Women, green recovery and digital inclusion top the agenda of regional Director’s visit to Western Balkans

December 14, 2021

Photo by Xhemail Sllovinja for UNDP in Kosovo

Ms. Mirjana Špoljarić Egger, UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, recently concluded a five-day visit to Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo[1], from 6–10 December 2021.

While in Montenegro, UNDP’s regional Director met with partners and stakeholders to discuss development priorities and reaffirm UNDP’s assistance in accelerating the country’s Sustainable Development Goals and the EU accession agendas. “UNDP is ready to support development of the country’s initial Roadmap for NDC implementation and just transition. COP26 was a critical moment for countries to turn their national climate pledges into action – on mitigation, adaption and just transition. The Just Transition Roadmap should unite all relevant partners and constituencies around the same goal of decreasing GHG emissions at least by 35% by 2030,” Ms. Spoljaric Egger stressed.

On 7 December, Ms. Spoljaric Egger attended a Ministerial Conference co-hosted by UNDP SEESAC and the Ministry of Defence of Montenegro on the Way Forward on Gender Equality in the Defense Sector in the Western Balkans.

The conference marked the first time high-level representatives of the Ministries of Defence of Montenegro, of the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of North Macedonia, and of Bosnia and Herzegovina met to take stock of the progress made after almost a decade of active engagement through the project Strengthening of Regional Cooperation on Gender Mainstreaming in Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans. While women made up about 3 to 6 percent of the armed force in 2012, by 2019 their numbers had risen to 6 to 9 percent. Women’s representation had also increased in each of the ranks, from soldier to officer. 

To demonstrate their commitment to continue tackling existing gender inequalities though a regional approach, all four delegations signed a Ministerial Declaration on Support for Gender Equality in Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans (PDF).

The meeting also served as an opportunity to launch two new publications created by the collective vision and work of the four Ministries, namely the 2nd regional Study on the Position of Women in the Armed Forces in the Western Balkans (PDF) and the regional Handbook on Preventing and Responding to Gender-Based Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Abuse (PDF).

In Serbia, UNDP’s regional Director met Government’s representatives and development partners to discuss depopulation, digital transformation, and environmental protection. She participated in a panel discussion on "Green Agenda for the Western Balkans in the post COP 26 world", where it was discussed how Serbia should contribute to slowing climate change, adapt to their consequences and how to finance all these activities.

"Thanks to EU support through the "Green Agenda for Serbia" project, we hope to be able to attract over 50 million euros of private and public capital that will allow Serbia to reduce energy consumption and environmental pollution, increase renewable energy and improve the management of natural resources and waste," she said.

In Kosovo, Ms. Spoljaric Egger engaged in dialogue with institutions and development partners on the emerging priorities of UNDP's programmatic work, particularly in relation to green transition and digital transformation.  She delivered a keynote speech at a roundtable discussion on Accelerating Kosovo’s Digital Economy through Whole-of-Society Digital Transformation.

The event showcased UNDP’s facilitating role by bringing together representatives from public and private sector to discuss how to accelerate and drive digital transformation while leaving no one behind. “For UNDP, digital is the new context and future of development. We work to ensure that gender dimensions are integrated in the design and delivery of digital services so that digitalization does not worsen existing gender & other inequalities,” said Ms. Spoljaric Egger.

To conclude the visit, UNDP’s regional Director had the opportunity to visit a ceramic works exhibition, where she engaged with one of UNDP  partners in promoting cultural heritage, the Oral History Initiative. On this occasion, the façade of the gallery was lighted in orange, to mark the end of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

[1] References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of SCR 1244 (1999).