Representatives from Albanian Municipalities and Civil Society Organizations share best practices with Northern Macedonia counterparts – by Robert Korkuti
Social, economic, and physical isolation are some of the factors that if left unaddressed can lead to radicalization of at-risk citizens. Activities focusing on strengthening cross-border co-operation has a direct impact in breaking down barriers that stimulate isolation by addressing the needs of marginalized communities. In addition to raising awareness of push and pull factors of violent extremism, PLGP’s Women, Peace and Security activities provide support to local communities by enhancing their capacity to address and reduce the roots that fuel this phenomenon.
PLGP’s recent roundtable “Strengthening cross-border cooperation and sharing best practices to better address the root causes of radicalization and violent extremism,” brought together municipal staff, social workers, and civil society organizations from Pogradec, Librazhd, and Struga (N. Macedonia) to share their experiences and discuss opportunities and challenges in providing better services to vulnerable communities. Relatively high levels of unemployment, emigration, domestic violence, the presence of street children, violence at school and human trafficking are just some of the challenges these cross-border communities face.
Experiences shared by municipal social services representatives focused on identifying and supporting the economic and social needs of individuals or groups in need, including families with disabilities, orphans, the Roma and Egyptian communities, and the unemployed. Sharing best practices of municipal cooperation with civil society was one of the most rewarding parts of the meeting, including the establishing of a joint working group between the Municipality of Librazhd and World Vision to assist children with special needs; the financial support that the Municipality of Struga provides to local CSOs; as well as the work of CSOs in Pogradec in collaboration with the Municipality to prevent children from begging.
In addition, specialists from the DV units in Pogradec and Librazhd shared their experiences on the functioning of the Domestic Violence Mechanism in their communities, focused on the protection of the rights of violated women and gender equality. Overall, high levels of inter-institutional cooperation among all local actors – including civil society organizations in organizing awareness campaigns – and the provision of counseling and assistance to the victims were idenitified as a key factor for moving forward together.
Organized in cooperation with the CVE Coordination Center, it was the first time that social workers and civil society activists on both sides of the border met together to share experiences and best practices. Attendees came away from the meeting having gained valuable skills and networking contacts, and all recommended this type of engagement to continue and be extended to other communities along the border. The second in a series of regional roundtables, following the November 2019 roundtable held with representatives from the Municipalities of Diber, Bulqizë and Dibër e Madhe of Northern Macedonia; the aggregate best practices and lessons learned from both event will be presented at a joint activity in the spring of 2020, providing a template to scale to other vulnerable border communities across the region.