Youth exchanges in the Western Balkans

Project description

Title: Western Balkans School Exchange Scheme
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Co-funded by: European Union (EU)
Country: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia
Lead executing agency: Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) 
Overall term: 2020 to 2024

Campus Kottenforst library


The histories of the six  Western Balkans countries are closely entwined. They share both a historical legacy and current challenges. Nevertheless, longstanding prejudices and intolerance towards other ethnic  groups in the region are still widespread. 

Progress can only be achieved through joint action to foster tolerance, solidarity and regional  cooperation. Cooperation on social, economic and cultural development is particularly crucial, as is reconciliation and peaceful coexistence in the region. 

Young people play a major role here, as the young people of today are the voters and politicians of tomorrow. The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) was founded in 2016 to promote reconciliation, cooperation and dialogue in the Western Balkans. RYCO  specifically supports projects that bring together young people in the region.

Institutional and financial support is needed to harness the potential offered by young people. Past initiatives in the region have shown that school exchange programmes contribute to reconciliation and foster a sense of belonging among those involved. However, none of the exchange programmes in the region to date have had a long-term perspective,  which is precisely what this project aims to address by promoting long-term school exchanges.


RYCO has broadened its competences and set up a regional school exchange programme.


The project focuses on three areas:

  • Support and reinforcement of RYCO’s institutional competences. To this end, a Research, Evaluation and Learning unit (REL) is being set up to provide further training. In addition, the project is introducing IT tools into RYCO’s accounting system and supporting their communication activities.
  • Support for schools to develop and conduct youth exchanges. To this end, the project is promoting in-service training for teachers in intercultural learning, peacebuilding through accompanied remembrance and reconciliation,  as well as gender sensitivity and the inclusion of minorities.
  • Another focus is the implementation of the school exchange programme by RYCO. This includes three  open calls during the project period through which schools can apply for financial support from RYCO and organise exchanges with partner schools in another country. The teachers are to design the exchanges and organise leisure activities, while the costs are covered by the project. 

The project is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with RYCO as the executing agency and implementing partner. RYCO is 
receiving funding to strengthen its administrative structures and finance school exchanges and other project activities. The project is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Last update: February 2021

Further information