Coffee with Champions: The youth engage with changemakers at the 4th UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo

10 Jun 2022

Coffee with Champions: The youth engage with changemakers at the 4th UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo

Seated around a table with cups of coffee, exchanging ideas on how culture can play an important role in uniting young people across the Western Balkans, were a pianist and activist from Sarajevo, a candy-shop owner from Peja/Peć, a student of international relations from Skopje, and a gender rights activist from Dranas.

This diversity and exchange were the heart and spirit of the ‘coffee with champions’ session on day two of the 4th UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo, which brought together 150 young leaders from across Kosovo, and, for the first time, from the wider region – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – to the 4th UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo.

From jobs to climbing mountains, from women in sports to inter-ethnic dialogue, from art to fake news and climate change – young participants in the ‘coffee with champions’ session had the opportunity to discuss topics with leaders in their field. Round tables included peacekeepers, politicians, musicians, artists, climbers, journalists and entrepreneurs. 


  “We had 12 different tables consisting of youth coming from   different parts of the region discussing diverse issues, ideas and   solutions regarding their rights. This was done with   changemakers coming from political institutions and civil society."   - Mila Mihajlović, Lipjan/Lipljan


Speaking to the participants were peacekeeper Barrie Freeman, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo; Gazmen Salijević, Deputy Minister of Communities and Returns; entrepreneur Arion Rizaj (Kosova Jobs); journalist and fact-checker Visar Prebreza (BIRN Kosovo); artist Lebibe Topalli (Muralfest); Everest climber and UN SDG Champion, Uta Ibrahimi (UTALAYA), among others. 

Young people from across the Western Balkans from various professional backgrounds had the opportunity to engage with them - asking questions and expressing their views to build a sustainable and inclusive future for their generation.

Youth Assembly - Coffee with Champions

Engaging discussions and personal stories

“How many of you heard the news that a chip would be inserted in your arm as you get the vaccine against COVID-19,” asked journalist and fact-checker Visar Prebreza (BIRN Kosovo) as nearly all young participants on his table raised their hands.

“There is a disbalance among journalists who tell the truth and tell lies – it is quite hard to distinguish between the two,” he said. “Journalism in Kosovo has reached a stage where it’s so free that there is no monitoring or checks to verify news before it is published,” he added.

As the youth asked him questions on how to combat susceptibility to mis and disinformation and spot or verify news items, he guided them on the best practices in this regard.

On her table, Everest climber and UN STG Champion, Uta Ibrahimi, who heads Utalaya, spoke to young participants about the importance of the youth in interacting in nature – camping, hiking, cleaning waste – in order to understand and combat the climate crisis as well as for overall growth.

I really learned a lot, about Human Rights, diversity, breaking boundaries and looking towards a better world. It was so wonderful to speak and chat with the champions in the session, they taught us so many valuable lessons on how we can grow and bring about positive change in our societies everyday.” - Leonardo Taragjini, Durrës.

Participants engaged with deputy Minister Gazmen Salijević on jobs and inclusion for people in non-majority communities – and as he got up to leave, he gave them his contact details so they could address their concerns to him directly.

Similarly, entrepreneur Arion Rizaj of Kosova Jobs engaged with young participants on how best to use their potential towards employability, how to deal with workplace conflict and deal with management needs.

“During the conflict I was a refugee and I wanted to paint all the time. It was then in 1999, that I got to showcase my work away from my home – it was my first one ever,” said artist Lebibe Topalli of Muralfest, telling young and curious participants about her journey into art from being an award-winning mathematician.

“After we came back, I kept painting. And started painting murals. I never quit. I wanted to give something to my city – contribute in my profession. Nothing could stop me,” she added, also explaining the way Muralfest engages the youth on social media. It was an empowering message about art for the purpose of rehabilitation and reconstruction of societies and individuals both.

"I met amazing people in the coffee with champions session where we had alpinists, entrepreneurs, activists, telling their story of success - it inspired us! It was great to be in a crowded room full of enthusiastic people. I think one of the most important things I learnt is that together we as youth can achieve anything, and my hope is that this enthusiasm never dies!" - Elton Bajramaj, Peja/Peć.

As the session came to a close, the young participants gathered their thoughts and ideas, relevant tips and advice for their advocacy projects and notes for a promising future – working towards personal and regional prosperity.



This is the third article in a series covering the 4th UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo.

Part I of the series documents the overall event. Read Part I here.

Part II of the series documents the panel discussion entitled Youth, Peace and Security in the Digital Era: Challenges and Opportunities – giving readers a glimpse of the key messages and new ideas. Read Part II here.


About UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo:

The annual UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo is the biggest multi-ethnic forum in Kosovo that brings together Kosovo youth from across all communities. It serves as a platform to connect young leaders from diverse communities, UN officials and decision-makers of all levels to discuss and address youth-specific problems, foster youth inter-ethnic and inter-cultural cooperation, enable synergies and take stock of the implementation of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda.