WESTERN BALKANS – The last couple of days on social media, especially in Kosovo* and Serbia, are marked with tensions and negative discussions on nationalism and ethnicity issues among people in the Western Balkans region and beyond. These discussions involve a number of young people but also world-wide known public figures.
As we witness divisive discussions taking place, especially among young people from the region, we want to restate the importance of mutual understanding, regional spirit and dedication to peaceful relations among our people.
In light of such developments, RYCO emphasizes that engaging in nationalistic debates and arguments marked with narratives and agendas that go against the principles of cooperation and mutual understanding will further foster a culture of separation that does not serve the interest of the youth and the region.
Hate speech, negative stereotypes, and prejudice among young people are part of a reality we live in which we want to change and improve.
Unfortunately, many young people in the Western Balkans live with pressures and influences of social and political narratives distorted by prejudice, denial, revisionism, and nationalism. Such narratives give rise to the negative representations and perceptions of ‘the other’ and to debates with a divisive nature, lacking rationality and tolerance.
A hard but relevant reminder here is that the Western Balkans region did suffer and is still suffering from past and present nationalistic approaches. Our efforts to shape the present and build a better future are deeply rooted in a fundamental approach to support regional reconciliation, enhance trust and tolerance, and remind everyone of the power of mutual understanding and cooperation.
Moreover, RYCO underlines the importance of the role public figures play in public space. They are usually role models for young people and as such they should always act responsibly and be aware of the influence they have.
In the midst of these recent debates, we would also like to recall and emphasize that we are proud to have witnessed a culture of cooperation, friendliness, and compassion in all the youth projects and activities that we have supported and implemented. Young people have proven that the power of understanding and cooperation exceeds all hardships along the way, and we remain convinced that the culture of mutual understanding and cooperation will always prevail if we join our forces and strive for a better future for all.
*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