CSO FORUM: DIRECT DIALOGUE AS A TOOL FOR REGIONAL STABILITY
Twenty years after the end of armed conflict in Kosovo, and six years after the signing of the Brussels Agreement, Kosovo society finds itself in a state of social and political stagnation. This includes Kosovo’s civil society, where although there may be more inter-ethnic cooperation when compared to the political arena, there is still a significant degree of separation between CSOs working in various different communities. The result of this is a significant gap in understanding of the issues that the other community faces as well as the nature of its needs. What’s more, the gulf left by the two-year long suspension of the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue process has created a situation in which much of the onus is on civil-society organizations to initiate a process of internal discourse within Kosovo as well externally between grassroots groups based in Serbia and those based in Kosovo. This can potentially assuage tensions and establish stronger channels of cooperation between CSOs, leading to new opportunities for bilateral and affirmative communication. It is our belief that this Forum can be a first and positive step in achieving this.
The CSO Forum’s objective is to establish a space to address these issues and establish new and innovative cooperation networks through constructive and multi-layered dialogue between civil society actors on possible responses to the challenges stemming from the non-existence of substantive dialogue, something that has for many years now burdened both the relationship between Pristina and Belgrade and complicated inter-ethnic relations within Kosovo itself.
Furthermore, this Forum will serve as an opportunity to identify areas of shared interest, and to increase the level of understanding of problems that may be unique only to one community. The conference will be held over the course of a two-day period and will consist of six-panel discussions including EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, economic cooperation, cultural diplomacy, reconciliation processes and perspectives, the role of the media in the dialogue process, and dialogue among youth.