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Young Activists learn about Peace Building

The regional exchange project “The Future We Want” brings together young peace activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and North Macedonia

Young people from different towns and countries in the Western Balkans nowadays face similar and tough challenges: living in fragmented communities, affected by divisions and segregation, which are legacies of the recent past. Youth, indeed, is particularly sensitive to this everyday reality and constantly exposed to negative influential factors, such as segregated school systems, nationalistic political rhetoric, propagandistic one-sided media as well as frequent direct traumas within the family sphere and lack of common spaces.

© forumZFD

The project “The Future We Want”, wants to address this situation: through capacity-building and local peace actions, it aims at offering youth the opportunity, knowledge and skills to challenge stereotypes and ethnocentric narratives, contributing in this way to a better future.

In the framework of “The Future We Want”, a regional youth exchange was organized in Novi Pazar (Serbia), from 28th November to 1st December 2019, bringing together for the first time 22 young peace activists from the three countries. The exchange offered the space for sharing opinions, personal stories, and strengthening youth’s skills and capacities.

Graffiti spreads peace messages

Firstly, young participants discussed their experiences and lessons learned in the preparation and implementation of the local peace actions, happening between September and November. During those months, indeed, each team identified one core issue affecting youth in their localities, and organized an event (or a series of events) tackling that specific problem, by using different methods and tools. Stereotypes, discrimination and violence, specifically hate speech and bullying, have been identified as the most important problems by the majority of the groups.

Activities included, among others: covering graffiti perpetuating hatred with peace messages; creating games for primary school children raising awareness on the meaning and impact of violence; producing a short movie denouncing the lack of common spaces and limited possibilities for youth; organizing a cultural visit of both sides of the divided city of Mitrovica (Kosovo); and many others. In Novi Pazar, while presenting and exchanging about common difficulties and obstacles, youth had the opportunity to identify possible solutions and recommendations for the future.

Work will continue in 2020

Secondly, during the exchange, the concepts of peace, conflict and violence were analyzed through multiple workshops facilitated by organizers and trainers. Particular focus was put on understanding the different forms of violence, its causes and consequences. Through brainstorming and discovering positive examples, participants got inspired on methods and ideas on how to address violence in all its forms (direct, cultural, and structural), by developing and promoting effective and creative peace actions. Moreover, young activists were introduced to project writing, learning how to analyze a problem in their contexts and how to structure and reflect on a project proposal.

The work initiated during the regional exchange will be continued and reinforced in 2020. Furthermore, an online platform has been established in order to ensure continuous communication and exchange among the groups, promote peer-to-peer learning, and therefore strengthen the impact of their experiences.

"The Future We Want" is a regional project implemented by forumZFD in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and North Macedonia, in partnership with local organizations. 

© forumZFD
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