Block the hatred. Share inclusion! Students in Pljevlja against discrimination
Providing a space for young people to voice their opinions, discuss the challenges they face in their local communities is essential for building a more inclusive society, free from discrimination. This was highlighted at a workshop for students that took place in Pljevlja on 23 November as a part of the initiative of the European Union and the Council of Europe, “Block the Hatred. Share the Love!” and in co-operation with RYCO – Regional Youth Cooperation Office.
Siniša Bjeković, Ombudsperson of Montenegro, shared his views on the important role of young people in the fight against hate speech and towards a tolerant and diverse society at local level: “It is important to retain young people in local communities, such as Pljevlja, to combat the growing of hate speech and break the vicious circle where hate feeds hate, to the detriment of other positive initiatives. If we insist on the dialogue, this does not mean that we want to change the way of thinking of people in a violent manner. Rather, we want to encourage them to respect opinions of each other,” said Bjeković.
Biljana Pejović, the Head of Department for gender equality, Ministry for Human and Minority Rights in her remarks stated that with the growing popularity of social media hate speech, sadly, is gaining popularity, too, hitting particularly hard young people, through online bullying. “Our goal as a ministry is to improve the legislative framework to respond to hate speech and discrimination, to render it clearer. We join forces with other institutions, for instance through this campaign, to reach out to local communities in Montenegro and speak of the dangers related to discrimination, in order to make citizens more aware of it.”
Savo Rašović, Acting Secretary in the Ministry for Sports and Youth, said: “The Ministry of Sports and Youth always supports and actively participates in such initiatives because we deeply believe that only by joining forces, cross sectoral and in partnership with young people can we spread the message that diversity is the wealth of our society. It is precisely diversity that makes us special, and this diversity should be nurtured and be highlighted as a common good of our society.”
Goran Drobnjak, Acting Director General of the Ministry of Education reiterated that schools can unfortunately be a place where certain forms of peer violence, including bullying, happens. “We need to promote diversity as a concept that proposes love instead of hate, including through the different forms of cooperation we have, notably the inclusive network of schools, supported by the Council of Europe”, said Drobnjak.
Emir Pilav, representative from the municipality of Pljevlja, in his address emphasised that “Pljevlja has been always at the crossroad of cultures. However, we need to change approach, from multiculturalism to inter-culturalism. Multiculturalism allows for different groups living side by said; inter-culturalism allows for integration among diverse groups in the society’”.
Edin Koljenović, Head of the Local Branch Office Montenegro, Regional Youth Cooperation Office reiterated the importance of engaging young people in policymaking, affirming that “youngsters are generators of change. Through our activities, we have to work together on developing the immunity of youngsters against hate speech”.
Angela Longo, Programme Manager at the Council of Europe, concluded: “Motivated young people are the drivers of the combat against hate speech, as they can mobilise their peers and commit to eradicating discrimination and stigmatisation in multicultural societies, like Pljevlja. Such activities are at the heart of the joint European Union and Council of Europe campaign ‘Block the hatred, share the love’:”
The event was also joined by the Football club "Breznica" from Pljevlja that not only mobilise youngsters in sport but is also active in promoting gender equality, peace, tolerance and regional co-operation in the local community.
The “Block the Hatred. Share the Love!” initiative, part of the joint European Union and Council of Europe programme "Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022, aims to combat various forms of hate speech targeting specific communities and individuals in Montenegro. The campaign is supported by prominent public figures, institutions and activists, who promote diversity and equality in Montenegro and in the region, through personal storytelling, testimonies and exchange of good practices.