Youth Initiative for Human Rights and Franco-German Youth Office (OFAJ/ DFJW), with support of the Embassy of France and Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, organized the first Open Space Conference dedicated to the Regional Youth Cooperation Office of the Western Balkans (RYCO) at French Institute in Belgrade on January 23rd, 2017. Twenty young people from Serbia who participated in the Open Space Conference had a chance to discuss, suggest and debate in non-formal atmosphere about the work of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office.

During the first part of the conference, participants suggested 13 discussion topics and then they were divided into groups where they discussed those topics, mostly speaking about the promotion of the RYCO, connecting young people through entrepreneurship, educating them about war past, similarities and differences in comparison with already existing ERASMUS+ projects, as well as potential donors of RYCO. Next, participants voted for the six topics which were further discussed.

The conclusions of the group work of young people from Serbia were presented at the Goethe Institute at the panel discussion organized by French and German Embassy on occasion of 54th anniversary of Élysée Treaty which was signed with aim to contribute to the reconciliation between these two countries. During this discussion Christine Moro (Ambassador of France), Axel Dittmann (Ambassador of Federal Republic of Germany), Snežana Klašnja (Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports) and Milica Škiljević (Youth Representative of the Governing Board of RYCO) discussed about the Franco-German Youth Office as an inspiration for establishing Regional Youth Cooperation Office of the Western Balkans.


This discussion was followed by the presentation of the participants of the Open Space Conference with recommendations concerning the work of RYCO. The first group which dealt with the role of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office in the reconciliation process concluded that the Regional Office, together with the RECOM[1], in future should work on education of young people about the events from past. The second group dealt with regional cooperation through entrepreneurship, and they concluded that we need to endorse entrepreneurial spirit of young people through the exchange of information, ideas and skills. The third group discussed the insufficient mobility of young people in the Western Balkans. They concluded that RYCO could look up to successful practices of other mobility programs such as Erasmus+ in order to increase the mobility in the region. The fourth group talked about the promotion of RYCO, saying that not enough has been done in this regard and that we must use media and other forms of promotion in order to make RYCO closer to its beneficiaries. The fifth group tackled the question of informal education and its recognition and promotion by official educational institutions explaining that it should be one of the topics RYCO should deal with. Finally, the sixth group discussed the financing of RYCO and concluded that, besides states, private companies should also be encouraged not only to donate but also to become active partners of the Regional Office.

Recommendations which young people, as RYCO friends, created at the Open Space Conference will be presented to the Governing Board of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office of the Western Balkans, while in following period young people all across the region will also have a chance to participate in similar conferences.

[1] RECOM stands for a regional commission for the establishment of facts about war crimes and other serious violations of human rights committed in the former Yugoslavia from January 1, 1991 until December 31, 2001.