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Earlier this year, seven students from Columbia University arrived in Kosovo to empower Europe’s largest youth population per capita.

Studying at the university’s Economic and Political Development program, the students’ Workshop in Development Practice planned to analyze youth engagement and offer recommendations based off their research. They came in two groups: a preliminary fact-finding group and a second group planning to foster youth engagement and further consult with local organizations.

The project hoped to engage Kosovo’s young people, prioritizing the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

They made an online survey, interviewed local organizations from civil society, the private sector and government while holding creative workshops to explore the strengths and challenges of the country’s youth.

Aurelio Amaral, the project’s client liason, was surprised at the involvement of Kosovo’s youth, many of whom were already contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals without even knowing it.

“It’s not very common for where I’m from in Brazil to have youth being engaged and organizing things like Termokiss,” he said discussing Pristina’s warehouse turned community centre. “Kids get together around a specific interest and offer change in policy-making,”

Daniela Guzmán, the content quality editor, agreed.human right supporter

“There was this social vibrance,” she said. “The civic engagement we were looking for was already there.”

The project created recommendations to harness local energy and channel it toward sustainable development. A recurring theme was the sustainability of every partnership and action — how to make work that lasts. They suggested capacity building workshops with local organizations while providing the tools to form partnerships.

“What we found across the board is the organizations that survive — and I say survive because that’s what people told us —is they receive money from a grant and once it’s over, find another way to sustain themselves,” Guzmán said.

The team hoped to offer another path where organizations have the tools to partner across sectors and pursue their unique objectives while bringing the abstractions of the SDGs down to earth. As a result, they used a human-centred approach, making simple and actionable goals to help guide Kosovo’s development.

They cited the success of Termokiss and Open Data Kosovo as local success stories that can be a model for future partnerships.

Andres Ochoa, the project’s research manager, explained that the challenges were interlocked with each other. Lack of education affects employment, just the same as corruption affects education. It’s necessary to tackle these challenges holistically, he said, adding that being an agent of change was within reach of all the Kosovars interviewed in the project.

But that means being a part of the conversation.

“Don’t let this report just be a report. Let it live. Apply it,” he said. “Our conclusions came from young Kosovars on the ground. It’s your voice.”

Read the report and its recommendations:

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency of the United Nations, or the UN itself.

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