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Diaspora – Kosovo’s secret weapon

What is Diaspora’s contribution in Kosovo?

Kosovars living abroad are estimated to be circa 800,000, which is equal to around 45% (almost half) of all citizens living in the country. Kosovo’s Diaspora is very generous; in 2015 alone, it sent over 750 million Euro (remittances) to Kosovo. This amount is about 2.5 times higher than foreign direct investments, and about 17% of the Gross Domestic Product for the same year. This money is usually used to mitigate poverty of their relatives in Kosovo; for clothes, food, building houses, cars, etc. Despite of thier contribution to Kosovo, Diaspora feels underrepresented. It needs further strengthening and  opportunities to be part of decision-making processes in the country.

How are Diaspora’s money spent and how can they be spent better?

Is this the best possible way concerning spending of Diaspora’s money? Apart from fulfilling basic needs, a part of remittances and other money Diaspora saves could be channeled towards investments in the entrepreneurship sector in Kosovo – opening new businesses. This would impact the empowerment of Kosovars living within the country and would create the conditions for a more qualitative economic growth, which would reflect in decreasing unemployment that is the biggest challenge in the country. This would also present a very good chance for Diaspora; in addition to the feeling of contributing to their country, such an investment would present an ideal opportunity for favorable return from investments. It is crucial that the decision to invest in Kosovo is driven by rational business reasoning and not emotional impulse.

How should Kosovo approach Diaspora?

Diaspora should not be seen solely as financing resource, but also as a development partner and participant in the decision-making process. As a key contributor, Diaspora should be given bigger space and to enable it to be part of various state building processes. A very important issue for them is the issue of representation in the Kosovo Assembly.  Croatia and France, which allocate 3-4% of the national assembly seats for diaspora representatives, could serve as examples for Kosovo to implement a similar practice. Kosovo’s Ministry of Diaspora has proposed allocation of seats for Diaspora, but this has yet to be implemented. Government of Kosovo should treat Diaspora with a special care and create favorable conditions to be a part of these processes.

What is being done and what more can be done for the Diaspora?

How can tangible results be achieved in this regard? There have been some initiatives taken recently by civil society. DiasporaFlet.org was launched in November and provides a platform for networking between Albanian Diaspora organization, listening to their needs and expressing opinions. In addition, the Albanian Diaspora businesses network has been created. During the frequent contact with Diaspora members, an extraordinary huge interest for engagement was noticed. Their vast majority are interested in contributing through donations in various sectors in Kosovo. However, it remains to have better conditions created to open business so both parties can benefit – investors (Diaspora) and Kosovars within the country, namely to create a win-win plan. By playing this role, it is thought to achieve a bigger empowerment of Diaspora in a near future, and the country to benefit more.

Diaspora members may or may not plan  to return to their homeland; however, one thing is sure, they all want to help their country of birth in creating positive changes, either through remittances, investments, exchange of skills and experiences, etc. Kosovo has a very qualified Diaspora living worldwide and creation of mechanisms for contributing to the birthplace would help a lot the increase of prosperity in the country. Including Diaspora in policy making, utilizing their skills and experiences would play a key role to the needed changes for the benefit of the country.

What initiatives could be taken to enable Diaspora contributing more in Kosovo in the short-term period?

What could be done in this regard? There are many ways for Diaspora engagement; we are mentioning some concrete ones: creation of conditions to start businesses that would bring together local entrepreneurs with co-finances from Diaspora; creation of diverse programs (e.g. doctors) to help local institutions; bringing academics to Kosovo to lecture/work as part of the efforts for “brain gain” to Kosovo; creation of groups for professionals networking who operate abroad and within Kosovo. These are only few options, whereas the opportunities to utilize the Diaspora potential in function of developing the country are bigger than this. Kosovars are very proud of Diaspora and the successes they achieved in the countries where they live, in diverse areas: art, music, sports, etc. Thus, more should be done to utilize these in Kosovo’s benefit.

Who should be the key players to lead these changes? No doubts, the biggest role in this aspect falls with the Government of Kosovo, Ministry of Diaspora in particular as the responsible body for listening to the Diaspora demands and recommend to the Government on necessary changes in respective ministries. Additionally, the Civil Society Organizations in the motherland as well as Diaspora should play an important role.

Switzerland is home to hundreds of thousands of Albanians from Kosovo who fled the country during the 90s. Many of them left at an early age, and they have grown up to become vital members of the Swiss society. Such is the story of Besar Rexhepaj from Mrasor, Rahovec. Besar, left Kosovo at the age of seven and today, at the age of 27, has already made a name for himself within the business realm. Besar is proof that hard work and commitment to community service are imperative to the creative process and economic growth.

Besar, who has a natural affinity for business, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Applied Sciences in Thun. He spent his initial years as a young professional working for a Swiss education company. Later, he founded innobus GmbH, a business consultancy. As part of this company, Besar advises small and medium enterprises on founding and management, putting his education to good use. However, innobus GmbH is not the only thing that keeps Besar busy.

This past year Besar co-founded Lority, a leading network that specializes on ethnic entrepreneurship in the German-speaking areas of Europe. Lority is his baby. He has big plans for the company and what we see now, is just the beginning. Lority’s marketing efforts focus on developing and strengthening business communities from culturally diverse backgrounds. They offer customized marketing and communication services for for-profit organizations. Lority believes in diversity of ethnicity, lifestyles and mentalities, and in collective support. Their goal is to help individual organizations. They do so by encouraging and fostering business relationships across communities by combining their forces together towards a greater good: both individual and collective economic advantage.

Group of friends at the park holding hands and rise up to the sky.Besar is an ambitious businessman. Nevertheless, his determination to support ethnic communities is also personal and is inspired by his own background. With Lority, he plans to pursue multiple projects, a few of which will be focused on supporting Albanian entrepreneurs abroad and in Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Moreover, they aim to bring together successful Albanian professionals from different sectors in order to improve economic cooperation through networking. In his own words, Besar thinks that, “There is a great potential in Kosovo. This has to be exploited much more. The talented young people must be encouraged. It is a task of the environment that the young talented people in Kosovo be more encouraged.”

DIASPORA: DSP Project Grants

Kosovar Civil Society Foundation through the project Promoting Democratic Society (DSP), supported by the Swiss Cooperation Office in Kosovo (SCO-K), under the second component of the project, has opened up the possibility of applying for Diaspora grants.

The aim of this component is supporting civil society organizations in Diaspora through grants. The areas to be supported by this scheme cover i) Diaspora civic and political rights in Kosovo and ii) transfers of “know-how” by Kosovo’s Diaspora for social and economic development of Kosovo.

Project bearers must be Diaspora organizations whereas Kosovo-based organizations could be partners in projects implementation.

With regards to this, we inform you that application for Diaspora Grants is open and the deadline for application is February 1, 2017.

More detailed information concerning the call for application and required documents can be found in the link: http://kcsfoundation.org/dsp/?page=1,15.

The first-ever Albanian Diaspora Summit, under the moto ‘’Wholehearted for Albania’’ (Të pandarë për Shqipërin) presented Golden Eagles Awards for influence individuals, institutions and organizations in Diaspora which are aimed at boosting the image of Albanians around the world. Among 15 of them, Germin won the Golden Eagle Award for its contribution to the Albanian in the world.

The government of Albania and Kosovo awarded Germin, during the gala, for its work on creating an Albanian Diaspora Network. on gala Summit of Diaspora by presenting 15 Golden Eagle awards.

On behalf of the Germin, Liza Gashi, the director of programs, accepted the award from the Minister of Diaspora in Kosovo, Valon Murati.

“I am pleased to give this prize to a non-governmental organization, which is working intensively for diaspora network – and this organization is Germin’’ said Minister Murati.

While Liza Gashi added, “Our work is made possible by all those who live in 14 countries of the world. We are grateful.”

Prize winners of the Golden Eagle Awards included, Germin (Kosovo), Albinfo.ch (Switzerland), Keti Biçoku (Italy), Gasmen Toska (Albania), Mark Gjonaj (New York), NGO Motrat Qiriazi (New York), NGO Shpresa (United Kingdom), Batalioni Atlantiku (New York), Ruki Kondaj (Canada), Family Rusi (New York), Albanian Global Diaspora Businees (Austria), Auerla Konduri (Greece), Mario Brunettin (Italy) Institute Alb Shkenca and Bruno Selimaj.

Majlinda Kelmendi was the world champion in judo in 2013 and the European champion in judo in 2014. She is also the double winner of the Grand Slam in Paris in 2015 and 2016.

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Kelmendi is coached by Driton Kuka from the very beginning and will proudly carry the flag of Kosovo at the opening ceremony in Rio 2016.

Archer Urata Rama is the first athlete from Kosovo who has received an invitation to represent Kosovo at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

 

She received an approval of the Tripartite International Olympic Committee (IOC). She began doing archery in 2003 and represented Kosovo in the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Qendrim Guri started racing as a cyclist in 2008 in his hometown Ferizaj. He continued racing successfully in Kosovo and other countries.Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 1.44.35 PMHe represented Kosovo during the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan and will represent the country during the Men’s Road Cycling in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Lum Zhaveli started swimming when he was 14 years old and continued the training during his studies in London where he won 10 medals. Zhaveli continued improving his swimming while attending college, where he joined a local swimming team in Sheffield.Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 12.57.19 PM

During the European Championship, which was held this year in London, he succeeded in breaking a record on the first day of the competition, becoming a champion in the 50m men’s freestyle swimming. Zhaveli will also represent Kosovo at this year’s Olympic Games Rio 2016.