Research and Social Sciences: Affecting Change in Western Balkans
Albanian Daily News
Published September 2, 2016

The Swiss funded "Regional Research Promotion Programme in Western Balkans - RRPP" is holding its 7th annual conference on 2-3 September 2016 in Tirana. Over one hundred scholars from South East Europe and beyond gathered to discuss current social, political and economic developments in the Western Balkans. 

The leading theme of this year's conference is "Europe in Crisis", looking into compelling challenges in Europe and its neighborhood. The conference provides a forum for researchers dealing with the Balkan region to network, exchange and discuss their research results on three areas: governance, migration, and social welfare.

At the opening Swiss Ambassador in Albania Christoph Graf explained the reason behind funding and promoting research on social sciences. "The evidence and factual knowledge that come from social science research provide often a solid basis for policies and decisions. Reforms that rely on expert knowledge and studies are more successful and long-lasting. Therefore, strengthening social sciences and its links to policy makers and practitioners will remain key in the Western Balkan countries", said Ambassador Graf.

Prof. Dr Nicolas Hayoz from University of Fribourg who led the 10 year programme emphasised that "social sciences contribute to social awareness of problems and strong democratic societies go together with strong social sciences".

Dusan Reljic from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) spoke about the reasons for failed transition in Southeast Europe, what social science can do about it and presented alternatives to the present "transition paradigm".

The conference includes panel discussions with esteemed scholars and presentations of forty-five research projects on the current situation in the Balkans. In addition, Research Fair is presenting samples from research results produced by scholars and institutes funded by the RRPP programme.

During the last 10 years, this Swiss supported programme promoted social science research in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The underlying idea was that quality research should contribute to the complex transformation process happening in these countries. Only the most promising researchers and projects were supported to ensure quality.

Almost 15 million Swiss francs (13.6 million €) went into social science research projects funded by the RRPP- supporting ideas and proposals by researchers from the region. This fostered more exchanges and cooperation between the different countries at academic and research level. Networking and international recognition of researchers from the region increased as a result of promoting and funding the work of many individuals and institutions from the six countries.

The Regional Research Promotion Programme is coordinated and operated by University of Fribourg, Switzerland, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and its local coordination unit in Albania is at the Institute for Democracy and Mediation, IDM.  

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