The latest report from UNDP-Kosovo has just been released. This year we talk about social inclusion. In simple terms, by social exclusion we mean the practice of denying certain groups the right to contribute economically, politically and socially to the growth of their society, thereby limiting the potential of society itself.
Exclusion can occur deliberately, through institutional discrimination, or unintentionally, through cultural practices that actually limit individual rights and freedoms. Whatever the cause, the effect is always the same: self-limitation and an unfair process of development. The extent of marginalization within the Kosovar society is perhaps the most relevant datum of the report. Far from being a minority phenomenon, the economic exclusion from social and civil commitment services is a condition experienced by a wide range of people in various dimensions of daily life. Exclusion is a crucial challenge for the development of Kosovo and each country.
The report identifies in detail the social groups that more than others are affected by social exclusion and are victims of it. These slices of population risk becoming invisible if you do not change course and do not reverse the scale of political priorities. The long list of those excluded include: long-term unemployed, disadvantaged children, young people, rural women, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (RAE) and all people with special needs. Before if Kosovo has a series of social and economic challenges to face and these concern:
• Economic stagnation: the per capita GDP of Kosovo is currently the lowest in Europe. Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that it will grow by 3% for the next six years (moving from 1.766 to the 2.360 euro) Kosovo still has much to recover in terms of fair distribution of revenues within its company;
• Widespread poverty: about 45% (just over two Kosovars in five) live below the poverty line and one in five is unable to meet their basic needs. Poverty is higher among those living in large families - who often have many unemployed members and relatively lower levels of education. Those living in poverty are also geographically concentrated in rural areas and in some regions of Kosovo, such as Prizren and Gjilan / Gnjilane;
• High levels of unemployment: it is estimated that the 45% of the workforce is unemployed, with unemployment rates for young people exceeding 73% and female unemployment at 81%. The average job market every year inflates young 30.000 job seekers, but with few opportunities available to them;
• Poor quality of life: on health and educational standards Kosovar citizens are lagging behind their European neighbors. Health indicators in Kosovo are among the worst in Europe. The infant mortality rate is 18-49 for 1.000 and under five the infant mortality rate is 35-40 for 1.000 born alive, thus representing the highest figure in Europe. Education is also very variable and selective - particularly for children with any form of physical or learning disability and preschool education is practically non-existent outside of Pristina;
• Discrimination: Kosovo's ethnic minorities are the ones that suffer the worst impact of Kosovo's socio-economic challenges. In particular, the conditions of the Kosovo RAE are quite close to those found in the least developed countries. The level of unemployment for the RAE community, where the 75% of young men of 15-24 years are unemployed, for example, is much higher than the Kosovo average.
The really strange thing is that from the 2000 onwards the international community has invested more resources per capita in Kosovo than in any other post-conflict arena. The European Union, Kosovo's main donor, has announced that for the next three years it will allocate far more funds for Kosovo than anywhere else in the world.
Already the European Union alone has provided almost one billion euros for Kosovo between the 2000 and the 2006 through the CARDS program (community assistance for reconstruction, development and stabilization) and from the 2007 another 426 million euros through the assistance instrument of pre-accession (IPA). Then all the other millions of euros from the US government, international organizations and various European countries. A flood of funds that over the years have served to rebuild the country and strengthen democratic institutions to harmonize them with European ones.
The poor results, however, are visible to everyone. The EU accession process is not a walk, it is an extremely complex process that requires a vast remodeling of the regulatory frameworks, the respect of very high standards of governance and regional cooperation. Despite the massive presence of international institutions and large funds, the road to Europe is still very long.
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