NGO AKTIV, in cooperation with members of the Kosovo Coalition for Reconciliation, organized a conference “Past, Present, FORUM OF THE FUTURE – State of Reconciliation in Kosovo”, held on the 12th and the 13th of April 2022, at the Civic Energy Center in North Mitrovica.
At four panels, 15 experts from various fields discussed the topic of reconciliation from the perspective of the media, civil society, security and the position of Kosovo’s smaller non-majority communities, in the presence of representatives of the diplomatic community, media, civil society and youth from different ethnic communities. Representatives of the media, civil society and human rights experts said that it was necessary to build reconciliation through direct dialogue of all communities, with the active participation of institutions.
The conference was opened by the Executive Director of the NGO Aktiv, Miodrag Milićević, who initially asked whether the entire society had done enough in the process of reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians, but also other communities, in Kosovo.
„The expectation of many of us today is that as a society we are sufficiently able to face all the problems that burden our communities, and that we have enough strength and a high degree of commitment to overcome many challenges we face as a society for more than two decades”, said Milićević.
As he assessed, without the support of political and public representatives, the international community, civil society and the media, full normalization of relations cannot be achieved.
Goran Avramović, a journalist of Radio KiM, Xhemail Rexha, president of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, Tatjana Lazarević, editor-in-chief of the KoSSev portal and Besa Luci, editor-in-chief of the Kosovo2.0 portal, spoke at the first panel.
The journalists assessed that the media are not a serious obstacle to reconciliation, but also that they do not make a great contribution in that process. They pointed out that problems from the angle of the national narrative are most often reported, while stories about citizens and their everyday problems are less present in the media.
“The role of the media is not to work on reconciliation, but they should not work on deepening differences,” it was assessed.
At the second panel, Nora Ahmetaj, founder and director of the Center for Research, Documentation and Publications, Marigona Sabiu, director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Darko Dimitrijevic, journalist and executive director of the Center for Minority Rights, and Milica Jakovljevic, a project manager of Community Building Mitrovica, spoke about the role of civil society in the reconciliation process.
The panelists assessed that the progress in reconciliation was noticed on an individual level as people communicate in different ways, as well as among certain groups, such as the business community that has been cooperating for a long time, and the non-governmental sector. It is estimated that the most problematic is the political level.
“It is a level that makes decisions and opens the way to general reconciliation, but there is no progress for now,” the participants said, adding that “however, there is a little progress with the fact that two sides have started to discuss the problems”.
The panelists pointed out that the reconciliation process had begun, but that the whole society was not involved. They pointed out that NGOs contributed the most to reconciliation, but that it did not go far.
The issue of the connection between the security situation and the reconciliation process was analyzed by the participants of the third panel, with Dušan Radaković, Executive Director of the Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture, Bekim Blakaj, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Law Center of Kosovo, Aferdita Sulaj Shehu, Executive Director of Community Building Mitrovica and Igor Marković, Senior Researcher and Project Manager NGO AKTIV.
The panelists assessed that security incidents and the political situation make life and reconciliation between communities, primarily between Serbs and Albanians, difficult, while political elites contribute to tensions with their narratives.
“We need to invest in peacebuilding, especially today when we are witnessing great instability on the continent of Europe,” the panelists said.
The participants in the fourth panel were civil society representatives of the Turkish, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian and Gorani community. Fatir Berzati, activist and editor-in-chief of Kosovo Info for South Slavic Languages, Gorani Community in Kosovo, Sejfi Kodra, translator, political expert and activist from the Turkish community in Kosovo, and Mimoza Gavrani, policy expert from the Regional Cooperation Council on behalf of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community, spoke about the position of these communities.
The panelists assessed that more needs to be done in order for smaller communities to feel free. It was pointed out that these communities are especially sensitive because they encounter various stereotypes, although there are good legal solutions that guarantee them all their rights.
“It is very important to involve smaller communities in the process of reconciliation and building the future. We need to restore trust in institutions. Smaller communities want to be part of initiatives related to reconciliation, peace and stability,” the CSO representatives stated.