European Centre for Minority Issues Kosovo has conducted the first sessions of its Advocacy Skills & Community Rights Programme for Kosovo civil society organizations.
The kickoff sessions of ECMI Kosovo’s Advocacy Skills & Community Rights Programme were held in Struga, Macedonia. The sessions took place from 28-30 June. One first aim was to present an overview of the community rights legislative and institutional framework in Kosovo, including mechanisms of redress to address potential violations.
At the occasion, participants from the Serb, Turk, Roma, Egyptian, Bosnian and Gorani communities had the opportunity to share their experiences. They also discussed the challenges they face with regard to the use of languages, access to employment, and other areas.
Six months of buzzing activity
The launch of the Advocacy Skills & Community Rights Programme in Struga is only the latest example of half a year’s buzzing activity within an ECMI Kosovo and partners’ ambition of empowering Kosovo’s civil society.
Already in January, Communication for Social Development (CSD), Network of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Women’s Organisation in Kosovo (NRAEWOK) and ECMI Kosovo were working on mapping all active minority Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Kosovo. At the same time, the wider project on empowering Kosovo’s civil society was about to get its own project website. The preparatory work is reported in ECMI Kosovo’s January Newsletter, while currently both the project website and the database resulting from the work of mapping are online.
During April, ECMI Kosovo organized a series of nine workshops. Approximately 180 representatives of the minority communities’ CSOs and municipal officials participated.
To mirror ECMI Kosovo’s April Newsletter; the April workshops aimed at informing CSOs and local government representatives on the importance and value of mutual cooperation, on the legal provisions requiring local government to consult civil society, on the rights of CSOs to complain if consultations are not conducted.
Finally, a guidebook on civil society participation in decision making processes was also issued by ECMI Kosovo during spring.
Throughout 2013 and 2014, the selected CSOs of the Advocacy Skills & Community Rights Programme will participate in further training sessions. In the event of a successful process, they will enhance their advocacy skills and capacities in order to fruitfully participate in decision making processes and to effectively address issues of their concern.
The selection of six advocacy proposal and of CSOs for the Advocacy Skills & Community Rights Programme was originally reported in ECMI Kosovo’s May Newsletter.
Civil society as partner in spe
Government officials, as well as the general public of Kosovo, often lack understanding of the role of civil society in policy and decision making processes. The former frequently views CSOs as political opponents rather than partners. This challenge is identified in research as well as through ECMI Kosovo’s extensive experience.
Lack of understanding is also why ECMI Kosovo and its partner organizations CSD and NRAEWOK conduct a series of awareness raising and trust building activities through 2013 and 2014.
The challenge is explained in the outline of the project, Empowering Civil Society to Participate Effectively in Policy and Decision-Making Processes through Dialogue with Government Institutions, that frames ECMI Kosovo’s ambition of empowering Kosovo’s civil society.
Thus, it is in order to increase awareness of the role of civil society and the importance of its participation in policy making processes that ECMI and partners conduct the activities described upon. The activities are also conducted in order to increase mutual trust and exchange between institution officials and minority civil society representatives.
Funders and partners
The Advocacy Skills & Community Rights Programme is part of two projects funded by the European Union Office in Kosovo and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The former project, Empowering Civil Society to Participate Effectively in Policy and Decision-Making Processes through Dialogue with Governments Institutions, is implemented in partnership with CSD and NRAEWOK. About the latter project, Supporting Effective Governance for Minority Communities in Kosovo, read also: Mainstreaming of minority rights in Kosovo civil service.