Kosovo’s first Informal Philanthropy Forum opens doors to a better ecosystem for domestic Philanthropy

Prishtina, April 7, 2022 – After the declaration of independence in his home country, Kosovo, in 2008, Vllaznim Xhiha made the decision to do everything possible in his power to support his homeland. From Switzerland – where he lived with his family for more than 25 years – he decided to contribute to the state-building of his homeland that recently emerged from the war and was in a humanitarian need, requiring everyone’s attention.

The consequences of the war on the local economy in Kosovo had lead many families in a state of crisis. In order to support the recovery of those families and provide education to orphaned children, Xhiha founded his own Foundation “Unë e dua Kosovën” (I love Kosovo).

“We chose this name because we wanted to show that we truly love Kosovo”, Xhiha relays while talking about his journey of a philanthropist on the first meeting of the Informal Philanthropy Forum, held in Pristina on 7 April this year. This Forum brought together various stakeholders, including businesses, business associations, civil society organisations, philanthropy, and public institutions, with the aim of discussing and coordinating actions about the development of an inchoate ecosystem of philanthropy in Kosovo.

Xhiha welcomed this initiative launched within the framework of the Citizen Engagement Activity (CEA), a partnership between Kosovo Civil Society Foundation (KCSF) and USAID in Kosovo. “I consider myself a philanthropist, but never in these 11 years in Kosovo have I introduced myself as such. This should be developed in Kosovo as well and I hope that we will reach the best and most effective path,” Xhiha said during the first Forum meeting, further explaining that through philanthropy he had also the chance to understand the needs of the people of his country. “Kosovo needed professionals in many fields,” he said. He went on to explain how “BoneVet” Foundation was established in 2014, as one of the largest foundations in the country that invests in the field of education and skills of young people in Kosovo, preparing them for the labour market and as future entrepreneurs in various sectors.

The example of “BoneVet” is just one of many that illustrates cases of individual philanthropy in the country. Many businesses in Kosovo have already adopted the practice of Corporate Social Responsibility by giving back to the community through investments in various fields like education and skills development, human rights, etc. However, local philanthropy has encountered challenges due to the fact that the giving ecosystem is in its elementary form and sustainable initiatives have been lacking, partly due to a lack of intersectoral communication. This has impacted local donors, namely local businesses or philanthropists, civil society organisations, activists and public institutions.

KCSF executive director Taulant Hoxha, spoke during the meeting on the role of the Informal Philanthropy Forum, as well as the achievements of civil society in the democratisation and development of civil society through domestic donor support. He stressed that in the following meetings, the Forum will be addressing key philanthropy topics in a more tangible way. “Although civil society and businesses in Kosovo have often addressed issues related to the community, they have done so in parallel and separate manner and without any communication among themselves. The model we are aiming to achieve is a model based on good faith and the establishment of a legal and practical framework that guarantees the advancement of Philanthropy ecosystem in the country, which should be strategic and development-oriented,” he said.

On the other hand, Ms. Zeinah Salahi, director of the USAID Mission in Kosovo, addressed the Forum participants, expressing that The Philanthropy Forum, the first of its kind in Kosovo, is an important historical moment in the private sector’s commitment to socially conscious investment.

“Global philanthropy serves as an important partner in addressing social and economic issues that build strong and citizen-led democracies,” she said.
Some of the challenges to local philanthropy mentioned during the discussion at the Forum are the lack of communication and trust between local donors, philanthropists, etc. with civil society organizations, accountability issues, lack of a law regulating funding through philanthropy, as well as fiscal challenges. These topics are expected to be addressed at the future Forum meetings.

This was the first meeting of the Informal Philanthropy Forum, an important component of the Citizen Engagement Activity (CEA), which will continue for the next four years. The goal of the Forum is to build a more diverse and dynamic community of partners through systematic discussion of issues and actions that will lead to a more favourable legal and practical ecosystem for local philanthropy in Kosovo society. In addition, through its resources and great influence within the Kosovo community, the Forum aims to raise awareness of the importance that a strategic and oriented philanthropy can play in the Kosovo community and beyond. (KCSF/Leonora Aliu)