Monthly Archives: April 2013

Balkans Peace Program: International students learn about Kosovo and the region

Dedication and commitment have been two key characteristics of the foundation upon which Faton Bislimi has built both his personality and career. Throughout high school, Faton was active with various student organizations and math competitions. In early 2000’s after the war in Kosovo, Faton organized a group of high school students to represent Kosovo at two international Model UN conference, one at the William and Mary College and the other at Harvard University. This was the first time that Kosovo students, as a group, participated in a Model UN conference.

In 2002, Faton moved to the United States and started his studies on a full scholarship at Texas Lutheran University (TLU). He double majored in Computer Science and Math, graduating summa cum laude (top honors) with degrees in Computer Science and Math. At TLU, Faton showed excellence in studying and extracurricular activities. He served as a student ambassador, student senator, and tutor. After graduating from TLU, Faton embarked on a more challenging but also rewarding educational project. He moved to Cambridge, MA to pursue his Masters in International Development and Public Administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.Among the Albanian diaspora in the US and Canada, Faton is well known for his dedication and commitment to helping his native land. While in the US, Faton was instrumental in re-organizing and re-energizing the Albanian-American communities in the Houston and San Antonio areas. He also worked closely with the Albanian American Civic League (New York) and served as an intern on Balkans affairs for the Ranking Member Tom Lantos office of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. As a board member of the AACL, Faton was in charge of organizing the Petition for Kosova’s Independence in 2006 which gathered over hundreds of thousands of signatures across Kosovo.

Faton also has a very strong humanitarian passion for quality education. In 2006, he founded The Bislimi Group Foundation, which through its Education for Peace Scholarship Program has enabled 12 deserving Kosovar students to study on scholarships at two US universities. Apart from this program, Faton’s foundation has been engaged on a number of other educational projects that link and Kosovo and the US and Canada. Since 2012, The Bislimi Group Foundation has implemented the Balkans Peace Program, which brings foreign students to Kosovo on a summer course revolving around international development and post conflict studies. Recently, a book edited by Faton came out of the press, in which the true story of Kosovo and its people is told from the perspective of foreign students that participated in Faton’s foundation Balkans Peace Program in 2012.

In the fall of 2009, Faton moved to Canada to pursue his academic interests in political science. In 2010, he obtained an MA in International Relations from Dalhousie University, where he also served as a Centre for Foreign Policy Studies research fellow and was doctoral fellow of the EU Centre of Excellence. Currently, he serves as a Senior Fellow at the Kosovo Public Policy Center and is pursuing his PhD studies in Political Science at the University of Alberta. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta with his wife Nora and daughter Fiona. However, Faton continues to believe in his homeland and wants to return to it once again.

Diaspora Seminar in Prishtina: Bringing the Diaspora closer to home

On March 29th and 30th, Diaspora for Development held a conference in Pristina about the Diaspora-representation in decision-making processes. The second meeting was held in order to discuss options for improving information flows and communication between the Diaspora and Kosovo, the home country.

These two days served to deepen the debate between the Kosovo society, local institutions, including the Kosovo government, its legislation and media. The goal was to find better ways of representing the Diaspora in decision-making processes in Kosovo, both on a local and national level.

The Institute for Management and Development (IMD) instructed the Kosovar Agency of Professional Journalists ( AGPK) and Albinfo (Information portal of the Kosovo Diaspora in Switzerland) to conduct the study “Improving communication and information flows between Kosovo and its Diaspora”. The AGKP analyzed the formal and informal communication channels between Kosovo and the Diaspora. It also prepared a presentation on how other countries communicate with their diaspora.

About 40 people joined the conference on March 29.,, Alba Radio (Switzerland), and others represented the Diaspora. A representative of the Ministry of Diaspora was there as well, including the media such as the RTK, RTV 21, Bota Sot, Zeri. 

The results of this study were presented in the seminar, which took place the following day on March 30. 55 People took part in the seminar: Diaspora members such as the Albanian members of parliament in Switzerland Ylfete Fanaj, representatives from Belgium, Finland, Turkey, the United States, and others. The Minister of the Ministry of Diaspora was present, and representatives of various Kosovo political parties (PDK, AAK, AKR, Vetevendosje). Relevant institutions, such as non-governmental organizations were there as well.

As a result of the meetings all parties will work on establishing the Diaspora as a powerful element for decision-making processes in Kosovo. The parties agreed that the Kosovo Diaspora needs a greater number of representatives in Kosovo’s parliament. These representatives, who will also be representatives of Kosovo minorities, will enjoy reserved seats. Hence, taking part in elections is an equally important aspect of Kosovo’s relationship with its large Diaspora. It also became clear that, within the framework of constitutional amendments, the Diaspora’s role in Kosovo’s parliament needs to be defined in more detail.

Conclusions and Recommendations (Click here to see longer version of the results).

  1. Create a parliamentary commission for the Diaspora
  2. Create a register for the Diaspora, in order to be able to count the Diaspora members and give them the right to vote
  3. Provide a list of candidates especially for the Diaspora
  4. The elections may take place via diplomatic missions and consular sections
  5. Undertake necessary changes in the constitution and the voting legislation
  6. An existing mutual will to remain in a political relationship
  7. Establish an inclusive Council of the Diaspora from around the world, as a point of reference for the rights and interests of the Diaspora as well as better links between them and the home country 
  8. Create channels for feedback and criticism for the Diaspora in order to lobby for political representation
  9. Prioritize communication, information sharing and transparency for policies that concern the Diaspora
  10. Determine the number of seats in the Parliament based on the electoral list participation
  11. Clarify criteria concerning representation/ number of qualified voters
  12. Reserve seats in the Parliament for the diaspora: up to 6 seats, of which 4 seats are distributed via direct voting by the Diaspora
  13. Change in the Diaspora legislation: reforming the Ministry of Diaspora
  14. Intensify formal communications with the Diaspora: identify Diaspora’s needs regarding a better representation
  15. Establish a transnational counsel with representatives of the Diaspora from all over the world, in order to take concrete steps towards the voting procedure, representation, number of representatives, allocation of counselors from the Ministry of Diaspora in each country that hosts Kosovar Diaspora members
  16. A concrete agenda where to hold gatherings of the representatives, transnational counselors, institutional counselors and political parties

Those information were provided by Diaspora for Development; particularly by Elbasan Morina and Rudina Heroi. The article was prepared by Albina Makolli.