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Western Balkans Regional Hub

Western Balkans

The Western Balkans Regional Hub is working with local governments to identify their relevant needs and priorities, and provide them with the support, resources and access needed to become leaders in prevention, ensuring their perspectives inform relevant national, regional and global policy and programme conversations.

Identifying City Needs & Priorities in the Western Balkans

The Western Balkans Regional Hub held its inaugural in-person workshop in Sarajevo in February 2023. Among the priorities identified by participating mayors, local and national representatives, civil society and multilateral stakeholders was a need for greater local government-led efforts to address inter-communal tensions, unresolved historical grievances and lack of trust in government institutions, which they identified as fueling extremist and hate-motivated violence and threatening the social fabric. Local officials also said they lacked a clear mandate to engage in prevention work (and a clear understanding of the variety of ways they can do so), despite this and other comparative advantages cities through their proximity to and engagement with local communities.    

The Western Balkans Regional Hub is delivering considerable impact in the region, including inter alia:

  • In Danilovgrad (Montenegro), the newly-elected mayor approached Strong Cities for support to develop a Local Safety Council (LSC) inspired by the learnings from the Hub’s Inaugural Workshop in February 2023. In July, the Hub then organised a roundtable for the city’s leadership and practitioners where counterparts from across the region shared experiences of developing and implementing similar models, learnings which are supporting Danilovgrad to operationalise its LSC.
  • In Elbasan (Albania), in June 2023, to help the city overcome challenges in engaging young people, the Hub convened cities from across the region to allow the city to learn from the experiences of cities that have implemented impactful youth empowerment programmes and policies.
  • In Prishtina (Kosovo), the Hub convened municipal leaders to identify Kosovar cities’ needs and enhancing their roles in prevention.
  • Brčko District Government (Bosnia & Herzegovina, BiH) and the Government of the Federation of BiH invited the Hub to support implementation of their P/CVE action plans.
Impact

Hear from Cities in the Western Balkans

Cities are often on the margins of discussions about security or prevention, but first on the line of response when threats are realised. In 2015, our municipality was the target of groups intent to undermine the coexistence and stability of our municipality and country as a whole. With Strong Cities, we managed to bridge the gap between capacities and needs on the ground, and to engage more actively in preventing violent extremism, hatred and polarisation in our community.

Maksim Dimitrievski—Mayor of Kumanovo, North Macedonia

With support from the Strong Cities Network, Kumanovo has been successful in launching various social cohesion and community resilience building initiatives. Spearheaded by the Community Action Team, this includes mapping threats and risks in schools to address conflict, extreme behaviours and develop a safer learning environment for staff and students. Complementing this effort, the municipality organised trainings for school psychologists, sociologists and pedagogues on early detection of signs of radicalisation and case management. Strong Cities allowed us to share our lessons learned through this process with peers across the country.

Maksim Dimitrievski – Mayor of Kumanovo, North Macedonia 

While drafting our Human Rights Protection Strategy, our collaboration with Strong Cities inspired us to include components on addressing hate, extremism and polarisation in our strategic document. We see this as significant step towards fostering a safer and more inclusive city for all. 

Aleksandar Zekovic – Councillor, Human Rights Office, City of Podgorica, Montenegro 

Following my participation in Strong Cities’ Regional Workshop on National-Local Cooperation, our municipality committed to acting in closer coordination with central authorities. By aligning our efforts and resources, we aim to ensure the safety and well-being of our community. As a part of these efforts, our municipality is drafting a comprehensive document on crisis response and management.

Kujtim Gashi – Deputy Mayor of Prizren, Kosovo 

I am eager to extend our collaboration with the Strong Cities in the future as I perceive the subject of prevention to be of utmost significance for our society, unfortunately often overlooked in discussions. 

Mensur Seferovic – Council Member, Municipal Council, Municipality of Sanski Most, Bosnia and Herzegovina 

Strong Cities has helped the City of Prishtina in fostering global connections and enabling the sharing of good practices and experiences with colleagues from other countries. This has helped us better understand, appreciate and learn from the prevention landscape in the region. 

Albaton Bejta – High Security Officer, City of Prishtina, Kosovo 

About the Western Balkans Regional Hub

The Western Balkans Regional Hub builds on and is shaped in part by the Network’s previous engagement in the region, including inter alia: supporting multi-stakeholder prevention networks; facilitating city exchanges for peer-learning; mapping community resilience to extremism; and empowering youth-led community initiatives by building bridges between local authorities and young people.

The Regional Hub, staffed by a team of local experts based in North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and with financial support from the US Department of State, is now driving forward an ambitious workplan to address local needs and priorities, and to empower local authorities across the region to become leaders in prevention.

Western balkans REgional Hub

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Besim Dogani

Network Officer

Simeon Dukic

Deputy Head, Global Engagement

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Strong Cities in the Western Balkans

A global network of cities in different national and local contexts ensures that wherever a city is located, there will be other cities facing similar challenges and with similar capacities and needs.