It is with great pleasure that we write to you to announce some exciting updates regarding the Balkan Forum.
First, we are pleased to announce that Astrit Istrefi has joined the Balkan Forum as its new executive director. His twenty years working in the civil society sector includes experience in development and conflict-related issues in the Western Balkans, Central Asia, South Caucasus, Afghanistan, and the United States, along with an interest in Turkey and Ukraine.
Second, the Balkan Forum has been registered in Kosovo as a non-profit organization focusing on the Balkan region and led by a committed and expert board that includes Mr. Aleksandar Dedović, Ms. Erisa Shoshi, Mr. Haris Pašović, Mr. Henry Smith, Ms. Konstantina Zoehrer, Ms. Marijana Toma, Ms. Marika Theros, and Mr. Rade Rajkovcevski.
Third, the Balkan Forum has been in the process of developing a digital platform that will work to identify experts from all sectors, explore the potential of regional collaboration, and celebrate the richness of diversity to tell the human stories of people living across the region, with the goal of enhancing debate and collaboration among communities, civil society, the private sector, and governments. The Balkan Forum has recently been equipped with human resource and technical capabilities—including equipment for recording and editing and space for virtual work to take place—and is developing applications that can be used on all devices that support iOS and Android operating systems. The digital platform will also serve as a repository for documents and an online advocacy hub for improving information provision and awareness. It will showcase positive examples of cooperation and provide a platform for interaction and networking between stakeholders across the region, including by organizing webinars on selected topics.
The Balkan Forum was established in 2012 with the goal of creating a shared vision for the Balkans region based on economic integration, prosperity, and sustainable peace. In 2013 and 2015, the Balkan Forum gathered diverse stakeholders and leaders from civil society, the private sector, academia, and government from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia in Thessaloniki, Greece. These meetings sought to generate ideas and innovative strategies to deepen regional collaboration, catalyze economic development, and promote a green, resource efficient region by drawing on the region’s strengths and each country’s comparative advantages. Its work centers on four interconnected thematic areas that were identified at the first regional meeting: regional educational approaches; human capital and labor markets; energy, environment, and economic development; and tourism and infrastructure development.
The Balkan Forum will continue its commitment to foster a growing network of institutions, individuals and organizations that will collaborate across borders and sectors to pursue shared regional development goals and to develop innovative solutions to shared regional problems. It will help transform the Balkans into a unified force poised to act on the European and global stages and to tackle modern day challenges.
For more information, please visit the Balkan Forum’s new website www.thebalkanforum.org.
We greatly welcome your continued partnership in advancing a vision of regional collaboration and joint development for the Balkans. Thank you for being involved in this initiative since its early days.