TIRANA – Upon the closure of the “Supporting the Western Balkan’s collective leadership on reconciliation: building capacity and momentum for Regional Youth Cooperation Office – RYCO” project, the UN and RYCO organized a final project event in Tirana on Thursday, 29 July 2021. The event brought together over 60 representatives of RYCO and UN agencies from across the region in a hybrid format to present the achievements, challenges, and recommendations for future actions concerning peacebuilding, reconciliation and social cohesion in the Western Balkans, based on the final project evaluation report.
Opening the event, Ms Fiona McCluney, Resident Coordinator of UN in Albania said that the gathering is an opportunity to reflect on challenges related to peacebuilding and social cohesion for which the project was of great importance. She said that the regional dimension of RYCO was a vehicle of the project and added that the project implementation was not ideal but that the partners managed to implement the activities despite the COVID-19 pandemic which shows the partners’ resilience. The Resident Coordinator concluded that she will support the continuation of the UN-RYCO partnership across the region with the support of the UN Peacebuilding Fund.
Reflecting on the achieved results, RYCO Secretary General Mr Albert Hani pointed out that both RYCO and UN agencies learned a lot from each other throughout the project implementation and that they can scale up this partnership in the future. He also underlined that the implemented activities, besides addressing issues of reconciliation and cooperation in the region, also reflected the dreams of young people and reached out to more than 20,000 youth from across the region.
On the other hand, Mr Robert Bernardo, Team Leader of the Governance and Peacebuilding Team at the UNDP IRH, said that due to external circumstances such as the 2019 Albania earthquake and COVID-19 pandemic, this project can be considered even more crucial for the region. He also reflected on the results of the “Shared Futures” study conducted within the project and said that stakeholders should listen to the voices of the youth as well as invest in regional cooperation.
In his opening remarks, Mr John Kennedy Mosoti, UNFPA Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Country Director for Serbia, North Macedonia and Director for Kosovo*, pointed out that the project managed to reach out to the people and touch their lives. He added that the project also showed where the focus is needed – on the community level and to leave no one behind.
The event also provided an opportunity to the evaluation team of experts to discuss the final project evaluation report, its findings and recommendations and created a platform for discussions within the UN-RYCO project team and the evaluation experts, on how the experience of this project can lead or fit into future programming of UN and RYCO about youth peacebuilding across Western Balkans.
The joint UN-RYCO project “Supporting the Western Balkan’s Collective Leadership on Reconciliation” funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund was implemented by the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) and the three UN Agencies – UNDP, UNFPA, and UNICEF. The project aimed at building capacities and momentum for RYCO, empowering young people in having their voice in public decision-making that affects their lives, as well as strengthening them to be a factor in building and maintaining safe and peaceful environments for themselves and their communities.
*For the UN, all references to Kosovo shall be understood in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999). For RYCO, this designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with Security Council Resolution 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.