This post was originally published by the Alliance for Peacebuilding and is cross-posted with permission. Chemonics is honored to be an Alliance for Peacebuilding member organization.
In Kosovo, one of the biggest sources of instability is inter-ethnic hostility between majority and minority populations. Although years of tensions cannot be erased overnight, helping local communities have meaningful discussions can pave a pathway to stability and peace in Kosovo — and the greater Balkans. Since 2014, USAID’s Advancing Kosovo Together program has worked with local communities and government officials to develop inclusive communication channels and reduce these tensions.
The program, implemented by Chemonics, has worked closely with Kosovo’s Municipal Offices for Communities and Returns (MOCR), teaching municipal officers how to best address community needs. Through 11 workshops, program staff trained 175 municipal officers across 16 municipalities on budget preparation, advocacy, strategic planning, project management, transparency, and outreach. These workshops also included forums where MOCR staff could openly share experiences, successes, challenges, and lessons learned.
Suada Hajdarpašić, a MOCR representative from North Mitrovica, reiterated the value of these conversations: “Meetings and conferences such as this are very constructive because they give us an opportunity to learn about best practices of our colleagues in other municipalities.”
On June 16, 2015, the program brought together MOCR heads from all over Kosovo to engage in dialogue with high-level government officials, including the minister of communities and returns, chairperson of the committee on rights and interests of communities in the assembly of Kosovo, and advisor to the minister of local self-government and political advisor for communities to the president of Kosovo. The reactions from central and municipal government participants were overwhelmingly positive.
“This is the first time that I attended a Kosovo-wide MOCR conference, which allowed us to hear about the work of MOCRs in the municipalities in northern Kosovo,” said Hajredin Alija, a MOCR head from the southern municipality of Prizren.
The minister of communities and return, Dalibor Jevtić, was also grateful for the conference, adding, “In the past, we were able to communicate and cooperate with municipal officers through regular coordination meetings…But there is a need to improve such cooperation, and that is precisely the way I look at this conference.”
Amy Denkenberger is chief of party for USAID's Advancing Kosovo Together project.