SARAJEVO – The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) organized a final event within its EU-supported project “Enhancing Youth Cooperation and Youth Exchange in the WB6” in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 7 February 2022. The event presented the results of projects supported within the 4th RYCO Open Call for Project Proposals. These projects provided young people in the region with networking opportunities in the field of regional youth dialogue, peacebuilding and reconciliation, and were implemented by CSOs from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
RYCO Director of Programs Mr Jan Zlatan Kulenovć addressed the participants and said that the fact that we are taking responsibility for regional cooperation and dealing with the past shows that these are important topics, worthy of investment. “I would like to use the opportunity to thank the EU for its cooperation. This meeting will hopefully result in exchanging of the experiences, finding out what works and what we can do better. It is important that we continue to create a space for young people to talk, stay motivated and create their own projects and activities,” Mr Kulenovic pointed out.
On the other hand, one of the supported youth exchanges participant Mr Alem Bajramović emphasized that networking is the most important aspect of youth exchanges. “The youth from the region share numerous interests, and they overcome prejudices by meeting peers from other countries. This fosters special emotions and helps forming long term friendships,” he said.
“The added value of exchanges is that we meet people from the region, but also talk about things we don’t have a chance to talk about on an everyday basis. We go a little deeper, and try to understand what is different and what hurts us,” representative of one of the awarded organizations Youth for Peace Mr Daniel Eror pointed out.
Furthermore, RYCO Program Manager Ms Bojana Bulatović underlined that RYCO’s programs encourage organizations from across the Western Balkans to cooperate and include young people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet, change stereotypical attitudes and behaviors and become a part of intercultural dialogue.
The projects supported by RYCO and the EU within the 4th RYCO Open Call across the Western Balkans fostered reconciliation and regional youth cooperation, as well as strengthened the capacities of the civil society to adapt to the COVID-19 environment. They were implemented from February to October 2021.
During the application phase, 129 applications were received which brought about 400 partnerships from the region. The overall financial envelope for the Call was 333,000 Euro.
On youth support
Over the years, the EU has invested considerable efforts to support youth exchanges in the region. In this context, youth organizations and schools from the Western Balkans have been cooperating closely enabling mobility and intercultural learning in the region. Furthermore the region has profited from various EU-flagships initiatives and programs such as Erasmus+ or Cross-Border Cooperation, as well as from other EU financial instruments aiming at encouraging youth exchanges directly or indirectly.
Moreover, Western Balkans public authorities and civil society organizations have cooperated on numerous initiatives related to human rights, peace building, conflict resolution, sustainable development, youth exchanges, etc.; however, until recently, the principal opportunity for mobility and youth exchanges focused on young people visiting countries beyond the Western Balkans. Cross-border youth mobility was also welcome; however, these various mobility opportunities were not structured. The two-year RYCO project supported by the EU enhanced youth mobility, youth cooperation and youth activism in the Western Balkans thereby supporting the process of reconciliation in the region thus addressed above-mentioned issues and bridged the gap.