Overlook

Kalevi Sorsa Foundation continues its work on democracy in the Western Balkans. “Supporting Democracy in Western Balkans – Progress and Bridges” is a project funded by the Finnish Foreign Ministry.

The project focuses on supporting a multicultural and functioning democracy. It aims at strengthening the voice of young people by training politically active youth in Northern Macedonia, Albania and Bosnia–Herzegovina. We also facilitate cooperation between political think tanks in the Western Balkans across national and ethnic borders.

KSF has supported democracy in North Macedonia (formerly Macedonia) since 2008 in cooperation with the local partner Progres Institute for Social Democracy, and continues to do so under the new project.

Background

The Balkans remain very tense and the transition from centralized one-party systems to open multi-party democracies has not been smooth. Ethnic and political divisions run deep. There are two conflicting tendencies in the region: the desire to develop and become a member of the EU, and the practical tendency towards authoritarian parties led by strong men and ethnically divided politics.

Project activities

Our project promotes democracy and stability of societies in the Balkans by strengthening civil society. The project has two elements: political academies for future leaders in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia, and a series of seminars for political think tanks in the target countries, which will strengthen the capacity of think tanks, increase interaction between them and improve social dialogue in target countries.

Political academies are training programs funded in collaboration with the Swedish Olof Palme International Center and the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The focus in the trainings is on strengthening the capacity of civil society, especially young people who are active in politics or CSOs. Training covers, among other things, multiculturalism and ethnicity, democracy, freedom of expression and equality between women and minorities. At the same time, Finnish good practices are highlighted in the trainings. Local think tanks are responsible for the practical implementation of the political academies.

In addition, the project strengthens co-operation and networking between political think tanks in the Western Balkans. Political think tanks (independent and party-affiliated) are important bridge-builders in democracies between the political system, civil society and academia. By supporting the interaction between think tanks, we can promote the transfer of best practices from one country to another, for example in the fight against corruption, the inclusion of minorities and EU integration. This component will be implemented in cooperation with the Progres Institute in North Macedonia.

Camilla Lohenoja coordinates the democracy support at KSF.