More than 120 participants gathered in Tirana, European Youth Capital 2022 on the second ReLOaD2 regional conference on the topic: Western Balkans – Youth Perspectives

November 18, 2022

In the past two days, more than 120 people from the Western Balkans attended the conference organized as a part of the Regional Programme on the Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2), envisaged as an opportunity for youth to be part of discussion along with their peers across the region, as well as to have direct interaction with policy makers and officials.

ReLOaD2 is a regional initative implemented in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which works on strengthening partnerships between local authorities and civil society, aiming specifically at greater civic and youth participation in decision-making processes.

The conference was opened by H.E. Ms. Bora Muzhaqi, State Minister for Youth and Children of Albania who underlined the importance of the LOD model used by the European Union for financing youth organizations, but also for the National Youth Agency, the implementation structure of the Youth Strategy, drafting of the National Youth Strategy, and numerous collaborations for youth activation in Albania.

Ms. Hillen Francke, Head of Sector, Civil society, Social Inclusion & Human Capital Development, European Commission stated: “Youth has never been higher on the EU agenda with 2022 being the European Year of Youth. This is true also for our engagement with the Western Balkans where Tirana has been named the European Youth Capital in 2022. And youth will continue to be at the heart of the EU’s support to the region. The ReLOaD2 project is one of our key regional initiatives in support of civil society, but it also has a strong focus on youth. It successfully manages to promote the role of two crucial actors for the future of the Western Balkans and its European perspective: civil society and youth.”

Ms. Monica Merino, Resident Representative of United Nations Development Programme in Albania and Ms. Dafina Peci, Secretary General of the National Youth Congress of Albania and Co-CEO of Tirana European Youth Capital, Albania kindly gave opening remarks introducing the topic of the conference.

The programme provided space for young people to exchange opinions on challenges and practices related to youth participation in community life through several panel discussions and workshops. Starting from artistic play by youth ensemble from Tirana and ending in targeted dialogue, young people conveyed that they need to be heard more often.

Youth involvement throughout the Western Balkans leaves a lot to be desired, but the event highlighted positive examples of youth engagement proving that persistence and self-development is always important.

Ms. Sunčica Kovačević, young activist from Aarhus, ACT i Kasindolska initiative, Bosnia and Herzegovina took part in Youth Inspirational Talks panel, telling her activist story: “This is a story about young people who want to lay claim to the future, and are aware they only can do so if their voice is heard and if they are part of decision-making processes.”

Representatives of partner local governments and institutions recognized that young people sometimes lack motivation and enthusiasm, due to the complex situation across the region, citing that existing youth polices and strategies could only be implemented in synergy with youth.

The participants stated that conference contributed to better understanding of institutional practices, similarities, and differences relevant for youth across Western Balkans. We hope that this conference will create new opportunities for partnerships and space for development related to youth needs.

* For the European Union, this designation is without prejudice to position on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence. For UNDP all references to Kosovo shall be understood in the context of the UN Resolution 1244/1999