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RYCO reached over 31,000 young people and invested more than 7 million euros in exchange programs

The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) celebrates its 7th birthday

(Pristina, July 4) – The Regional Office for Youth Cooperation (RYCO) celebrates its 7th birthday. RYCO was established on 4 July 2016 by the governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia (known as the Western Balkans 6), within the framework of the Berlin Process. With a central office in Albania and local branches in Tirana, Sarajevo, Pristina, Podgorica, Skopje and Belgrade, RYCO is the only intergovernmental organization dealing with peace building, reconciliation and cooperation in the Western Balkans through youth exchange programs.

So far, RYCO has empowered more than 31,000 young people, investing over 7 million euros in youth exchange programs, at the regional and local level. RYCO has developed four open calls supporting around 240 civil society organizations and 115 schools. The new Open Call for Civil Society Organizations will be launched soon. Under the flagship project called Superschools, RYCO connected over 150 schools, 1000 students and 300 teachers across the region. Through the Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs (RISE) project, RYCO supported around 400 young entrepreneurs.

The impact of these numbers and efforts in the last seven years can be symbolically presented in a message sent by a Superschool exchange student between Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia.

"This exchange means a lot to me. It helped me break down the religious prejudices I had before attending. I was also afraid of language barriers. But, only 10 minutes after meeting my peers from Skopje, I realized that there are no differences between us. I believe that the friendships we have made will last for a long time," said Adna Oraščanin from the Center for Blind and Visually Impaired Children and Youth from Sarajevo.

RYCO is dedicated to the needs, concerns and dreams of the youth in BP6

In the BP6 region live more than 3,5 million young people aged 15 to 29, who make up over 20% of the total population. RYCO General Secretary Albert Hani states that RYCO has been committed to increasing understanding and unity by offering transformative programs that address their needs, concerns and dreams.

"Today we celebrate joining efforts to build bridges of friendship, break down barriers and empower the next generation to create a brighter European future for the Western Balkans. It is the continued belief in our mission that fuels our efforts, and our team looks forward to many more years of collaboration as we create a brighter future," says Mr. Eat.

The Deputy General Secretary of RYCO, Denis Piplaš, emphasized that young people are vital actors in building stable and peaceful societies.

*This determination does not prejudge the positions on the status and is in accordance with Resolution 1244 of the SC, of ​​the UN and the ICJ Opinion on the Declaration of Independence of Kosovo.

"Recognizing and supporting them is an essential step towards developing a cohesive and prosperous region. Building peace creates an environment where young people can thrive, have access to quality education, get employed and actively participate in decision-making processes," says Mr. Piplas.

Improving the position of young people at the local level

RYCO has a local branch in Kosovo, where they organize activities and implement projects on a daily basis.

Working together with youth organizations, governments, municipalities and international organizations, they have managed to improve the position of young people at the local level.

"The Local Branch of RYCO in Kosovo has served as a gateway to great opportunities for young people and their allies, promoting dialogue and reconciliation. For the past seven years, we have stood strong as a trusted partner, supporting individuals and organizations committed to reconciliation and peacebuilding. We understand the true value of peace, so we never underestimate it. This is why our mission goes beyond mere professionalism - it is a heartfelt commitment to envision a peaceful and harmonious region, with young leaders at the forefront of these transformative journeys", says Krenare Gashi-Krasniqi, Leader of the Local Office in Kosovo. .

Bringing young people together in educational, cultural, civic and social activities empowers them to share experiences, break down prejudices, explore other cultures, learn about each other and achieve personal fulfillment. Youth can bring about positive change and overcome the remnants of the past, but they need to be heard, valued, supported and empowered. RYCO will continue to work for this, as its slogan says: A better region starts with you(th).

If you would like to find out more about RYCO's activities and opportunities for young people, please visit the website www.rycowb.org.

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