Tirana was selected by a jury in 2019 to hold the title for 2022 with a programme focusing on economy and innovation, culture, capacity, participation, diversity, and European values. From over 2,000 proposals from individuals, NGOs, and non-formal groups, 360 were awarded, resulting in hundreds of events impacting some 40,000 youth, according to a Tirana Municipality report from June 2022. During the one year, youth had many opportunities to organize, connect and strengthen European identity.
About the main outcomes of the one-year-long activities, challenges and advantages of this manifestation for youth in Tirana, we spoke with Dafina Peci, Executive Director at National Youth Congress.
European Western Balkans: Is the EYC title a change maker in a Western Balkans city’s life?
Dafina Peci: Young people’s energy and potential is a change-maker. The EYC titled in Tirana proved this and raised new challenges and opportunities for us to keep up with young people’s energy and needs. Tirana is a vibrant city and has a lot to offer to youth, and youth on return have a lot to invest with their potential and offer to the city.
Through Tirana EYC 2022 title, the National Youth Congress placed young people’s concerns and needs in focus to enable them with open and safe spaces of direct engagement and participation at all levels and fields of the city life ranging from politics, to culture, activisim and nonformal education.
Because change starts to take shape when you invest in those that are the catalysists of this change to happen – youth.
We diversified our scope of work into eight programs which were consulted with youth and civil society organisations and stakeholders on the field: youth participation, capacity, innovation and entreprenurship, eco-health, youth spaces, culture, european identity and values, and diversity. These eight programs enabled us to tackle and address the most pressing priorities and needs of youth of Albania, and as a reward we saw youth taking the lead, and transforming these programs into concrete outputs and activities.
With the support of the European Youth Forum, which awards the title, and with partners coming from governmental organizations, civil society, business community, as well as the international community, we started a journey where concrete change is brought only by joining forces and letting youth take the lead as change-makers.
EWB: What are the main outcomes of the one-year-long activities?
DP: I would sum it up in three words: investments in the human capital. That is the main outcome out of a one-year-long dedicated work to reach out to all youth in society. Human capital allows the society to grow, leading to innovation, improved rates of participation at all levels, social well-being, and ultimately economic growth. We managed to turn Tirana into a meeting point for both national and international youth coming from all corners of the region and Europe, investing in shared experience, ideas and possibilities for new partnerships to flourish.
The activities that we organized were inclusive, diverse. They boosted youth participation as well as intergenerational dialogue and networking. We got together with people, institutions, media, organizations, businesses and diplomats, to find a common ground which is pro-active, looks towards the future, and uses the lenses of youth to perceive the reality we can shape together.
These have been the key stepping stones that will pave the way towards reaching new heights.
EWB: Did the title contribute to increasing the youth’s trust in the local institutions?
DP: Trust is build with consistency. Increasing youth participation and their involvement in the political sphere where major decisions of interest for youth are being taken has been part of the policy agenda of the National Youth Congress since our establishment.
Together with our partners we work consistently and persistently with the topic of institutional dialogue and cooperation on one side, and on political education and capacity building on the other side, with the main goal of activating, empowering and motivating youth to be active agents of policy-making and shaping in society.
Such efforts, and such involvement, will not only lead to increased trust, but to increased joined efforts on structural changes and improvements we can make for better, well-governed and democratic institutions.
EWB: What are the main challenges during the implementation of this Title?
DP: Scepticism turned into disbilief is one of the challenges you may encounter when the ambitions are high and the road towards them bumpy. But Tirana EYC 2022 at the end, proved to be a rewarding journey where some of the challenges were addressed and transformed into opportunities. Bringing all voices and opinions at the table is not always easy, but we worked to create spaces and avenues of engagement where all perspectives, voices, and opinions are heard, represented and included.
Finally, managing a granting scheme of 360 projects where youth organizations, non-formal groups, and individuals are granted projects covering our eight programmatic areas of work, was another challenge faced. At the same time, we were implementing around 90 flagship projects.
450 projects in a year, resulting with over a 1000 events and activities in eight different fields of work, have led to some intensive committments and dedication from all the team involved, as well as from partners and friends who trusted this journey, to conclude and maximize the objectives we set at the beginning of the year.
EWB: How do you plan to keep the momentum this year brought in the city?
DP: From the very beginning of this journey, we invested in ideas, actions and projects that we knew were going to bring a long-lasting impact and will continue to shape the city beyond 2022. For the year ahead, our team is committed and ready to build upon what we have achieved until now. We will continue strengthening our programmatic objectives by keeping shoulders to the wheel and involving youth not only as our target group of work at the National Youth Congress, but as our partners in bringing concrete positive change and impact in Albania.