THEY ARE READY TO MAKE A CHANGE – YOUNG PEOPLE IN MITROVICA DETERMINED TO MAKE THIS CITY A BETTER PLACE FOR LIVING

In May 2019, Alternative Dispute Resolution Center (a Mitrovica region-based NGO) started the implementation of the program Creating “a Third Side” with the support of the Swiss Embassy in Kosovo and The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Kosovo.

Sixteen young people from South and North Mitrovica became part of the program and were trained on basic principles of human rights, conflict resolution/mediation, and activism as well as on how to turn ideas into successful and useful projects for communities. Then, these young energetic people were grouped into four teams to work, design and implement relevant activities and initiate campaigns that could help tackle different issues and promote inter-ethnic cooperation. 

One of the ideas that emerged from the teamwork and co-creation phase was to organize a youth discussion that would provide a safe space for young people and activists from Mitrovica to voice their concerns, share their views and opinions on the position of young people from different communities. In addition, the event would serve as an opportunity to discuss possibilities for joint actions aimed at bettering the position of young people and inter-ethnic relations in Mitrovica. Moreover, the participants of the program who initiated this idea, were determined to bring to the discussion youngsters who never had the chance to meet with their peers from the other side of the Ibar River.

This idea was materialized on December 10, 2019. Over twenty-five people attended the youth discussion, and many of them had the chance to meet youngsters from different communities for the first time. Similar to their peers across the globe, these young citizens of Mitrovica are well-aware of the environmental issues and that these are shared problems that require more attention from both individuals and the community.

Although they are schooled in different educational systems, youngsters from both sides expressed their concerns with the quality of the education they are receiving. They emphasized the lack of relevant information in both education and everyday life, pointing out that they are rarely informed about the activities for young people from both sides.

The discussion could not have been organized without the provision of translation, another reminder of the language barrier. The language issue requires a long-term solution, attendees believe, adding that each of them is willing to learn the language of the “other side”, but it takes adequate conditions and time. They find that art is a great tool for expression and cooperation, stating that they have all enjoyed the creation of the mural in the walls of the Ibar River Bridge (painted within the program Creating ”a Third Side”).

They agreed that programs that last longer just like Creating “a Third Side”, build strong connections among people, since they provide frequent opportunities to meet one another. The power of the social networks is visible in these relationships as well – as once connected, according to the attendees, the beneficiaries of these programs continue to build and communicate through Facebook and Instagram. But, having coffee together in the real world is not that easy. Security issue remains the biggest challenge. Attendees believe that deficiency of safe spaces should be addressed by the international community underlining that no action can be planned, let along implemented if they can’t gather in settings where their safety is guaranteed.

Inter-ethnic relations can be improved, participants believe, and they are willing to work together for this cause.

The welcoming, safe and peaceful atmosphere during the discussion that was moderated by the participants of the program, encouraged young people to speak up and use this opportunity to voice their needs and opinions. The conversation remained constructive and served as a unique experience for participants to gain an in-depth understanding of each other’s fears and obstacles.

This led to the conclusion that they share the same problems and that the only path towards the solution is cooperation and joint work.

Young people in Mitrovica believe that the current situation must be transformed, and they see themselves as advocates of change.

Participants of the Program Creating ‘’a Third Side’’

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