As my five years of service to UNDP Kosovo comes to a close, I have been frequently asked, “is Kosovo a better place than it was when you started?” To this, I can say yes. Over the past five years there have been improvements in local and central institutions, service delivery, economic development and job creation.
I am particularly proud of the work that we have achieved with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare through our Active Labour Market measures and programs. Over the past five years we have helped thousands of people through on-the-job training, wage subsidies, self-employment grants, and internship schemes. We have made a concerted effort to ensure that women are equally represented in these measures and programs, because ensuring economic independence or the ability to provide for ones family makes a huge difference in someones life.
With our partners at local and central level we have been able to improve access to justice - particularly for vulnerable communities - through increased awareness raising of peoples rights, mobile legal aid clinics, free legal aid, and empowering young people to become agents of change. We have supported the justice sector in battling corruption, drafting important anti-corruption legislation, creating online databases for asset registration, and training judges and prosecutors to the highest standards.
Through the Safety and Security project we have accompanied the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Kosovo Police in keeping the public safer. The establishment of the Firearms Focal Point is a first in the region and widely copies by Kosovo’s neighbours. Particularly the recent legalisation campaign has been a success in registering previously illegal weapons, ensuring that these weapons are accounted for.
A particular highlight is the work that we have been able to achieve in our cultural heritage activities. Numerous religious and cultural sites around Kosovo have been beautified, rehabilitated and renovated. We have supported fantastic initiatives like the preservation of filigree and more recently resurrecting an ancient wind instrument, the ocarina. Through these activities trust between communities is built, mutual tolerance, understanding, and respect is fostered.
Disaster resilience and response by municipalities and families through awareness raising, trainings and drills was improved. Additionally we have secured the physical safety of villages around Kosovo, ensuring that floods and heavy rains do not adversely affect peoples homes.
What has been very heartening to see most recently however is an increased focus on the environment and how we can protect it. In the last year we have led the charge in co-design, utilising the knowledge and enthusiasm of students and allowing them to create innovative solutions to some of the biggest problems facing our society, together with our sister organisations, as well as the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning.
There has been tremendous progress in Kosovo across many levels, and it would not have been possible without our partners. So as my five years comes to a close, I will look fondly back on the welcoming people, fantastic food and the desire and determination of people to make Kosovo a better place for everyone.