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UNICEF launches Innovations Lab Kosovo

Investing in young people now can break entrenched cycles of poverty and inequity, and ensure that youth is an age of opportunity for Kosovo

Prishtinë/Priština, 22 March 2011 – Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe, with more than half of its people under 25 years of age. While many agree that the future of Kosovo lies in the hands of its young, Kosovo youth occupy very little space in processes that directly affect them. The UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo aspires to provide Kosovo youth with an opportunity to change this situation.

On the occasion of the release of the 2011 State of the World‟s Children report “Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity”, UNICEF launched the UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo. The launch event aimed at highlighting the current situation of Kosovo‟s youth, and at presenting a new opportunity for youth offered by the Lab initiative.

Kosovo has the "youngest‟ society in Europe, with one out of four persons falling into the 15 to 24 year-old age group. The majority of this 500,000 population face a unique set of challenges. In particular, as revealed by a recent UNICEF youth opinion poll, Kosovo‟s situation is especially dire in terms of education, employment, youth empowerment and participation in decision-making processes. Not surprisingly, a vast proportion of Kosovo‟s youth have become disaffected and apathetic. For a society whose immediate future lies so significantly in the hands of its young people, this level of disenfranchisement is troubling. Youth empowerment and employment remain key challenges to break deep-rooted cycles of poverty and inequity. Kosovo needs to invest seriously in its young people and ensure that youth is an age of opportunity, not opportunity lost.

The UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo pursues a two-track strategy to introduce innovations which will benefit Kosovo‟s youth: By Youth For Youth and the Design Centre.

UNICEF Kosovo has been focusing on youth and adolescent development programmes for some time. As an expansion of these activities through the Lab, and in collaboration with the Peer Educators Network (PEN), By Youth For Youth was developed as a vehicle which empowers Kosovo‟s youth to participate in processes that affect them, as well as to have a chance to develop and implement projects that positively impact their own lives and those of their peers. The Design Centre directly conceives and implements technological innovations and projects to serve data and information needs of Kosovo's institutions, youth and children.

“In Kosovo, youth is a unique demographic asset that is often overlooked. Failing to fulfil our commitments to young people and not investing in Kosovo youth today is a lost opportunity for the communities in which they live and for Kosovo at large”, said Johannes Wedenig, UNICEF Head of Office. “Only by tapping into the creativity of young people and by giving them a voice and stake in society, Kosovo will draw the benefit of its young population. Young people have to be seen as assets and given the opportunity to contribute to social change instead of being disenfranchised and left to dream of a better life outside Kosovo”.

The launching event saw the participation of key stakeholders and represented an opportunity for governmental institutions, international organisations, civil society actors and most importantly youth, to come together and discuss how targeted investments and the collaborative engagement can pro-actively offset economic instability; promote equity for the most marginalised; and build links to innovation within and outside of Kosovo.

For more information:

Eugenia Lo Russo, UNICEF Communications
Tel: +381 38 249 230/231/232,
Mob: + 377 44 221 935



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