Dialogue for a shared future of the region
From August 2020 to March 2021, within the Dialogue for the Future regional programme, six organizations from Serbia implemented projects for the greater participation of young people at the regional level.
Belgrade, March 2021 - Goran Dimitrijevic lives in a small town in Western Serbia. He’s 20 years old and has curious eyes. While talking to Mina Vasovic from the Youth Programme of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, he listens carefully and then answers, making hand gestures, as if drawing pictures in the air. The two of them participated in establishing the first regional network of Youth Rights Defenders for education, work and housing.
Goran decided to become a Youth Rights Defender because of his negative personal experience. He believes that being a member of the Roma minority hampered his access to education. He didn’t finish school and is now studying part-time to earn his diplomas. He doesn't want that to happen to another young person. He is clearly an educated, well-read person who is realistic about the times he lives in, but is also aware of the rights he wants to exercise.
“I think young people share similar problems. What matters most to young people are housing, education, and employment,” explains Goran.
He says that the fact that main problems of young people in the region have been localized through the Dialogue for the Future programme is of great importance for understanding the situation that he and other young people are facing. Another distinct quality, he says, is that the empowerment, training and networking of youth rights defenders are happening through regional cooperation, in this case between three countries – Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Youth rights defenders will remain part of their local communities even after the programme. They will be empowered to explore and report on youth rights violations and advocate for the advancement of the position of youth using creative tools, such as podcasts and performances.
Mina Vasovic explains that being connected with partner organizations in the region was a precondition for getting support for the project. More than 200 project proposals from 3 countries were submitted to the competition, and 19 cross-border projects, aimed at various target groups, including young people, were supported.
She illustrates the importance of this with an example: “What is particularly important in this project is the opportunity for a young person from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro to connect with a young person from Serbia, so they can actually understand that they are not alone in a problem and that they can potentially come up with some suggestions, solutions, or help each other with their experience.”
They are connecting through projects for strengthening media literacy, advocacy and other skills, as well as through projects that foster youth dialogue with decision-makers and intercultural understanding. It’s clear that they’ll cooperate on similar projects in the future as well.
“Empowered young people are here to support other young people, and they are here to draw attention to all the irregularities that occur in the field of human rights and they are here to drive change,” says Mina Vasovic.
This was also an opportunity for organizations in the region to connect and exchange experiences, knowledge and improve the way of working with their target groups. As partners, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights from Serbia, the NGO Juventas from Montenegro and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights from Bosnia and Herzegovina are conducting joint activities, but they are also coming up with ideas for working in new fields in the future.
Through projects supported under the Dialogue for the Future programme, young people had the opportunity to network, build collaboration through mentoring, content creation, and even online exchanges. Although it was originally envisioned for young people from the three countries to meet and have workshops, performances and debates in person, the pandemic forced them to use modern technologies. Video conferences may have brought them even closer, says Goran, while, on the other hand, audio podcasts were convenient because he could listen to them wherever he was.
“I like walking. I would often put on my headphones and listen to the podcast while walking my dog.”
Before he and Mina participated in the creation of a series of podcast episodes, Mina explains that it was challenging and interesting to work with new technologies:
“What I found especially interesting was the podcast that was done within this project, called the Meeting Point, through which young people from all three countries were empowered to come up with the concept for the show, to record it and find people to interview,” says Mina Vasovic.
She adds team spirit and cooperation weren’t impacted by online collaboration. Through the project, young people formed the first regional network of Youth Rights Defenders for work, education and housing and were empowered to advocate for better youth rights. The podcast, and research and monitoring of these issues are just the beginning of their advocacy and freedom of expression. She explains her view of what a Youth Rights Defender is:
“Honestly, I think that everyone should be that person. We should all be that person because those are our rights and they belong equally to everyone and every right is equally important. And is equally mine. Maybe things would change if we realized how much they’re not respected.”
From August 2020 to March 2021, within the Dialogue for the Future regional programme, six organizations from Serbia implemented projects for the greater participation of young people at the regional level and in partnership with organizations from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
DFF-supported projects contribute to better social cohesion, strengthening of the capacities of young people, better media and information literacy, improving dialogue and action for the common good, improving educational programmes for social cohesion, promoting gender equality, promoting cultural diversity and intercultural understanding and environmental protection. Through these and other activities, so far more than 1,600 young people have been involved in the programme overall.
The Dialogue for the Future programme is implemented by UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO, with the support of the UN Resident Coordinator offices in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia, and with the financial support of the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF).