Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) in Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina
Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) is a regional non-governmental organisation with programmes in the territories of Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. YIHR was formed by young people from these countries in order to enhance youth participation in democratisation of the society and empowerment of the rule of law by driving processes of facing the past and establishing new progressive connections in the post-conflict region of the former Yugoslavia. YIHR was established in 2003. More than 30 people work on it's various projects on a daily basis, while several hundred volunteers participate in the organisation's activities.
YIHR's mission is to provide protection for the victims of violations of human rights, establish new connections between the post-war generations and enhance the participation of youth in the processes of transitional justice by promoting the truth about the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The Youth Initiative for Human Rights promotes the truth, justice, peace and equality as its core values.
Youth Initiative for Human Rights operates offices in Belgrade, Pristina, Podgorica and Sarajevo, with three local offices in Serbia based in Kragujevac, Niš and Novi Sad.
YIHR's programme in Serbia is focused on creating the conditions in which justice can be obtained before domestic courts for war crimes in the region, as well as before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), informing of the public about court proceedings and the work of ICTY, and conducting public debates on prejudice against the decisions of ICTY, especially at a local level, in the towns and villages across Serbia.
A special aspect of YIHR's programme introduces young people to the truth about human rights violations directly through the testimony of victims. The "Justice Advocates Network" represents an important element in YIHR's youth education programme, advocating justice and rule of law in local communities, promoting mechanisms and strategies for facing the past, and educating young people the facts about the recent past and the important role of the ICTY and its activities in establishing those facts. The Human rights protection programme implemented by the Belgrade office includes monitoring transitional laws and creating the case law in the fields of free access to information of public interest, hate speech and discrimination. YIHR's local offices in Novi Sad, Niš and Kragujevac address the education of young people about the past, civic activism and participation in social life of Serbia at a local level. In Serbia and Kosovo, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights organises meetings for journalists with the political leaders, representatives of civil society and the media, in attempts to bring journalists closer to relevant information sources and help them include "the other side" in their reporting. Further, YIHR's Visiting programme connects young people from Serbia and Kosovo, meeting young people with their peers, social activists decision makers, providing ground to initiate common projects.
YIHR's human rights programme in Kosovo aims to protect the victims of human rights violations and establishment of the rule of justice in Kosovo by monitoring the implementation of the Anti-discrimination Law and the Law on Access to Official Documents. An important aspect of YIHR's work in this field is to inform decision makers in institutions and the international community of the reality of the human rights situation on the ground. The Kosovo programme further focuses on advancing the capacities and participation of youth in public life, and on building bridges between young people that live in Kosovo. At a regional level the programme is concerned with establishing connections and cooperation between young people and journalists from Serbia and Kosovo.
In cooperation with KUMT Consulting, the Kosovo office has established the multimedia Media Centre, providing a media and public relations services. Media Centre aims to become the key element in media and communication infrastructure in Kosovo, professionally reporting on political, economic and cultural events.
YIHR's Sarajewo office is focused on building trust between young people in divided communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on regional exchange programmes aiming to establish new connections between youth in the region. YIHR has, since its inception, connected the victims of the Bosnian War with the youth in Serbia, building trust and promoting truth-telling as a model of transitional justice. In 2007, the Bosnia Youth Trust Project (BYTP) will be launched. This project will furter stimulate confidence building among youth from different ethnic groups with the aim of creating a sustainable activists' network across Bosnia and Hercegovina. In BiH, YIHR pays particular attention to sexual and gender minorities and, in cooperation with local partners, develops capacities to promote the rights of the LGBTIQ community.
YIHR's Montenegro office was opened in 2006, in order to pursue its broader methodology of a regional approach to underlying social issues. With the support of the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the programme in Montenegro deals with the development of the rule of law, justice, protection for victims of human rights violations and their legal representation before the courts, analysis of the human rights situation and establishing closer cooperation between non-governmental human rights organisations. YIHR insists on creating connections between young people in the region and on their active participation in the decision making processes that influence, inter alia, their future. YIHR plans to open two local offices in Montenegro; in 2007 – in Pljevlje and in Ulcinj – in order to more effectively pursue the protection of human rights and bring its activities closer to citizens in their local environments.
The regional office of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights coordinates YIHRs programmes in Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The office coordinates large-scale initiatives aimed at crucial political changes in the Balkans. Additionally the office focuses on the development of the organisation, innovative programmes that should ensure sustainability of the organisation, and the provision of support to local organisations deploying programmes consistent with YIHR's core values and goals. Through the Balkan Foundation, the regional office gives small grants.