A one-month campaign organized by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) on fostering youth cooperation in the Western Balkan region concluded on May 31.
The campaign “YOUth Inspired by peace” which aimed at bringing together youth from the region to raise the awareness and increase peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts among youth was realized in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and with the support of the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPBF)
“Our energy is boosted by these kinds of projects and it brings in new spirit in RYCO,” RYCO Secretary general Albert Hani said during a two-day conference on youth cooperation in Western Balkans which was held this month in Tirana, Albania.
The project saw six schools in ethnically-mixed cities across the region illuminated in blue as a symbol of bridging the existing differences among young people.
The campaign also provided promotion activities through interviews with teachers, students and youth involved in the project activities.
“I would love to continue cooperating with my peers in the future because I learned a lot about their culture and without prejudices,” Izabela Lako, a student from Albania who participated in RYCO project activities, said.
“We only can reach peace by looking back at our past and using all these things that happened in order not to do them again,” Tereza Vujosevic, a youth from Montenegro said.
“Peace is important so Western Balkans can reach that wanted prosperity that can only be done by the constant presence of the inter-cultural dialogue,” Irena Strejkić, a teacher at “SEPUGS Vasil Antevski – Dren” school in Skopje, North Macedonia, said.
Since March 2020, RYCO and UN partners have also been engaged with 24 school teachers from the region and developed tools for strengthening intercultural dialogue in the region.
“There remain outstanding issues to do with peace building, reconciliation, the use of hate speech across the Western Balkans, that an organisation such is RYCO and the work that it does in projects such is this can address,” the UN Resident Coordinator in Albania, Fiona McCluney told the audience in Tirana conference.
The campaign “YOUth Inspired by Peace” is undertaken in the framework of the joint UN-RYCO project “Supporting the Western Balkan’s Collective Leadership on Reconciliation” funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund. It is implemented by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) and the three UN Agencies – UNDP, UNFPA, and UNICEF. The project aims to build capacities and momentum for RYCO, empower young people in having their voice in public decision-making that affects their lives, as well as strengthen them to be a factor in building and maintaining safe and peaceful environments for themselves and their communities.