What we do
Kosovo Foundation for Open Society awards grants and implements its own projects with the aim of building an inclusive society and a vibrant democracy in Kosovo. At the moment, the Foundation’s work focuses on four main programmatic themes.
While in the past the Foundation has worked with grassroots activists and think-tanks to expose malpractice and corruption that led to environmental degradation, currently the program seeks to advocate for a coal-free future, unveil fraudulent investment schemes in the hydropower sector, and for Kosovo to adopt strategic goals aligned with the European Green Deal.
There are many reasons to believe that by promoting and exploiting its coal potential, Kosovo, which is the richest country in the world per capita in terms of lignite, may contribute to the effects of global warming. Harvesting and burning lignite is a capital-intensive undertaking, and – beyond its environmental impact – exacts a heavy price in terms of land use, demographic movements, settlement relocation, water consumption, and arable land degradation. Furthermore, it is widely believed that intensive capital investments in the coal industry are ripe for massive corruption.
On the other hand, it is widely proven that net benefits of small hydro power plants, especially in countries that lack water resources, like Kosovo, are far lower than the damage they cause to the environment, endangering natural recourses and biodiversity, and causing permanent damage to watercourses. Encouraged by the success of the anti-corruption coalition’s actions, which were an integral part of the foundation’s work in the past strategic cycle, the foundation will bring together important partners that have demonstrated capabilities of combating the phenomenon that endangers the environmental perspective of the country. Prominent partners in anti-corruption efforts and grassroots environmental activists will come together in an informal partnership to advocate against the expansion of large fossil-based energy capacities and hydro-power plants that deplete natural resources and affect surrounding settlements and for the development of a clean energy sector.
With the initiative of the Foundation, in February of 2018, nine civil society organizations came together to establish Pro Open, the coalition for open data and accountability in public procurement.
Since the establishment of self-governing institutions in Kosovo, public procurement has been and remains a green field for corruption, despite efforts to regulate this sector with a sound legal framework, based on European legislation.
The continuous interventions of interest groups often connected to political parties have violated all initiatives for reform in public procurement in Kosovo and any effective enforcement of laws.
Despite many projects of technical assistance to Kosovo institutions from donors and continuous efforts to regulate this sensitive sector in Kosovo, corruption remains pervasive. This situation has affected the poor quality of services offered to citizens, the empowerment of companies who pay bribes and the enrichment of public officials who influence granting and management of public contracts. Throughout this period, there was a lack of a structured cooperation between media and civil society, both of which should keep the pressure on public officials through informing the public opinion regarding problems in public procurement.
But such a public pressure cannot be exerted without the governme t opening its data, one of the fundamental elements that would increase transparency.
In light of this context and with the aim of exposing and fighting corruption in the public procurement sector, nine organizations including the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, The Kosovo Democratic Institute, KDI, the Anti-Corruption Organization Çohu, Riinvest Institute, FOL movement, Initiative for Progress, Ec Ma Ndryshe, Columbus Institute and Democracy Plus, decided to join forces.
In 2019, the coalition Pro Open became a member of the international network Publish What You Pay.
Kosovo Serb community have faced a slew of socio-political challenges in the past twenty years, ranging from institutional and social isolation to organized crime and economic deprivation. These challenges are particularly visible in the, geographically detached, north Kosovo that over the time grew into a stronghold of authoritarian single party regime, an environment not conducive to healthy political and social life.
Many recent developments such as the Brussels dialogue process increased the political pressure, sided civil society organization and fostered a general perception that Serb citizens are largely excluded from decision making process. Consequently, an already-closed society is further stifled by a prevailing atmosphere that is prohibitive to open and vigorous debate on issues relevant to local communities.
Aiming to address some of these issues the Foundation developed threefold approach in fostering civic initiatives, promoting a culture of open dialogue on relevant questions concerning citizens and advocating the desired changes through supporting the increase role of civil society. To accomplish that objective Foundation focused on (1) providing space for civic activism and its promotion through Civic Energy Centers (CEC) established in North Mitrovica (2014) and Gracanica (2019), (2) supporting autochthonous research and evidence based advocacy through “Open” platform, and (3) backing up the public discussion between Kosovo Serbs and Albanians though TV and web talk show “SporaZoom” (Agreement) and through it contributing to public advocacy efforts and uprising the dialog between these two communities.
Considering political dynamics within Serb community in Kosovo, particularly Kosovo-Serbia dialog, means that the need for discussion and coordination between civil society actors of Serb community and other communities in Kosovo is greater and more important than ever in the fights for open civic space.
”Democracy, Openness and Prospects of the Serb Community in Kosovo – Open” is a new initiative of the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society (KFOS), initiated in 2020. Open is realized in cooperation with nine civil-society organizations that are active in the Serb community in Kosovo.
A general objective of this new initiative is development of an open and dynamic space for discussion within the Serb community and between the Serb and other communities, as well as among institutions in Kosovo.
- The initiative will specifically be engaged in the analysis and estimate of the impact of civil-society and political organizations on the implementation of democratic principles and openness of the Serb community in Kosovo.
- Implementation of democratic standards and the openness of institutions, public policies, and important processes in their relations with the Serb community in Kosovo will be analyzed and estimated, as well a degree of openness of the Serbian community towards them.
- These analyses will assist in understanding the current position and prospects of the Serbian community in Kosovo, serving at the same time as a basis of their argumented advocacy among citizens, institutions, local and central authorities, and the international community.
Experienced and established civil-society organizations will make eight (8) sectoral analyses with the purpose of meeting general and specific objectives.
The areas analyzed by our partners in 2020 are as follows:
Media – To what extent media in the Serbian language in Kosovo have an impact on the degree of openness, possibility to hear and pluralism of opinions and topics? This area is researched by Medija centar and Crno-beli svet.
Civil society – How civil-society organizations give their contribution to openness and principles of democracy of the Serbian community and generally of Kosovo society? Nova društvena inicijativa and Forum za razvoj i multietničku saradnju are dealing with this topic.
Political parties – Observance of democratic principles and pluralist activism of political parties of the Kosovo Serbs, as well as their openness to participate in the political system of Kosovo and give their contribution to the improvement of public policies. These issues are in the focus of Nova društvena inicijativa and Medija centar.
Responsibility of institutions – Better understanding of the position of the Serbian community in Kosovo by observing the openness of the institutions to address the problems of the Serbs. This analysis is made by Crno Beli Svet and Forum za razvoj i multietničku saradnju.
Security – How the feeling of security affects the openness of the Serbian community to Kosovo security institutions? The answer to this question is sought by Humani centar Mitrovica.
Economics – To what extent are business entities from the communities with Serbian majority open to be integrated in the economy of Kosovo? This area is analyzed by Institut za teritorijalni ekonomski razvoj (InTER).
Rights of minorities – How to get to a more open society through pointing out to the gaps in the implementation of the rights of minorities? This topic is dealt with by NVO Aktiv and Centar za prava manjinskih zajednica.
Process of dialogue and normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia – To which extent and which positions of the community of the Kosovo Serbs are represented relating to the impact on and future of the process? NVO Aktiv and Forum za razvoj i međuetničku saradnju are dealing with this issue.
These sectoral analyses will be included in a publication with consolidated findings of all analyses and positions of the public opinion by the analyzed areas.
In addition to the sectoral analyses and publication of consolidated findings being the primary deliverables of the Open Initiative and a basis for an argumented discussion and advocacy, a series of articles by genuine experts in current socio-political issues and processes in Kosovo, the region and Europe will be published within the Initiative and in collaboration with RTV Kim, https://www.radiokim.net/. These articles will offer to the reading audience in insight into different opinions, thus improving the open discussion, as well as pluralism of views.
One of the four main goals of the Foundation is to depoliticize and reform Kosovo’s corrupt higher education sector, both as an end in itself, and as a high profile example of challenging impunity.
In early 2014, the foundation witnessed the power that engaged citizens can have to bring about change in higher education. After days of student-led protests against the University of Prishtina’s corrupt rector, the University Board succumbed to popular demand and replaced him with a reputable successor. Civil society helped select the new rector, who had a reputation as a champion reformer. But he was immediately resisted by the cartels, and finally resigned in 2016. Whereas this civic momentum should have been channeled into robust calls for systemic reform, it instead evaporated. The foundation plans to re-ignite the flame. To initiate this campaign, the foundation will:
1. Invigorate this issue through sustained think tank and investigative journalist analyses and through a series of televised talk show debates, policy forums and multimedia platforms, including Forum 2015 and Open 333;
2. Through civic partners, convene, empower and mobilize various constituencies with a particular interest in higher education reform, including non-political student groups, alumni associations, parents, and businesses/chambers of commerce which suffer because of the poor skills transfer. The foundation will help position these groups to use the investigative analyses for energizing broader segments of the country’s voting block; indeed, almost every family has children in, or about to enter, higher education. Building on the success of the recent student protests, the foundation will seek to leverage specific cases of wrongdoing to initiate broader change. The 2014 protests highlighted the tendency of citizens to engage far more effectively around a concrete issue than a set of values.
The Coalition for Integrity and Transparency in the University was founded in 2017 by multiple civil socierty organizations in Kosovo to fight academic corruption and lack of integrity in one of the most important sectors in the country.
At the time, organizations that were focused on reforming the education sector, considered the lack of integrity in higher education as an obstacle to the development of this sector and for it to catch up with other European countries.
When they formed a colalition, these organizations signed a statement expressing their opposition to political and clan interferences, academic corruptions, illegal employments and promotions, plagiarism and fraud, which were only some of the phenomena that had devalued the University of Prishtina and its historic contribution to the development of Kosovo, and had thwarted the young generations from their right to a quality education.
“Aware of the importance that the University of Prishtina has regarding the development of Kosovo and considering the readiness of Kosovo citizens to come to the defense of this institutions, we the founding organizations have decided to join our efforts to reclaim the public’s trust in the University,” reads the founding declaration of KITU.
Today, KITU is actively engaged in monitoring higher education, and advocating for academic and ethical standards to be respected in higher education institutions throughout Kosovo. Continuously, member organizations call for transparency and accountability on all levels and institutions of education, including independent agencies, regional and private universities.
Furthermore, in the past four years KITU’s work has expanded into engaging and empowering student groups to become a driving force for reform within educational institutions.
KITU’s members are: the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society, Kosovo Education Center (KEC), the Organization for Improvement of Quality in Education (ORCA), the Center for Political Courage (CPC), Çohu, Democracy for Development, and NGO Admovere.
For the past two decades, the prospect of EU membership has fueled reform, democratization and development in the Western Balkans. In Kosovo, this perspective served as a unifying force to push for domestic reforms, and the integration of the country into regional initiatives intending to deepen ties in a divided region.
However, unlike its neighbors, Kosovo continues to have an ambiguous relationship with the EU as five of its member states do not recognize its independence. The political barriers have also damaged normal relations between Kosovo and these countries, as well as the communication between their respective societies. Meanwhile, on a regional level, relations with the two non-recognizing neighbors, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina remain difficult.
To tackle issues that affect Kosovo’s European perspective both on an international and a regional level the Foundation currently focuses its work on three areas: a) supporting original research and advocacy through the Kosovo Research and Analysis Fellowship (KRAF); b) supporting and fostering civil society initiatives that incorporate a regional perspective and advocate deeper regional collaboration among Western Balkans countries; and c) supporting civil society advocacy and monitoring of EU reform in the country.
Much of our current work is informed and built on previous experience that the Foundation has garnered in the past two decades working with other foundations in the OSF network, partners in Europe and the region, as well as individual collaborators.
Considering shifting political developments in the Balkans, the Foundation will continue to build on this work with a flexible approach to support initiatives that counteract divisiveness in the region. Particular focus will be placed on initiatives promoting further economic cooperation and integration, maintaining and supporting the EU perspective for the country and the region.