Taking the Road Less Traveled: NDI’s Conflict Transformation Program in Kosovo

The emerging leaders group 'Diverse Your-Selfie' used this symbol of a hat to promote diversity by taking selfies and posting them to social media networks.

NDI Kosovo recently concluded a more than two-year long program on Conflict Mitigation, aiming -- through its own activities and with the support of its partners -- to cultivate relationships across the country’s divisions, thus easing ethnic tensions in Kosovo. Through the program, more than 600 Kosovars engaged in diverse dynamics across ethnic lines, overcoming their possible post-war fears, prejudices and mistrust, thus establishing rewarding collaboration.

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Developing Democracy in Kosovo, Europe’s Youngest Country

A workshop on Gender Responsive Budgeting, held in October 2012, where women councilors developed an advocacy plan and timeline for their municipality’s priority issue.

Meaningful democracy means the equal participation of women and men in political and public life.

In 1999, just after the war, I found myself back in my hometown, having spent months as a refugee in Macedonia. As Kosovo recovered, the UN and many international organizations were present to help Kosovars build institutions and capacities and to reconcile communities. I started to run the youth center in my hometown, and I had the opportunity to talk one-on-one with young people while I worked there. We were a new generation and we had gone through difficult and different experiences during the conflict, so getting together in this way was a real challenge at first.

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Slovakia: Democracy from Below, Not from on High

Recent anti-Roma speech throughout Europe, including in Slovakia, negatively impacts Roma children like these, photographed by Nadezhda Mouzykina in a segregated Slovak settlement. 

Editor's Note: Stanislav Daniel, NDI Roma Political Participation Program Alumnus and Coordinator of Romani Early Years Network, contributed to this piece.

Slovakia’ ruling SMER party convened its annual congress in December. Although a social democratic party now in power for a number of years, the congress had the unfortunate political trappings of a populist, right-wing gathering. Instead of pronouncing on poverty and inequality and other issues important to all citizens, the party chose instead to scapegoat Slovakia’s most vulnerable constituency—the Roma—as public support for a far-right political alternative grows.

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Political Parties in Kosovo Should Be the Cornerstone of Democracy, Not a Gimmick.

Cross-party training events like this one, part of the Women Political Empowerment Training conducted by NDI, would have a bigger impact if political parties in Kosovo became more inclusive and created a space for women and youth.

In a small country like Kosovo, in order to “get things done,” you need to be affiliated with a political party, understand how to navigate the political system and lobby hard for your cause. None of these requirements would be an issue if ideologies and policies were at the heart of discussion and negotiations. Instead, party affiliation in Kosovo is based on business relationships - not policy - and this political culture undermines internal party democracy.

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Why Cyber-Attacks Are Anything But a Taste of Our Own Medicine

Headlines are warning us about Russian “mischief” in the U.S. elections. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence have said they are confident that the Russian government is behind hacks into US email accounts and that cyber-probes of some state election systems may also be traced to Russia. A group of prominent national security and defense experts has predicted that Russian hackers will use the stolen emails to build credibility, then leak fake documents in order to manipulate voters’ opinions and, possibly, choices at the ballot box. These cyber-espionage and disinformation campaigns sound like the stuff of spy novels, except they’re real. What’s going on?

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Building Bridges in Communities with Intergroup Tensions

Jordanian and Syrian participants discuss human rights during an Ana Usharek Mujtam3i session.

Conflict thrives in divided societies, particularly when individuals in positions of power exploit differences for personal or political gain. Many factors, including scarcity of resources and recent histories of intergroup strife, can further exacerbate divisions and drive citizens apart based on political, ethnic, religious and other identity factors. When allowed to deepen, these divides threaten social cohesion and undermine the foundation of cooperation and collective action in democratic societies. As polarization increases, so do the challenges faced by governing institutions. Strengthening inclusive democracies can reduce polarization and bridge intergroup divisions by bringing communities together to pursue shared interests and to develop sustainable intergroup relationships.

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Grassroots Youth Spark Change in Kosovo

Students in Zvecan, Kosovo, brainstorm ways to stop school bullying, as part of a community initiative started by YLP participants.

Vladimir had not crossed the Mitrovica bridge -- which divides ethnic Serb communities north of the Ibar River from ethnic Albanians to the south -- in three years. But in February last year, Vladimir had a reason to cross the bridge and travel south: the opportunity to attend an NDI training in Gracanica with 19 other minority youth leaders and become a stronger advocate for issues in his community. Vladimir and his colleagues are members of the most recent generation of NDI’s Youth Leadership Program.

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Why Reactor’s Gender Equality Work Matters for Macedonia’s Democracy

Macedonia became independent when Yugoslavia disintegrated 25 years ago. Many thought that Macedonia might not survive as a new country. It was in a tough neighborhood, the economy was in tatters, it had little experience with democracy, and there was a strong undercurrent of tension between the majority Macedonian population and a large Albanian minority.

But Macedonia did overcome those early challenges, got to work on its new democracy, and as a result it has progressed toward European Union and NATO membership.

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Who Are the Roma? A Personal Reflection

Left: a Slovak Roma activist at an NDI advocacy training. Top Right: Roma Children in a segregated Slovak settlement. Bottom Right: Youth activists at an NDI training on media and Information Communications Technologies (ICTs) in advocacy. 

April 8 is a special day. It’s a day when more than 10 million Romani citizens worldwide celebrate their rich culture, traditions, and heritage. And this year, it marks exactly 45 years since the First World Romani Congress, which took place in Orpington, England. On April 8, 1971, 23 representatives of nine countries and numerous observers formed the International Roma Union - an organization to represent Roma policy and interests worldwide - and adopted an official Roma flag and the Roma anthem, Djelem, Djelem.

But who are the Roma?

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Being LGBTI in Serbia: Can you walk out your door and be proud of who you are?

At a local Belgrade bar in September 2015, a group of assailants attacked a young LGBTI activist named Dragoslava Barzut while she was spending the evening with friends. No one stood up to protect Barzut and her friends that night. She continued to receive threats following the attack. Despite the attack and threats, asylum abroad was not an option for Barzut. She will not leave her country as long as she can be an agent for change even though she feels wary while on public transportation and nervous during her daily commute to work. “I'm not staying here because Serbia is an ideal place for someone like me to live,” she said, “but I deeply believe that if I don’t leave, one day it may be. My fight is here.”

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