Many young people across Southeast Europe face an array of challenges as they move into adulthood.
Across the region, unemployment is high. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the youth unemployment rate stands at 58 percent, which is four times the EU average. In Kosovo, 60 percent of the population is under the age of 26, and many of those say they feel they have no choice but to leave the country in order to achieve their goals.
To help in the transition to adulthood, the World Bank and the Italian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation created the Social Development Initiative for Southeast Europe II. The initiative ran from 2007 to 2013; its goal was to help young people in the region move towards jobs and stability. This task is particularly important after the disruptions caused by the wars of the 1990s.
“Young people were those who could tip the progress of peace or set it back because they were both the victims of violence but also the perpetrators to some extent, and at the same time they are great assets for the future of their communities,” says Gloria La Cava, of the World Bank Group, who worked on the initiative in its early stages. The initiative’s focus is on helping southeast Europe’s young people transition to work and citizenship. It also works on the inclusion of ethnic minorities, the disabled, and the disenfranchised in the region.
“It is very important that youth proposals, youth issues, youth ideas become part of the public and political agenda,” says Marco Zecchinato, a former representative of the Italian Development Cooperation Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina.