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The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

President Jahjaga delivers closing remarks at the summit.

After three days of meetings in Pristina, Kosovo, a group of women and men leaders from around the world has created the “Pristina Principles,” a set of guidelines and priorities aimed at eliminating barriers to women’s political participation, aiding their economic empowerment and giving them access to security and justice in the region and around the world.

The International Summit on Women’s Empowerment, entitled “Partnership for Change—Empowering Women,” was attended Oct. 4-6 by 200 leaders from Kosovo, wider Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East. The summit was hosted by the president of the Republic of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, and organized by NDI in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The summit’s aim was to strengthen cooperation and partnership among politicians, business leaders, policymakers, civil society activists and academics, within Kosovo, throughout Southeastern Europe and beyond.

The discussions led to creation of the Pristina Principles, which affirm the rights of women to political participation and representation, economic resources and access to security and justice, and calls for actions to make these principles reality. Among them are improved access to finance and other resources to create and expand women-owned businesses; upholding women’s claims to property rights; expanding conventional notions of national security to include women’s perspectives on personal, community, and economic and environmental well-being; and reforming political parties and election systems so women have equal chances to run for and hold elected office and other positions of authority.

In opening remarks at the summit, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, NDI’s chairman, emphasized that women’s rights are fundamental precepts of democracy and that all nations must ensure that female citizens are able to exercise their human rights fully and equally.

“Let everyone understand that no nation can earn the world’s respect without first respecting the rights of women and girls,” Albright said, adding that “countries that are rising the fastest are the ones that have done the most to eliminate gender-based limitations and stereotypes.”

Albright also met with a number of NDI program partners in Kosovo, among them women and young members of parliament and representatives of the Serb community, to discuss progress achieved in Kosovo’s young democracy and the tasks that lie ahead.

Also attending the summit were U.S. Ambassador At-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer and former congresswoman and current head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center, Jane Harman. Verveer spoke of empirical evidence linking women’s empowerment to overall economic performance and productivity. Harman reflected on the progress made in seeing women attain positions of leadership in government, politics and business, noting that more needs to be done to see full gender equality realized in practice, not just on paper.

As Kosovo’s first female head of state and the first woman in the Balkans region to hold such a position, President Jahjaga heralded the summit’s accomplishments in announcing the Pristina Principles and her own effort to establish a more prominent place for women in Kosovo through the creation of a women’s business association that will enhance and enlarge already existing initiatives.

NDI came to the summit with a strong institutional commitment to support women in politics through its global Win With Women initiative. NDI has created a robust program in Kosovo supporting women in political parties and parliament as part of its long-term support to democratic institutions in Europe’s newest country. Six months prior to the summit, the Institute organized a first-of-its-kind training and networking event for 100 Kosovar women in politics, government, business and civil society, called the Week of Women, which spearheaded a development and reform agenda for women throughout Kosovo. It included women at the local level and in rural areas who face particular socioeconomic hardships. NDI also provided support to the Office of the President in the year preceding the summit. 

NDI has worked in Kosovo since 1999 supporting its democratic transition with the support of USAID and other partners.

To find out more about the summit, please visit the summit website, or go to Facebook.


Published Oct. 11, 2012