Lundrim Aliu, Communications Officer in the Pristina Office, offers this story.
A central challenge for Kosovo is to develop its fledgling local economy while reducing ethnic tensions and integrating different ethnic groups. One good place to start is with young people.
The Kosovo Youth Development Project KYDP worked to increase social cohesion and inter-ethnic interaction and cooperation among communities in Kosovo, with a special emphasis on improving relationships between young Albanians and Serbs. Supported by the World Bank, KYDP was established in 2006, and since then has helped 5,800 young people learn new skills and improve their chances in the labor market, as well as find ways to get along with their peers.
This innovative project awarded grants to support the improvement of services and infrastructure in 13 youth centers across Kosovo. The project tried to insure a balance of ethnic participation in activities. It introduced core programs, peace and tolerance training for center staff, and the development of sustainability plans for the centers themselves.
These youth centers served as the spaces for non-formal education, inter-ethnic collaboration, and peace building. And communities and youth throughout Kosovo have had significant achievements through participation in the project.
The youth center in the mainly Albanian town of Lipjan is overwhelmed with demands for English language and computer courses. "We have between 100 and 200 visitors a day, we are the only place in our municipality where young people can find support," says Muhamet Grajqevci, center coordinator. The center also serves surrounding villages, inhabited by approximately ten thousand people.
At Cabra youth center in northern Kosovo, the young are also enthusiastic, joining in language and painting classes. The community was flattened during the war, but has been rebuilt. The municipality and citizens are trying to improve people's lives. There's a new road and a new clinic, but citizens need jobs. "Nothing was done for the young people. But the center created opportunities for youth and helped them escape isolation," says youth center coordinator Aferdita Selmani.
Three of the 13 youth centers which received grants are located in areas populated by the minority Serb community. One such community is Priluze. Most of the young there are unemployed and their numbers dwindle as many leave to look for work elsewhere. But the youth center's radio station still broadcasts. "It provides entertainment programs, mainly music, but also messages against drugs and alcohol," says Dragisa Lazic, who works at the center.
KYDP also supported two youth resource hubs: one on the campus of the University of Pristina, and the other near the University of Mitrovica, in a Serb-dominated part of Kosovo. The hubs aim to involve the young in youth development and decision-making. They offer career development information and mentoring, communication and volunteer skills training, library and web information services, and web design classes. The hubs also offer internet access, a photography lab and a movie theater. Based on surveys of student needs, other events are organized: seminars, public debates, radio programs, movie nights and summer camps.
Financial sustainability of the youth centers remains a challenge. Some of their operating costs are supported by a combination of municipal allocations, fees for training, and other donors, gradually reducing the need for World Bank support. A Second Kosovo Youth Development Project (KYDP 2) was recently approved, and it will provide grants to youth centers to refine and support their longer-term sustainability plans, building on local partnerships and support from their communities and other donors.