Kids Voting in Kosovo: Advancing Democracy and Human Rights in Southeastern Europe

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

Arizona State Universitys Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies (MC/ASU), in partnership with the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED), requests a cost amendment to its existing Department of State DRL Kids Voting in Kosovo project to extend the successful Future Voters project statewide in the forthcoming Kosovo presidential elections anticipated in 2012. The goal of the amended project, which will extend from January 2012 to the conclusion of the presidential election cycle, remains that of engaging young people in reasoned debate and simulated election voting on the candidates and platforms affecting the future of Kosovos new governmental institutions. But, the proposed cost amendment will feature three new elements intended significantly to broaden the impact of Future Voters of Kosovo. First, by addressing the new constitutional terms for the Kosovo presidencyterms that are still being formulatedthe project will deepen young peoples appreciation for democratic change in Kosovo. Second, and most significantly, the project will be expanded to reach a statewide audience of Kosovo students, aged 12-17, by adding to the initial pilot cities of Prishtina and Gjilan five new sitesPrizren, Ferizaj, Mitrovica, Gjakova, and Peja. These seven cities comprise approximately 80% of the total population of Kosovo. Finally, to secure greater Serbian and other minority student participation in the project, Future Voters will, among other strategies, target BCS-speaking minority population both in the Prizren region where there is a large Bosnian community, and in the Gjilan region where there is a large Serbian school. In the first three years of the project, Future Voters has become a recognizable household reference for effective youth democracy in action, with thousands of students participating in two separate elections in Prishtina and Gjilan. Not only has the Future Voters project had a positive, documented attitudinal impact on participating Kosovo young people as they engage hands-on with the democratic election process, but it has indirectly improved adult voter turnout in those two cities. The requested expansion of the project offers the prospect for far greater impact on a statewide level. There are four compelling reasons why the Future Voters project and its expansion are so particularly relevant to the current Kosovo political situation. First, by focusing upon the burgeoning Kosovo youth population the project squarely confronts the most important demographic reality of post-independence Kosovonamely, Kosovo is the youngest state in Europe with 46% of its population under the age of 19 (see Erik Payne Butler, Denise Lamaute, Chris Murray, and Lynn Salinger, A Modern Workforce Development System is Key to Kosovos Growth, a report prepared at the request of the USAID Kosovo Mission [Washington, DC: USAID, May 2009], p. 12). Arguably, there will never again be such an important moment in Kosovo for instilling the values of democracy and democratic elections among its outsized youth population. The scientific surveys commissioned by the project following each of the two previous elections have documented the ability of Future Voters to generate youth appreciation for and understanding of democratic values. At a time of increasing youth cynicism, it is critical that that impact be replicated statewide. Second, Kosovo continues to experience low adult voter turnout for its local and statewide elections. When the project began three years ago, less than 50% of the eligible adult population had voted in the previous parliamentary elections. Adult voter turnout has only marginally increased in subsequent elections. Nevertheless, adult voter turnout has increased in Prishtina and Gjilan disproportional to that of other Kosovo cities, a factor that we believe may reflect the impact of the Future Voters project. By modeling the project on Kids Voting, USAi.e., by requesting that young people participating in the simulated elections be accompanied to polling stations by their adult counterpartsthe Future Voters of Kosovo project is generating increased adult voter interest and turnout. The expansion of the project statewide holds out the prospect for far greater indirect project impact on adult voter turnout. Third, the expansion of the project will address a significant problem that arose in the most recent December 2010 snap parliamentary electionsnamely, the kind of election fraud that feeds off lack of transparency and political party manipulation of the ballot box. Interestingly, the problem of election fraud was entirely absent from all the polling stations in Prishtina and Gjilan where parallel simulated youth balloting was occurring under the banner of Future Voters. We believe the transparency and openness of the Future Voters processthe open, reasoned debate and the carefully monitored balloting processserves as a powerful antidote to election fraud in Kosovo, and all the more so as Future Voters expands its reach statewide. Finally, the expansion of Future Voters statewide will permit better outreach to underrepresented minority young people previously not captured in Future Voters curricular and balloting efforts. Specifically, the cost amendment budget will provide for Melikian Center funding to translate the Future Voters manual, Building Democracy in Action, into BCS (Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian) for us in targeted minority Bosnian and Serbian communities in the Prizren and Gjilan region. Project Director Batalden will edit the English edition of the manual so as to make it particularly relevant to Kosovos South Slavic population, and translation into BCS will follow. The issues involving Serbian minority participation in Kosovo elections will undoubtedly be addressed at political levels far above those of the Future Voters project. But, as part of its effort to encourage expanded youth democracy, the Future Voters project will develop a strategy that positions itself to act effectively in extending the project to relevant Serbian and Bosnian schools. That strategy will begin with direct contact by the project director and KIPRED staff to the two Serbian Kosovo government ministers--Slobodan Petrovic, Minister for Local Government Administration; and Nenad Raic, Minister for Labor and Social Welfare. These consultations will be done in close coordination with relevant U.S. Embassy personnel. The goal will be to introduce the Future Voters curriculum into targeted Serbian and Bosnian schools, while working also to include these young people in the simulated Future Voters balloting
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date4/28/084/30/13

Funding

  • DOS: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL): $997,524.00

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