Enabling young people to be actors for peace in focus at third UN Kosovo Youth Assembly
Creating more opportunities for young people and enabling them to be actors for peace and progress were key messages shared with a room full of Kosovo youth during the third annual United Nations Kosovo Youth Assembly.
More than 250 young people, government representatives and United Nations delegates – including the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake – came together for the two-day event, which kicked off on April 24, designed to give young people in Kosovo direct access to decision-makers.
Special Representative to the Secretary General and Head of UNMIK, Mr. Zahir Tanin told young people that problems being faced by young people were “one of the issues closest to my heart and of the greatest long-term impact to this region” during his opening remarks.
SRSG Tanin recognized the instability that young people were experiencing on a global scale, with “multi-faceted catastrophe” in many parts of the world, including in this region.
“The consequences of wars, conflict and post-conflict situations accompanied by weak governance and short-sighted and irresponsible, poor leadership affect all – but youth disproportionately.”
False narratives relating to ethnic nationalism and religion promoted division and tension; but it was the duty of leaders to enable young people to be positive changemakers, he said.
“In this fragile world, the United Nations stands behind a firm belief that youth collectively have the power to be agents of change and actors for peace and progress.”
The UNMIK event, organized jointly with UNICEF, was a space for “first moments”, including for people from certain communities to encounter young people from different ethnic communities, SRSG Tanin said, and commended participants for taking part in what had become the largest multi-ethnic platform for youth in Kosovo.
He also encouraged young people to be the driving force for a better society, in conjunction with institutions.
“Solutions for a better life belong to you.”
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake pointed out the many myths and misconceptions surrounding young people and their capacity to be decision-makers and contribute meaningfully to society.
"Kosovo has the youngest demography in Europe with 62 per cent of the population under the age of 25," she said. "The world’s 1.8 billion young people in the world represent an opportunity and a resource to be tapped by society.
Ms. Wickramanayake ended by addressing young people encouraging them to keep playing the key role of peacebuilders. She also addressed institutions to trust young people and give them space to bring their contribution to society.
United Nations Development Coordinator in Kosovo Ms. Ulrika Richardson echoed the sentiments that there was a responsibility for both young people and institutions to find the space to work together more systematically to eradicate problems in society, such as corruption.
“We need to change our behaviour. We want to change the inequalities. It sits on your shoulders to make this change – you are the critical mass, the majority to make change.”
She also encouraged those present to take the messages and discussions from the Youth Assembly back to their communities to reach those who were less privileged to access such events – citing a UN Sustainable Development Goal to leave no one behind.
“We need to look around and think what can we do for the less privileged? Unless we reach them, real change is hard to come by.”
The final keynote speaker, Deputy Minister of Youth Culture and Sports Ms. Burbuqe Bakija-Deva commended the work already being done by young people and showed the impact it was having with recommendations that came from previous years' Youth Assemblies being included in the Youth Strategy of the Ministry.
She also shared a draft law that the Ministry was working on to strengthen the participation of youth by equating voluntary work with work experience, which she said should be implemented by the end of the year.
“Kosovo faces a big challenge with the youth that apply for work because the immediate request is work experience. Therefore, the law has to clearly foresee that every youngster that does voluntary work, is enumerated as work experience.”