Belgrade – RYCO Local Branch Office in Serbia took part in Belgrade Pride Week by organizing the Youth Coffee Talk titled RYCO@BGPride: Queer for Peace – Are We Close? on Tuesday, September 5, 2023. The event was dedicated to exploring the crucial role and benefits of involving queer voices in peacebuilding, especially in the context of the development of the Regional Youth, Peace and Security Agenda for the Western Balkans. This discussion was a continuation of the established cooperation of BG Pride and RYCO aimed to strengthen the voice of queer youth in the peacebuilding and reconciliation processes in the Western Balkans.
As the post-conflict societies in the Western Balkans strive to rebuild and redefine their identities, the experiences of queer individuals intersect with broader questions of ethnic identity, tradition, and cultural norms. It is in this context that the inclusion of queer voices in peacebuilding efforts can play a transformative role in challenging rigid societal norms and fostering dialogue on sexuality, gender, and identity. Participants at the event passionately discussed how queer youth can play a pivotal role in addressing the root causes of conflict. They agreed that the call for the inclusion of queer youth in the peacebuilding processes resonates strongly in the Western Balkans, where queer individuals often face discrimination, violence, and exclusion due to deeply ingrained social attitudes. The inclusion of queer perspectives in peacebuilding initiatives can act as a catalyst for change by challenging discriminatory practices and promoting understanding between diverse communities. The shared experiences of marginalization can be a basis for empathy and cooperation among different ethnic and social groups, fostering a sense of unity in the pursuit of lasting peace, as was the case with various women and LGBT+ peace movements during the 90s.
In the Western Balkans, the inclusion of queer voices is not only about advocating for the rights and well-being of these individuals but also about reimagining the region’s collective future. By embracing diversity, recognizing the contributions of queer individuals, and addressing the challenges they face, societies in the Western Balkans can demonstrate their commitment to building inclusive and just peace. As the region continues its journey towards stability and reconciliation, the inclusion of queer perspectives becomes an essential ingredient in building sustainable and harmonious societies. This is why the discussion also centered around the necessity for the Regional Youth, Peace and Security Agenda and the role queer youth should have in its development. Participants recognized that integrating queer voices into this process is a vital step toward achieving sustainable peace in the region. Moreover, they stressed the importance of recognizing the role queer youth has had in contributing to peacebuilding in the region so far, on both local and regional levels.
“I think that there are multiple benefits that queer young people can actually bring to the table in these processes from debates on identity and its complexity and fluidity to emphasizing the root causes of conflict because all of them are actually rooted in discrimination and marginalization that queer youth are faced by every day” – RYCO Program Officer, Đorđo Cvijović, stated.