Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) is an independently functioning institutional mechanism, founded by the Western Balkans 6 participants (WB 6): Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, aiming to promote the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation between the youth in the region through youth exchange programs. RYCO’s branch offices were established in each WB 6 participant. Krenare Gashi-Krasniqi is the Head of RYCO’s Local Branch Office in Pristina. Gashi-Krasniqi has been actively engaged in youth sector in Kosovo for more than four years through her work in several civil society organizations. From 2015 until 2017 she was Director of Kosovo Youth Centers’ Network (KYCN), which is an umbrella organization of 21 Youth Centers from Kosovo. From 2015 until 2016 she was the civil society representative from Kosovo in the Working Group during the establishment of RYCO. With Krenare Gashi-Krasniqi we talked about RYCO’s current projects, youth, importance of reconciliation and trust building. Read below.
What are the current RYCO programs/projects regarding Kosovo?
We have regional programs leaded by RYCO Head Office, which are implemented in Kosovo as well, such as the Route WB6 project which aims to support and promote volunteering. We also have a project that aims to support social entrepreneurship. Besides that, one of our main pillars remains the grant scheme at the regional level where organizations and high schools from Kosovo have benefited from. The nature of such projects differs from one to another. We have financially supported projects which tackle the topic of dealing with the past such the virtualization of exhibition ‘Once Upon a time, never again’ implemented by Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo in memory of 1133 killed children during the last war in Kosovo. We did also support projects which promote regional cooperation through the topic of environment such as Eco-Friendship implemented by Let’s Do It Peja. And finally we do have also some very local activities such capacity building trainings for our target groups which aims to strengthen capacities of those working with youth in the topic of Intercultural Learning and Dialogue, digital youth work and project cycle management.
Why is this office important for the youth? What are the opportunities for the youth through RYCO?
There at least three reasons why RYCO is important for young people. First of all it is the only mechanism in which young people are in the ‘front line’ in decision making process. The Governing Board as the highest decision making body in RYCO is composed by six ministers in charge of youth and six young people from WB6 where they have equal rights to vote and all decision are taken with consensus. Secondly, RYCO offers variety of opportunities for young people by financing their ideas in the spirit of regional youth cooperation in the WB. In addition to that it also provides numerous opportunities through different programs where young people can become part unique experiences.
It is relevant to share with you that we will very soon publish around 70 articles relevant for the youth in the region and which are prepared by students of journalism from within the Advocacy project – program of journalism, supported by German MFA. Another example is also the MIRAI program supported by Japan MFA, where in annually basis RYCO offer a unique experience for WB youth to explore Japanese culture. And finally, RYCO is and relevant instrument which advocates strongly towards governments and other relevant institutions in regional and European level for WB6 youth agenda in the region.
RYCO is aiming to promote the spirit of reconciliation and cooperation between the youth in the region through youth exchange programs. Cooperation is one of the tools for RYCO’s aim, how important is this tool for the region, youth and future generations?
Cooperation is a precondition for a sustainable development of peace in our region. Especially for a region like the Western Balkans which has been trumpeted with wars and as a result of which we still have so many ethnic divisions, prejudices and divisions between some societies in particular. Unresolved bilateral issues still continue to create an insecure and often non-cooperative environment especially among young people. Therefore for RYCO, cooperation is the main tool which brings closer young people and a catalyst of the peace process in the region. Therefore, RYCO remains committed to continue to invest in supporting regional youth cooperation with all its capacities.
Reconciliation and trust building are crucial steps for the whole region. What would be your messages to the youth in regard of reconciliation and trust building?
First of all, we as societies have to understand one simple fact that the European integration as a process that we all seek for cannot be imagined with regional cooperation. Hence we have to invest constantly and honestly on it.
Secondly, the region will one day definitely change. There is no other alternative. So it is up to us to decide if we really want to be part of the change and make our region a better place for everyone, especially young people. Or to wait and be judged by future generations, why did not do anything when we had the opportunity and space to do it. So let’s not miss the chance.
And finally, the locomotive of changing the image of our common region, remains the youth. Therefore, I invite you to support the mission and vision of RYCO and to make the Western Balkans a place where young people can live, work and dream freely.