The two-day regional conference titled “Peace and Prosperity in the Western Balkans: What is threatening the region and how to advance opportunities?” took place in DoubleTree by Hilton in Skopje. The aim of the conference was to result in progress in forming cooperative relations between CSOs in the region and using regional experiences, know-how and examples for joint advocacy of solutions to the government and government institutions in the fields of policy and social planning, as well as governing.
The event brought together more than 80 CSO representatives and eminent experts, facilitating an open dialogue focused on building bridges for a brighter future in the region.
Opening remarks were delivered by H.E Kristin Melsom, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway to Serbia, N. Macedonia and Montenegro. She highlighted the importance of open dialogue for informed public debates, asserting that governments and civil societies are fundamental to democracy. Moreover, Mrs. Melsom underscored the significance of regional cooperation for stability and prosperity, stressing the necessity of good neighborly relations for peace and economic development. “Nordic cooperation has yielded economic benefits, technological innovations, and enhanced trust among citizens. I eagerly anticipate witnessing the development of a regional integration model among the countries of the Western Balkans to address cross-border challenges and foster trust” stated Ambassador Melsom.
The Minister of Defense of the Republic of North Macedonia, Slavjanka Petrovska, in her remarks expressed that a peaceful and safe Balkan is only possible if we have an integrated Balkan. “It has been shown many times that the integration processes for us are also processes of reconciliation within each of our countries, but also between us” stated Mrs. Petrovska.
Marija Risteska, the executive director of the Center for Research and Policy Making from N. Macedonia, underscored the pivotal role of the civil sector amid the heightened polarization on the global stage, which directly impacts the security dynamics of the Western Balkans. In this context, the civil sector emerges as a crucial player in fostering resilience and advancing peace in the region.
The first day featured two panel discussions, focused on the significance of peace, stability, and good governance as essential factors for economic prosperity. Additionally, the discussions addressed the reasons for democratic decline, emphasizing the threats posed by party propaganda, political extremism, and ethno-nationalism to peace, prosperity, and democracy.
The second day’s discussions revolved around the persistent issue of violence against women and the alarming rise in femicides in the Western Balkans. The criminalization of femicide as a separate crime is crucial for all countries, and N. Macedonia took this step in March of this year, but this is just the initial phase.
“Eliminating violence against women and girls” is not merely a human rights issue, but a pivotal element in constructing a society that thrives on principles of equality, justice, peace, and prosperity. The participants and panelists discussed the necessary measures for institutional prevention, encompassed violence in public areas, the misuse of weapons against women, children, and youth, as well as the prevention of gender-based violence through work with young people. Recent events in that occured in our region served as poignant examples.
During the course of the two-day conference, 11 regional grants totaling 18,542,365 NOK were awarded and additional 11,228,098 NOK for core grants for 22 civil society organizations from Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Kosovo.