1st "Voice Up" Western Balkans Youth Forum and Exchange Programme


From October 9 to 12, WBYCP organized the 1st "Voice Up" Western Balkans Youth Forum and Exchange Programme. 18 youngsters from the region had the opportunity to know and work with each other and with professionals from various fields other in several workshops and trainings.

The programme started with an open discussion "Talking together in different languages" with our guests from Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), Mr. Nikola Ristic and Mrs. Bojana Bulatovic, who shared their opinion on the importance of intercultural communication in the fight against stereotypes and prejudices among youngsters in the Western Balkans. During this discussion, the youngsters had the opportunity to know more about RYCO's activities and the opportunities it offers to the youngsters in WB.

Mr. Amarildo Topi, Press and Information Officer at Delegation of the EU in Albania, delivered important messages to the youngsters in order for them to understand the importance of marketing and PR in advocating processes.

Mrs. Oltjana Rama, the Executive Director of International Voluntary Projects in Albania, shared with the participants lots of information on the current programmes, projects and possibilities available for youngsters from Western Balkans countries during the informative session "Could the exchange programmes be a turning point in our lives?"

The participants worked together in three different workshops:

  1. "The reasons to/not to stay in my country are..." moderated by Andrea Micanovic, the President of High School Students Union of Montenegro and Vlora Krasniqi, the Vice President of Central Youth Action Council of Kosovo. During this workshop, they highlighted the shared reasons that make young people in Western Balkans countries to immigrate. The main stakeholders who work closely on youth topics were selected.
  2. "...so I want from my institution to..." moderated by Miljana Pejic, Programme Manager at National Youth Council of Serbia and Gordana Kolova, Project Manager at National Youth Council of Macedonia. In this session, the youngsters came up with ideas, solutions and recommendations on the most pressing issues that need to be addressed in their countries.
  3. "Let's communicate effectively with policy makers" moderated by Mr. Endrit Shabani, PhDc at Oxford University. The youngsters took some good advices on how to build a political message and which are the most effective ways of communication with policy makers.
These workshops were finalized with building a common WB Youth Statement that was shared during the final event and will be sent to the relevant national and European policy makers.

The youngsters paid a special visit at the Municipality of Tirana. Mr. Erion Veliaj, the Mayor of Tirana Municipality and Mrs. Aspasjana Kerxhalli, Head of Youth Directorate at Tirana Municipality, welcomed the youngsters at the Municipal Council Room. During this meeting the Mayor illustrated examples of the work in progress by the Tirana municipality with and for the youth in different sectors. The youngsters shared their views on possible changes that are needed in the city and the role of youth in the decision making level.

The Exchange Programme was closed with an "Intergenerational Talk" evening and dinner moderated by Alba Brojka, researcher at Cooperation and Development Institute. During this talk, the youngsters discussed on the neighboring relations within the Western Balkans and how young people can contribute in building and boosting cooperation in the region.

The Youth Forum was the final event promoting the activities of the platform and achieved results. An opening address was delivered by Krisela Hackaj, Executive Director of Cooperation and Development Institute. She underlined the importance of the structured cooperation established with the six youth umbrella organizations from the region. This lays the foundations for voicing up challenges and concerns of a wide youth community, not just in the capitals of the region, but also in the local and rural areas. Through the platform youth connectivity is supported.

Mr. Klaus Fiesinger, Regional Director of Hanns-Seidel Foundation for South-Eastern Europe, welcomed the event and emphasized that this initiative was conceived in the frame of youth connectivity promoted under the Berlin Process. He expressed HSS willingness to support youth bottom-up initiatives through the Western Balkans Youth Cooperation Platform.

In the first panel discussion, "Voicing up the youth potential! Structured bottom-up initiatives for strengthening youth impact" moderated by Mrs. Dafina Peci, Executive Director of National Youth Congress of Albania, were invited Mrs. Lorena Haxhiu, Director of National Youth Service - Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth, Albania, Mr. Nenad Koprivica, Director of Youth Directorate - Ministry of Sports, Montenegro, Mr. Xhevat Bajrami, Director of Youth Department - Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Kosovo, Mr. Mak Selimovic, President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Association for United Nations and Mrs. Isidora Lazic, Serbian winner of WBYCP Essay Competition 2018.

During this panel discussion the representatives of the government illustrated the actual possibilities that are being offered to young people in order to participate in decision-making processes. The panelists shared some existing good examples of cross-sectoral cooperation with youngsters in the policymaking and governance process, but also co-governing mechanisms like RYCO that allow decisions to be taken through consensus of six representatives of young people from the region and six representatives of the governments. In addition, it was highlighted the need to empower and support the National Youth Umbrella organizations in order to guarantee inclusive policies in the region.

In the second panel discussion "Revitalizing the youth potential! Young People in Western Balkan, the engine for economic growth" moderated by Mrs. Meliha Muherina, Project Manager at Center for European Perspective, Slovenia, contributed Mrs. Dajna Sorensen, Albanian Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy, Mrs. Antje Muller, Internship Programme of German Business, Mr. Kreshnik Loka, Regional Youth Cooperation Office, Mrs. Sidita Dibra, Skills for Jobs Project and Mr. Mirian Bllaci from Cultural Heritage without Borders.

During this panel discussion it was shared the need to work strongly in building a sound youth work culture and to promote early work experiences. In order to address the youth unemployment pressing issue in the region, there is a need to adapt the education curricula with the nowadays market requirements by implementing internships and trainings programmes and invest in boosting the hard and soft skills needed for the nowadays labour market. All panelists agreed that cultural sector can play a more prominent role in youth employability, but also peace building and youth connectivity in the region.

WBYCP acknowledges that the youngsters have a strong role to play in bringing changes in the region and will continue to contribute in promoting the good examples of partnership and cooperation between the young people and all the relevant stakeholders active in the youth policies.

For more information on the programme of the Exchange programme click here. For more information on the Youth Forum click here. The Joint Youth Statement can be read here.

Photos from the entire event are available here.