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Building Bridges: Community Cooperation Network ‘Islands of Selonia’ visits ALEM

2 November 2023

From 12 October to 15 October, a delegation from the Latvian NGO Community Cooperation Network ‘Islands of Selonia’ embarked on a peer learning visit to Zagreb. This visit, to the Association for Nurturing and Promoting the Culture, Musical and Spiritual Traditions of Bosniaks (ALEM), offered a profound opportunity for mutual learning and cultural exchange.

The journey kicked off with an enlightening visit to ALEM and its surrounding region. During their exploration, they delved into the city of Samobor, meandered through the village of Rude, and immersed themselves in the beauty of Žumberija National Park. Additionally, they had the privilege of acquainting themselves with the contributions of the LEADER program to the development of rural areas in Croatia. One of the key takeaways from this peer visit was the concept of ‘start-up smart villages’. This innovative approach was identified as a promising tool for rejuvenating life in rural regions. Its potential to enhance the quality of life and foster sustainable growth was a beacon of hope for rural development.

A significant part of this visit was dedicated to meetings with the leadership of the organizations Sabor Bošnjačkih associação Hrvatske and Udruga bošnjaka domovinskog rata Hrvatske, both of which are members of the Croatian Parliament and represent the Bosnian minority in the nation’s political landscape. The discussions held during these meetings illuminated the importance of bolstering political education, particularly among young people. As the Latvian participants observed, elevating the status of political education can have a transformative impact on the involvement of the youth in the political area.

One of the most relevant sessions of this journey was the participation of Community Cooperation Network ‘Islands of Selonia’ in the Political Academy organized by ALEM. This initiative empowers youth and nurtures their political awareness, is characterized by its accessibility to a broad spectrum of young people, spanning from students to working professionals. The possibility of implementing a similar practice in Latvia, where political education has regrettably received minimal attention, emerged as a promising prospect. The Political Academy is now set to be embraced in Latvia, in order to foster political engagement and active citizenship amongst young people.

In hindsight, this peer visit established the foundations for a long-term collaboration between Community Cooperation Network ‘Islands of Selonia’ and ALEM as well as reinforcing several convictions among the two organizations:

  • Ethnic and local patriotism can serve as the bedrock for robust self-organization and community development.
  • Local non-governmental organizations possess potent tools in shaping a positive information landscape.
  • Local leaders should be encouraged to become advocates for those who have yet to fulfill their social and economic aspirations in rural regions.
  • The need for clear and open channels of communication between residents and local governments is paramount to driving positive change.

This content was published in the context of the Minorities, Accountability, Rights, Independence and Organisational Development (MARIO) programme. Learn more >

MARIO is funded by the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (2021-2027) of the European Union (ref: 101091387).