UNDP - Combating hate speech in Albania through creative youth-led initiatives
24 March 2023
Hate speech and bullying are toxic to the very foundations of our society. They cause irreparable damage not only to individuals, but also to entire communities
Hate speech and bullying are toxic to the very foundations of our society. They cause irreparable damage not only to individuals, but also to entire communities.
Particularly concerning is the spread of hate speech and bullying online since it can quickly infect and spread throughout social media platforms, reaching a large audience.
Entela, a journalist working for an Albanian daily newspaper says: “It is very much disturbing the narrative you encounter especially online. Bullying and hate speech erode a community's foundation, shattering social cohesion and escalating tensions between various groups. It is sad to see it happening online among youth groups. It's important to recognize the harm caused by such actions and work towards promoting inclusivity and understanding in our communities”.
The spread of divisive narratives, hate speech, and bullying can have detrimental effects on the core values of respect, equality, and justice, which are vital for a flourishing and thriving society. Unfortunately, these issues are not unfamiliar to the Western Balkans, including Albania.
To address this, a new regional United Nations project ‘Youth 4 Inclusion, Equality & Trust’ empowers young people to engage in constructive narratives, strengthen intercultural dialogue, inclusion, gender equality and create mutual understanding and trust in Western Balkans including Albania. The two-year initiative will enhance the role of youth in promoting increased comprehension and respect for diversity in the region. Collaboratively, UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, UN Women, relevant local ministries, municipal and youth councils, youth political parties, media, academic and cultural institutions, and civil society organisations are working on fulfilling the above mentioned goals, financially supported by the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund.
The project also seeks to increase the visibility of fact-based storytelling in Albanian media and public spaces, negative impact of fake news and conspiracy theories, toxic masculinities, and gender inequality.
Young people are at the spotlight.
Around forty representatives from all over Albania recently gathered to take part in an innovation bootcamp organized in the context of the project- where they laboriously came up with creative ways to combat hate speech and boost youth participation in electoral processes, particularly for the upcoming local elections scheduled for May of this year.
Eleven projects in total were proposed following two days of intensive coaching and mentorship through the design thinking methodology.
The four wining projects, born out of creative minds, each unique, aim to raise awareness about countering hate speech, increasing youth participation in electoral processes, and promoting positive narratives, respect for diversity, and trust among youth.
"Tell Us Why" project aims to raise awareness about countering hate speech among young people and the general population across the country. Their methodological approach involves conducting social experiments to test reactions to hate speech, which will be disseminated on various media platforms. The project will conclude with a graffiti promoting peacebuilding in a city centre.
The "Veliera" project aims to increase the participation of young people in democratic processes in Albania. The group proposes a series of short animations that promote the value of democratic processes to their peers, featuring a young Albanian musician as the main character. The animations aim to provide information about the voting process and to encourage young people to actively engage in the democratic process that affects their future.
“The Voter's Map" project is an electronic platform that helps young voters identify the mayoral candidates whose electoral programs align with their preferences and aspirations for their city/town. The platform uses an algorithm with open-source data to match young voters' answers to a questionnaire covering topics like social inclusion, environmental protection, and urban development. The platform also facilitates online debates and Q&A sessions between young voters and mayoral candidates. The group aims to increase young voters' interest in electoral processes and help them make informed decisions.
The "Me ner’ jush"project proposes a series of podcasts to increase young people's interest in voting processes and discuss social issues affecting them. The podcasts will cover different topics of youth interest and serve as a platform for discussions on engaging young people in electoral campaigns.
The project will support all four initiatives with financial means and mentorship, to further promote positive narratives that celebrate diversity and foster understanding while simultaneously believing in the limitless potential of our youth.