Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at BONEVET Pristina Launch

Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at BONEVET Pristina Launch, April 24, 2018

Thank you very much. It’s terrific to be here with you tonight. I remember the first time I went to BONEVET in Gjakova a year and a half or two years ago. It was just an amazing experience, I remember it to this day. All those kids working on their robotics projects or working on their computer programming projects- it was amazing. It is really terrific we are able to support BONEVET two and help them bring real skills to real people, to young people who are the future of Kosovo. I’m really happy to be here tonight.

Leke told me that as many 800 kids this year, as many as a thousand kids next year will be benefitting from BONEVET Pristina. That is absolutely phenomenal. Some of my Embassy staff members send children here as well, so you know it has to be a really good place.

BONEVET’s maker-spaces are unique in the way they engage young people. They foster innovation and problem-solving and celebrate creativity. They help shape a generation of young innovators whose energy is channeled into activities that aren’t just fun – but also build real-world skills these kids can use for the rest of their lives. This is a place to develop critical thinking skills and to learn that it’s ok to make mistakes and try again. And maybe most important, it’s a place that helps young people discover their own abilities – and the self confidence that comes with that discovery.

The skills learned at BONEVET are also a great complement to the new curriculum that Kosovo is implementing in high schools across the country. Through courses that teach real-world workforce skills – like programming, mechanics, and computer-aided design – BONEVET can help students develop abilities that meet the labor market demands of today. This is so critical, because we hear again and again, even with high unemployment, from industry leaders that growing sectors like ICT, agriculture, wood-processing, and so many others are not able to find highly-skilled workers they need to make progress for their businesses. It’s just crucial to help build the practical skills that will better prepare young people to make the transition from school to the workforce.

I’ve talked a lot over the past few years about entrepreneurship in Kosovo. I’ve spoken of the small business-owners and farmers and young digital innovators I’ve met who are leading the charge to create jobs and grow Kosovo’s economy, and who are succeeding despite enormous challenges. That drive, that desire to try something that hasn’t been done before, to assume the risk that comes with any new venture – these are essential qualities in any economy, and Kosovo needs these individuals more than ever.

There’s a lot we can all do in partnership with the Government of Kosovo to foster private sector-led growth and give these entrepreneurs a level playing field — whether it’s land reform or greater access to credit or a business-enabling environment both bound and protected by the rule of law. And together we’re making progress in all of these areas. But none of us government officials can manufacture the innate drive to create, or the courage it takes to do so.

For that we need places like BONEVET, that teach Kosovo’s children early on that they can and should take on new challenges, push themselves to study and explore unfamiliar areas, and learn how to respond to challenges and setbacks without feeling discouraged. We need places that don’t just educate, but spark imaginations and inspire new dreams, and new ambitions.

So I thank you all for being here, to Vllaznim and Leke and their incredible team, and to all of you have had supported this effort and helped bring BONEVET to Pristina. We’re so proud to be your partners, and I can’t wait to see what Kosovo’s newest group of young tinkerers is up to.