Ambassador Dell Remarks at the Ceremony of Signing Grants to Civil Society
As-Delivered, May 4, 2012
Good morning. It is my great pleasure to be here with you today to kick off eight initiatives that will advance the position of Kosovo’s minority communities, especially in northern Kosovo.
The eight grants we are awarding today will help address concerns you have identified in your municipalities, ranging from the integration of returnees in Istok, to women’s rights and employment opportunities in Mitrovica, to youth engagement in Gracanica.
The importance of these projects is not limited just to the dollar amount, to the 100,000 US dollars or the 80,000 euros that Lee spoke of. The importance of this I think is much deeper. The importance of this is the methods used and what this represents about democracy. These are not top-down-driven projects. This is not someone in Belgrade or Pristina or anywhere else telling the communities what they need. These projects are developed in cooperation with the community, responding to the concerns of the community, and addressing what local citizens have identified as necessary to improve their lives.
This governs our whole approach to cooperation with and outreach in the north. It is often said that there is nobody to work with in the north except the parallel structures. I think this ceremony today underscores just how false that assertion is. Not only to these organizations to which we are awarding grants, but also to dozens of other community leaders who have shown a willingness to engage on behalf of their communities, working for their fellow citizens, defining ways to make life better for them.
Your organizations, like so many groups and individuals in Kosovo, want a better life for your families and your communities. You want people to find employment, for children to have opportunities to play sports, for the disabled to be fully respected.
These eight grants are part of our ongoing support to minority civil society organizations. Today we are awarding over $100,000 and we plan on awarding more grants in the future. We invest in civil society organizations, like yours, because we believe that civil society is a crucial element to building a multi-ethnic, tolerant, and democratic Kosovo.
We hope that not only will the projects being funded today be useful to your communities, but also that bringing together civil society organizations and government representatives will help strengthen the ability of non-majority communities to advocate effectively for their interests.
I am particularly pleased to be awarding six grants to organizations from northern Kosovo. We need community leaders like you to build a better life for northern Kosovo. We need leaders like you to respond to citizens’ concerns, unlike the so-called leaders of the north who rely on fear and intimidation to maintain their positions. We need leaders like you to promote positive change in your communities rather than keeping your region stuck in the past.
I know that your work is not easy, and that there is much to be done. But I believe that we see progress nearly every day toward a truly multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo. On Sunday, we will see in action another sign of the Government of Kosovo’s commitment to respect the rights of dual citizens living here.
The Government’s willingness to let the OSCE facilitate voting in the Serbian parliamentary and presidential elections this weekend underscores its desire for improved neighborly relationships and commitment to European standards.
Finally, the OSCE’s facilitation role has been agreed to in a way that does not violate the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Kosovo. And I would like to thank and commend the OSCE for its willingness to undertake this effort and I call upon all citizens of this country to make sure that Sunday passes peacefully and quietly as a day that strengthens mutual tolerance and respect for democratic principles.
I would also again like to commend you—for taking a leadership role in your communities, for identifying needs of your fellow citizens, and for taking action to meet those concerns. Congratulations and best of luck.