Strengthening civil society is key to the successful transformation of conflict, particularly in areas of multi-ethnic diversity. By promoting active citizenship, articulating citizen’s priorities and grievances, developing constructive ties between previously polarised groups, and advocating dialogue and good governance, civil society contributes to the transformation of both institutional and socio-economic structures.
The shared norms of civil society actors – including tolerance, compromise and negotiation – facilitate consensus-building through the identification and elaboration of issues of shared concern. In addition, through monitoring and lobbying efforts, civil society actors help highlight previously marginalised groups and issues. Civil society actors throughout the Western Balkans, however, face a number of common challenges – including issues of sustainability, capacity, managerial expertise, external communication and understanding of the broader political and socio-economic context.
By involving civil society in each respective programme area, TransConflict pursues an integrated approach that seeks to strengthen the capacity of civil society actors to strategically plan, manage and evaluate projects, whilst concurrently strengthening their outreach, advocacy and lobbying capabilities. Through the mapping of stakeholders and underlying local power structures, TransConflict assists civil society actors to develop appropriate strategies for achieving their goals.
TransConflict has developed mechanisms to promote greater interaction between civil society actors locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, and between civil society actors and governing institutions, in order to build institutionalised structures for co-operation, communication and partnership. TransConflict also works to promote and support both community-based initiatives, such as women’s, youth and Roma groups, and more traditional civil society actors, such as trade unions, war veteran’s associations, professional organizations and religious groups.
TransConflict’s overriding goal is to facilitate the development of civil society actors that don’t only serve as peripheral pockets of activism, but rather as well organized groups actively contributing to long-term political and socio-economic change, particularly with respect to the region’s accession towards the EU.