Supporting the Western Balkan's collective leadership on reconciliation: building capacity and momentum for the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO)

What is the Project about?

The project works to foster social cohesion, reconciliation, enhance attitudes of tolerance and reduce prejudice and discrimination among youth in the Western Balkans Six (WB6), through supporting RYCO in building its institutional capacity and partnerships with civil society, education systems and schools, grassroots, youth institutions and youth in general. The project works tostrengthen RYCO as a regionally owned mechanism with the mandate to promote reconciliation, mobility, diversity, democratic values, participation, active citizenship and intercultural learning.

This project is implemented in the WB6 region, and more specifically in the territories of Albania, Kosovo[1], Bosnia and Hercegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

The project has four main objectives:

1.       Strengthen the capacities of targeted schools to organize/undertake intercultural dialogue in the WB6 (implemented by UNICEF)

2.       Strengthen the capacities of youth groups and grassroot organizations to access and use RYCO’s resources,in order to engage in peacebuilding and social cohesion activities in the WB6. (implemented by UNFPA)

3.       Strengthen RYCO’s institutional capacities to enhance sustainable regional cooperation, peacebuilding and reconciliation amongst youth, through its small grants’ facility. (implemented by UNDP Albania)

4.       Provide opportunities for youth from diverse backgrounds to identify common peace and security priorities through action research and to enter in constructive dialogue with their peers across divides. Enhanceconfidence of youth to become actors for change and foster the dialogue with decision-makers. (implemented by UNDP)

The project alsoworks to develop the tools, mechanisms and resources, relevant toenhancethe capacities of RYCO’s key partners,which includeschools, NGOs and youth in the WB6.

Through this project:

a) high schools of the WB6 region- will be equippedwith a toolkit which aims to build the capacities of school adolescents and teachers in intercultural exchange, peacebuilding and dealing with the past.In addition, schools will be equipped with a fundraising guide and a “digital classroom”.

b) young people and especially hard to reach youth- will be provided witha manual on youth peer education on peacebuilding,that will help themto enhance their understanding and skills on issues of inclusiveness, peacebuilding, tolerance, anti-discrimination and no hate speech.

A group of youth peer trainers in the field of peacebuilding will be prepared to provide training to 300 youth in the WB6. Moreover, the implementation of 12 innovative ideas, initiated from and for youth, will be supported, while their success stories will be promoted in the WB6.

The project will contribute to build the institutional capacities of RYCO itself by:

a)      enhancing communications and its visibility through a new communication strategy and regional events,

b)      developing the M&E framework and other procedures aimed at making RYCO a sustainable and strong intergovernmental mechanism,

c)       consolidatingand making effective RYCO’s small grants facility schema,

d)      being equipped with comparable data on peace and security in the region through conduction of a research on youth perceptions across WB6

The project works to strengthenyouth-led networks, encourage cross-border exchanges and organize workshops, in order to foster peacebuilding and reconciliation processes in the WB6.  Furthermore, the project aims tostrengthen evidence-based data on youth’s perceptions about peace and conflict issues in the region.

This project encourages the grassroot youth organizations to engage in cross-border programs that promote youth mobility, regional cooperation, reconciliation, diversity, democratic values, participation, active citizenship and intercultural learning. The project also supports the empowerment of young girls and men, the inclusion of hard to reach youth. It is well aligned withSustainable Development Goals  Agenda and in particular SDG 4 “Quality Education”, SDG 5 “Gender Equality”, SDG 16 “ Peace and Justice Strong Institutions” and SDG 17 “Partnerships to achieve the Goal”.

What have we accomplished so far?

Objective 1(implemented by UNICEF):

Development of “A mapping with the best practices on intercultural learning and peacebuilding in WB6” and of a “Peacebuilding methodology/toolkit”targeting WB6 teachers so they can engage students in intercultural learning, open and respectful dialogue in the class.

The UNICEF U-Report tool was used to ensure that youth from Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia could provide their opinion on how they would like to build the intercultural dialogue among schools and what they would like to see happen in school practices. Their opinion was used to inform the development of the “Peacebuilding methodology/toolkit”.

 “A Methodology for School Fundraising” and “A guide for schools Fundraising” were  alsodeveloped, aiming to raise awareness among schools and teachers on fundraising principles.

Objective 2(implemented by UNFPA):

A draft “Y-peer training manual for peacebuilding” is being developedand consulted. The manual treats issues of inclusiveness, peacebuilding, tolerance, anti-discrimination and no hate speech. The manual will be used by youth in WB6 to enhance the capacities of their peers through peer to peer training approach.

Objective 3 (implemented by UNDP Albania):

A comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systemfor RYCO is being finalizedbased onRYCO’s strategic plan for 2019-2021. The M&E system developed jointly with RYCO staff, will support the project partner toenhance its institutional capacities in monitoring the performance of its programs, its subgrantees as well as monitoring its institutional performance.

As of September 2019, RYCO organogram was completed with 11 new positions, fully or partially financed by this project.

41 RYCO subgrantees consisting of consortiums of NGOs and schools in the WB6, started the implementation of their projects under RYCO’s second call for proposals.The cross-border projectsunder implementation,encourage regional youth cooperation, mobility and exchange in the WB6 and are co-funded by RYCO and UNDP Albania.

 Objective 4 (implemented by UNDPin cooperation withUNFPA):

The process has started on conducting a regional study, focused oncomparable data on youth peace and security in the WB6, which will form a strong basis for regional youth-led advocacy initiatives. Youth from WB6 are actively engaged in consultations during the conduction of the regional research.

[1]For UN, all references to Kosovo shall be understood in the context of the UNSCR 1244 (1999).For RYCO, this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.