By Oko Khosbayar, Senior Associate, Meridian International Center
Civil society, also known as the “third sector,” is essential to democracy and development as they not only hold governments accountable, but in many instances, they can deliver to the underserved and underprivileged.
With the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project “Strengthening Minority Civil Society Organizations”, Meridian International Center hosted a group of experts in nonprofit and civil society organizations from the Republic of Kosovo with the goal of examining federal, state, and local best practices of the United States to advance minority issues and expose the IVLP participants to U.S. civil society organizations that strengthening the capacities of local minorities.
A majority of the ten participants lead non-governmental organizations throughout Kosovo and two are governmental specialists. During their 18-day stay in the U.S., the participants traveled to Washington D.C., Boulder, Colorado, Montgomery, Alabama, and Boston, Massachusetts, and met with representatives and professionals from numerous states and nonprofit organizations. For instance, the group had a meeting with Harvard University, Boston University, and Tufts University to hear about and discuss the academic efforts made in minority participation.
While their time in D.C. focused on national government agencies’ role in securing minority rights and international cooperation, the other states they visited emphasized protecting civil and minority rights, engagement with local government and stakeholders, and methods to promote social cohesion and more. Hearing the testimonies of civil rights advocates and members of minority communities firsthand was inspiring in ways that the visitors had not expected before their arrival.
The visitors heard directly from those who have built networks with like-minded civil society organizations to enable minority groups to protect their well-being and cultural heritage.
Through these linkages, underrepresented communities can build resilience and foster a sense of belonging and trust which can bridge differences of values, beliefs, and identities.
As a result of this program, the participants were motivated to apply the examples they saw here to their own work in Kosovo and become leading examples not only in Kosovo but also globally that are maintaining efforts to build and sharpen the minority civil society voice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Oko Khosbayar joins Meridian International Center’s IVLP Collaborative Services Team as a Senior Associate, where she primarily administers In-House On-Demand IVLPs and IL Workshops and contributes to other CS projects. Oko brings with her years of public diplomacy, communications, project management experience, including roles with Global Ties U.S., ASIA Mongolia Representative Office, Oyu Tolgoi LLC and American Chamber of Commerce Mongolia. Oko has a master’s degree from Syracuse University in Public Diplomacy and Global Communications and a BA in International Relations from the University of the Humanities, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.