What did we discuss at the Third Strategic Meeting of the Youth Umbrella Organizations of the Western Balkans?

From December 15 to 17, the Third Regional Strategic Meeting of the Youth Umbrella Organizations (YUO) of the Western Balkans was organized in Belgrade by KOMS in cooperation with the Local Branch Office (LBO) in Serbia of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO). 

Representatives of the Secretariats and Governing Boards of the following YUO attended and actively participated in the meeting: 

  • National Youth Council of Serbia (KOMS), 
  • National Youth Congress of Albania (KRK), 
  • Brčko District Council/Youth Council (VSMBD), 
  • Youth Council of the Republic of Srpska (OSRS), 
  • Network for the youth of Montenegro (MMCG), 
  • National Youth Council of Macedonia (NMSM). 

The meeting was also attended by a representative of the Croatian Youth Network (MMH), an important partner of KOMS and other YUOs from the Western Balkans. 

The meeting was also attended by Bojana Bulatović, Acting RYCO Program Director, Alba Brojka, Head of RYCO Local Office (LBO) in Albania, Sandra Čule, Head of LBO in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Edin Koljević, Head of LBO in Montenegro, Vladimir Gjorgjevski, Head of LBO in North Macedonia, as well as Marija Bulat, Head of LBO in Serbia. 

What did we talk about? 

Within the framework of the meeting, the YUOs had the opportunity to set joint thematic and advocacy priorities, among which:  

stood out. Also, the representatives of the YUO recognized and discussed the need for standardization of cooperation with RYCO, that is, with RYCO LBOs in RYCO Contracting Parties (CPs), and in order to operationalize the Memorandum of Cooperation that RYCO signed with the YUO from the Western Balkans.  

Upon that, the representatives of the UYOs set joint opportunities with the representatives of RYCO LBOs based on the RYCO Strategic Plan for 2022-2024, to which YUOs contributed during the Second Regional Strategic Meeting and the RYCO Regional Strategy Forum. It is important to note that the Strategic Plan has been finalized but has not yet been adopted by the RYCO Governing Board (RYCO GB). 

The Youth, Peace and Security Agenda emerged as an umbrella and common theme. RYCO will work jointly with YUOs on the implementation of this Agenda on the regional, level of CPs, as well as on the local level. Finally, in order to achieve uniformed cooperation, representatives of YUOs and LBOs from the respective CPs planned joint activities for 2023. 

Young people as legitimate representatives 

On the last day of the meeting, Albert Hani, Secretary General of RYCO, and Denis Piplaš, Deputy Secretary General of RYCO, joined the meeting. With them, we once again turned upon the importance of RYCO’s cooperation with YUOs as the highest independent youth representative bodies of young people, as well as the importance of the set priorities.  

In addition, the representatives of the YUOs discussed with them the importance of the youth voices in the RYCO GB in order to truly implement the co-management mechanism embedded in the functioning of GB and RYCO as an organization.  

The reason for this conversation was the situation with the Youth Representative of Serbia in the RYCO GB, who was appointed to that position despite the objections of KOMS and the National Association of Practitioners of Youth Work (NAPOR) and pointing to the illegitimacy of the selection process. The representatives of the UYOs expressed their support for the demands of KOMS and the importance of independent young people representing the voice of the youth in this body (both on their social networks and during the meeting).  

Additionally, as part of the meeting, an informal dinner was organized with RYCO GB members, which, as a sign of solidarity and support for the above-mentioned demands, was not attended by the YUOs representatives, as well as Blazhen Maleski, the Youth Representative of North Macedonia in the RYCO Board. 

The common position is that legitimate youth representatives in the RYCO GB strengthen the existing and good cooperation between RYCO and the YUOs, as well as open space for its potential to be fully realized. 

What next? 

For the National Youth Council of Serbia, regional cooperation remains a priority, and as the highest independent youth representative body in Serbia, we will continue to cooperate with the Regional Youth Cooperation Office on a strategic and operational level. However, we will no longer take part in activities that legitimize the appointed Youth Representative of Serbia in the RYCO Board. 

You can listen to the position of KOMS at the following link