Environmental degradation and climate change challenges remain a serious issue for Kosovo authorities while “air quality continues to pose a major threat to health”, found the European Commission in their 2020 Kosovo Report. To considerably step-up ambitions towards a green transition, Kosovo needs both political will and public pressure. The latter is on the increase according to UNDP Public Pulse Brief XX, but the public awareness on the right to live in a healthy environment and potential environmental threats is still below 50%, especially when it comes to the minority communities (below 35%).
In the region of Mitrovica however, the preservation of the environment requires another type of political will – the will to establish interethnic and institutional cooperation between the neighboring municipalities, especially those with different ethnic groups in the majority.
With this in mind, Reconciliation and Conflict Transformation (RCT) team organized a workshop with the members of the Cohesion Circle from seven municipalities of the region of Mitrovica to discuss the plans to mark Earth Day – how to do it, which message to send, who to engage.
“The air we breathe doesn’t know the ethnicity. All communities need clean air, and we all need to make the difference collectively, and this initiative is a good start”, said one of the members of the group, Fehmi Ferati.
His powerful statement resonated among other participants who agreed that action branded “Save the Planet” needed to reflect a unanimous message – that we need to act, and we can do a lot!
A young female activist Jovana Jaćimović also reflected on the importance of educating youth.
“Youth needs to be made aware through workshops that there are alternatives to products that are in everyday use and that cause less pollution – tote bags instead of plastic bags, refillable bottles, etc”.
Another young female with a passion to make a change, Nora Prekazi, stated that communities need events, platforms to share messages in peace and think about the consequences of living in polluted areas.
“A simple thing like a street concert would attract people to stop by and talk to us about making a change”.
Other ideas put forward by yet another female activist and a member of the Cohesion Circle, Mevlude Skuroshi, implied a long-term commitment. She shared concerns about the seriousness of “the environmental changes happening as we speak” and laid out the idea of creating a space for greenhouses and the production of seeds and different types of products that could be distributed to local communities and later on planted.
“This will have a catalytic effect and contribute to sustainable communities”, she believes.
Regardless of the individual ideas on what should be done, members of the Cohesion Circle agreed that institutions play important role in addressing environmental issues and have to be held accountable. For this same reason, the participants found it crucial to include local government representatives in the implementation of the action to mark Earth Day.