Youth, Peace and Security in the Digital Era: 4th UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo inspires innovation and cooperation among young changemakers across the Western Balkans

3 Jun 2022

Youth, Peace and Security in the Digital Era: 4th UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo inspires innovation and cooperation among young changemakers across the Western Balkans

“Be the change, you want,
Be the hope, you wish,
Mould your present to shape the future you deserve…” 

Caroline Ziadeh, SRSG and Head of UNMIK

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of UNMIK, Ms. Caroline Ziadeh, welcomed 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.

Under the theme ‘Youth, Peace and Security in the Digital Era’, this year’s edition held on 31 May-1 June, focused on the use of technology and how it impacts the involvement of youth in sustainable peace processes.

Over two days, participants engaged in panel discussions, workshops, ‘coffee with champions’, where they interacted with leaders in their field - politicians, peacekeepers, entrepreneurs, artists, climbers, sportspersons and more. Ultimately, the participants worked on concepts for creative advocacy projects. Two young leaders from Kosovo – Ms. Mila Mihajlović and Mr. Suhel Ahmeti – acted as masters of ceremony.

"Together - you and us - will pave a path for a more peaceful and prosperous future in Kosovo and in the Balkans. Your presence and participation in this youth assembly demonstrate that your common will can become the bridge that transcends barriers and boundaries,” said SRSG Ziadeh.

The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports of Kosovo, Mr. Hajrulla Çeku, added in his opening remarks: "I am very happy that Pristina is hosting such an important event. In the next two days, you will be able to advance your projects and ideas and talk about regional cooperation in Kosovo and beyond."

Exchanging ideas and solutions

The first session at the event was the panel discussion, entitled Youth, Peace and Security in the Digital Era: Challenges and Opportunities. Panelists discussed the confluence of trust-building and technology. The session was moderated by Ms. Iana Minochkina, UNMIK Youth Adviser who has spearheaded the Kosovo edition of the UN Youth Assembly since its conception in 2017.

Speakers included Ms. Krenare Gashi-Krasniqi, Head of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) branch in Kosovo; Mr. Valon Kurhasani, Deputy Director of NDI Kosovo, and Ms. Jovana Radosavljević, NGO New Social Initiative.

The discussions sparked conversations about the importance of adaptability in a digital world, while underscoring the importance of in-person contact in order to sustain peacebuilding efforts. Additionally, panelists shared a mix of personal experiences and academic data to talk about inter-ethnic dialogue, misinformation and how young people must centre critical thinking and empathy to work towards a more inclusive future for the Western Balkans. 


Being part of the UN Youth Assembly gave me the opportunity to meet many new young people from across Kosovo communities and the region, to broaden my horizon and learn new things. I learned that together, we can work towards achieving any goal to impact our communities in a good way!”- Era Thaçi (right), 17, Pristina

After an exchange of ideas, the young participants attended simultaneous thematic workshops, where they received guidance for the development of creative youth-led project ideas to compete for small grants. These covered a broad range of themes, including Digital Media Literacy, Language as a Tool of Peace, Human Rights, Youth Advocacy & Trust-building, and social entrepreneurship.

As Ms. Ulrika Richardson, the UN Development Coordinator in Kosovo, pointed out in her opening remarks, the youth found inspiration together. "You can lead the way, you have the best ideas, you know what is needed. Your presence here today coming from across the region is a strong message of what the region and future could and should look like," she said.



 It was a unique opportunity to meet so many bright people from different communities and so I am honoured to have been part of the UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo. I believe we will all be advocates of peace in the future and that is exactly what our communities and the region need at this very moment.” 



Katarina Popović (middle), 22, Belgrade

Meeting the experts

Day two at the UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo began with a unique opportunity, where young participants interacted with leaders in their field. The two-hour ‘coffee with champions’ sessions, included Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Barrie Freeman; Deputy Minister of Communities and Returns Mr. Gazmen Salijević; entrepreneur Mr. Arion Rizaj (Kosova Jobs); journalist and fact-checker Mr. Visar Prebreza (BIRN Kosovo); artist Ms. Lebibe Topalli (MuralFest); Everest climber and UN Sustainable Development Goals Champion Ms. Uta Ibrahimi (UTALAYA), among others.



We had two days full of productive discussions with fellow youth leaders from the region but also young people of Kosovo from different ethnic backgrounds. And we concluded we share the same issues in our societies no matter which side of the border we are on. So at the UN Youth Assembly in Kosovo, we came up with very good ideas to make Kosovo and the whole region a better place for all.” 



Filip Etmishovski (middle), 22, Bitola (North Macedonia)

The project ideas addressed disability, economic disparity, fake news, mental health and regional cooperation. These reflected SRSG Ziadeh’s vision for this year’s event and the future: “Diverse backgrounds but common objectives: peaceful life in dignity, access to quality education, adequate job opportunities and a conducive environment to thrive and succeed.”

The event closed with remarks from DSRSG Freeman and Ms. Nona Zicherman, Head of UNICEF Kosovo.


 The United Nations will stand by your side to support you in further shaping and turning your ideas into concrete initiatives." DSRSG Barrie Freeman.


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

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.

Part III of the series documents the ‘Coffee with Champions’ sessions giving readers a glimpse of how young participants engaged up-close with leaders in their fields. Read Part III 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.