Forum for Civic Initiatives (Kosovo)
In it for the long-haul
The Forum for Civic Initiatives, known by its acronym as FIQ, grew out of the ashes of the Kosovo War. Faced with death, destruction, displacement and the ethnic focus that divided so many communities, FIQ’s founders came together, agreeing that citizens would need to be central to future decision-making in order to rebuild the social fabric of communities. More than 15 years after its founding, FIQ continues to work with the mission of mobilizing citizens and empowering them to demand transparency, challenge and hold authorities to account. What does this look like in practice?
In 2004, 7,000 residents in the village of Hade faced involuntary resettlement to make way for a mine which would supply coal to a new power station. FIQ sprang into action by launching an awareness raising campaign about the mine’s potential impact, targeted at local residents. Pulling together different parts of the community, including concerned citizens and institutions, FIQ acted as a vehicle and voice-piece to ensure that the risks to the village of Hade were understood by the relevant decision makers. With the sense that their concerns were being heard, volunteer activists took up the cause, and with the leadership of FIQ assisted in mobilizing local resources (in the form of both funds and volunteer time) to be dedicated to the fight.
The threat to Hade was ultimately raised at the Assembly of Kosovo and with the World Bank, who had been involved in the mine. In an epic legal battle spanning more than a decade, FIQ is now formally demanding that the World Bank investigate the country’s government for not honouring the agreed terms around resettlement, employment and compensation. Not tying itself to typical development project cycles, but rather taking the long view, allowed FIQ to stay the course, and to make the case for Hade. This has also meant accepting that while there may be steps forward in the struggle, steps backwards are inevitable (and normal) too.
While other organizations may have moved on, grown weary, or changed strategic direction in the meantime, FIQ continues to be there to fight for the communities it serves. And encouraging local residents to give what they have to give - whether it be time, money or expertise - has meant citizens themselves have a stake in this long-term work too. And this is the power of community philanthropy.