchange programs. The Agreement on establishment of RYCO was signed by the WB 6 Prime Ministers on WB Summit held in Paris, on 4 July 2016. RYCO as an unique institution in the Western Balkan region, is endorsed by governments, CSOs and youth representatives (who also sit on its Governing Board) in WB region and promotes diversity and democratic values, fostering reconciliation and remembrance and intercultural mobility, through supporting and funding projects which bring youth of the region together. The institution has its Head Office (HO) in Albania and through its six Local Branch Offices (LBOs), has a presence in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.
In this context, with the UNPBF financial support amounting of USD 2,999,745, the UN-joint project ”Supporting the Western Balkan's collective leadership on reconciliation: building capacity and momentum for Regional Youth, Cooperation Office-RYCO” was implemented by three UN agencies (UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA), having UNDP acting as the lead of this initiative and RYCO acting as the implementing partner. The project is managed by the UN agencies in Albania, while it has a regional character. Due to the partnership with RYCO as well as the cooperation with UN agencies in the WB6 region, the project is implemented in the WB6 region, including - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The project commenced in 7th November 2018 and will be closed on 7th May 2021.
The project aims to improve the Social Cohesion and Reconciliation across the Western Balkan, as measured by increasing embracing of diversity, attitudes of tolerance and reduced prejudice and discrimination by youth is enhanced. To achieve this goal, the project is supporting RYCO to work in partnership with civil society, education systems and schools, grassroots organizations, youth institutions and youth in general for the consolidation of RYCO as a regionally owned mechanism with the capacity to promote reconciliation, mobility, diversity, democratic values, participation, active citizenship and intercultural learning. The project supports RYCO as a new institution operating in a volatile environment, to:
strengthen its institutional capacities not only to sustain as a structure, but also to support it in achieving its mission;
upgrade and strengthen its grant facility system, which is one of the main tools employed by RYCO office to achieve its mission, through financial support to regional projects and initiatives; and
equipping RYCO with the necessary tools, mechanisms and data set, in order to be able to plan and work in the long run, with its targeted youth groups, schools and CSOs in the region.
The project has targeted youth, youth organizations and schools in WB6, as well as RYCO, and is implementing diverse activities along three main outputs:
Capacities of schools to access and use RYCOs resources to undertake intercultural dialogue in the WB6 will be strengthened. The project contributes towards enhancing the regional cooperation among youth institutions (mainly schools) and increase the introduction and use of topics on intercultural learning such as peace building and conflict resolution. The project enables sharing the best practices on inclusive education and peacebuilding transformative pedagogies, facilitates school exchanges and increase the capacities of schools to embrace the above principles.
Capacities of youth groups and grassroots organizations to access and use RYCOs resources to engage in peacebuilding and social cohesion activities in the WB6 will be strengthened. RYCO is supported to increase its reach out to grassroots organizations and youth in the region, and to ensure that young people with fewest opportunities have access and participate in reconciliation processes and benefit from opportunities provided by RYCO. Empowerment of young girls are having a special focus in the activities under this component. The project is enhancing the important role that young women should adopt in the peacebuilding process including empowering young girls to equally participate in peace building and become decision makers and actors in all areas. The project activities also sensitize young male actors in accepting girls as equal partners in peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes. Mainstreaming gender in trainings conducted by the project have included among other topics, codes of conduct and response to gender-based violence. Promoting tolerance and understanding within and out of marginalized groups through communication channels are helping to address the conflict-related issues that these groups face as a result of the tensions in society, which add up to their unfavorable discriminatory situation. It is also contributing to increasing tolerance towards groups/ethnicities seen as different further away, and thereby, contribute to peace and reconciliation.
RYCOs capacities to enhance sustainable regional cooperation, peacebuilding and reconciliation amongst youth, through its small grants’ facility will be strengthened. Being a new institution and operating in a volatile environment, RYCO is being supported to strengthen its internal capacities and systems and be enabled to achieve its mission. Considering that one of RYCO’s main tools to achieve its mission is through financial support to regional projects and initiatives, its grant facility system is being upgraded and strengthened through a tailor-made approach. RYCO is being equipped with effective tools to Monitoring and Evaluation, making it possible for it to measure the impact of its interventions. Finally, RYCO is being supported with an increase of human resources, especially in view of its Monitoring and Evaluation of activities designed to achieve its mission in the WB6 region.
Opportunities for youth from diverse backgrounds to identify common peace and security priorities and enter in constructive dialogue with their peers across divides will be created, confidence in and dialogue with decision-makers will be enhanced, and youth capacities to become actors for change will be strengthened. Under this heading, the project is conducting a youth-led action research and is making available regionally comparable, youth-focused conflict analysis and evidence base on youth perceptions on sustaining peace. The project is providing trainings for youth on peacebuilding, leadership and advocacy and national and regional policy consultations. Moreover, RYCO, PBF projects and other peacebuilding actors’ evidence-base to engage young women and young men from diverse backgrounds to advocate for peace and social cohesion and participate in policy dialogues are aimed to be enhanced.
Duties and Responsibilities
Strong interpersonal skills, communication and diplomatic skills, ability to work in team;
Required Skills and Experience