As the Regional Representative of the ECMI based in Macedonia: Core competencies utilized: High level diplomacy, negotiations, policy analysis, program design & development, advocacy, resource mobilization, human resource development, project management, monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment, public speaking, media liaison.
Registered the organization in Macedonia and set up regional headquarters and five sub offices in the country. I recruited and systematically motivated three international and fifteen national staff members. I also conducted on the job trainings for the team members.
I led the implementation of the ECMI civil society project bringing together 70 local NGOs.This entailed developing and implementing an umbrella grants program administering and monitoring 50–70 community projects each year.
I also conceptualized and supervised the implementation of a political dialogue project. Regularly networked with the political and administrative elite of the country to ensure productive implementation of this politically sensitive initiative.
Conceptualized and supervised the implementation of capacity building project for Romani Experts in the country.
I led the fundraising efforts for the entire operation ensuring a fifteen fold increase in the funding of the operation and diversification of the funding base. Liaised with bilateral and multilateral donors in and outside the country, which resulted in ECMI being seen as a lead source of expertise on civil society issues in Macedonia. I conceptualized and supervised the implementation of all the information dissemination tools of the operation including four web sites.
With whom ?
Placing a new Think Tank on the global map
Refugees, Internally displaced, Humanitarian emergencies
Strategic Communication, Strategic Partnerships
The Centre for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies was a newly established think tank. The challenge was how to establish linkages and partnerships with the well-established think tanks around the world on refugee and migration issues.
In 2000 UNHCR and the University Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Skopje jointly set up the Centre for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CRFMS).
UNHCR commissioned me to develop the strategy for this Think Tank including a Communications Strategy.
Following the strategy a website, newsletter, brochures and flyers were developed for the Centre. Targeted dissemination of the outreach material resulted in high visibility of the Centre and its output.
We established a strategic partnership with the Brookings Institute and an international conference in Skopje on IDPs was organized.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
University of Skopje Ss. Cyril and Methodius
Institute for Sociological Juridical and Political Research
Helsinki Committee of Macedonia
Centre for Human Rights, Macedonia
Strategic partnerships were established with leading think tanks including the Brookings Institute and the European Centre for Minority Issues and an international conference in Skopje on IDPs was established.
“ Sunoor Verma has pioneered important and innovative methodologies in relation to project planning and delivery, has the capacity to ensure rapid and reliable project implementation according to agreed targets and possesses an amazing degree of strategic oversight and insight. ”
European Centre for Minority Issues, Germany
Setting up a Think Tank on refugees and forced migration studies
Refugees; Internally displaced; Humanitarian emergencies
Institution building; Confidence building; Fundraising; Think Tank set-up; Strategic planning; Strategic partnerships; Strategic communications
Within the first ten years of its existence, two major refugee influxes impacted the Republic of Macedonia. Support of the international community helped the country cope gracefully with these humanitarian emergencies. Acknowledging the inherent volatility of the region, it was vital that the know- how generated in the country in dealing with displaced populations is institutionalized and capacity be built systematically for emergency preparedness.
I conducted a needs assessment and a mapping of potential partners. I then developed the project proposal and fundraised with donors to set up the Center for Refugees and Forced Migration Studies (CRFMS) at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. The aim of the Center is to become a leading regional resource center in its field; to foster a regional network of similar research centers and to promote standards of excellence in research on Refugee and Forced Migration related subjects. Set up with seed funding from UNHCR, I led vigorous fundraising andexpandedthe portfolio of donors. Ialso set up and mentored the project management team of the centre. The project was implemented from February 2000 to September 2001.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR
Skopje University Ss. Cyril & Methodius
Institute of Sociological Political and Juridical Research
BPRM USA Government
Royal Norwegian Foreign Ministry,
- Set up of an active, well functioning research centre on refugee and forced migration issues
- Established a wide portfolio of donors thus enhancing the sustainability of the centre
- Management staff was trained to take over the management of the centre
- Well functioning resource center with a specialized library
- Internationally networked program on refugee studies was established
“ Sunoor Verma always underlines the importance of local ownership. He may have a lot of knowledge and expertise, but he always ensures that his visions are closely connected to reality on the ground. ”
Adviser, Human Rights & Democracy
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida),
Department for Europe, Division for South Eastern Europe.
Building and managing a 70 NGOs coalition in Macedonia
Inter-ethnic issues; Civil Society; Peace building
Dialogue management; Fundraising; NGO management; Track II diplomacy; Conflict resolution
The armed conflict of 2001 in Macedonia left a society divided along ethnic lines. The fragile Ohrid peace agreement required quick measures for building confidence in the communities.
2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
In the midst of the conflict I set out to establish an inter-ethnic network of NGOs along with the European Centre for Minority Issues.
I travelled around the country meeting with communities, citizens and villagers to find those NGOs that were truly committed to improving inter-ethnic relations in the country. The ECMI NGO Network for Improvement of Inter-ethnic Relations in Macedonia was launched with a core group of 17 NGOs from across the country and ethnic groups. Gradually the network grew to a 70 member strong group that engaged in joint design and implementation of grassroots projects. Sunoor headed an umbrella grants program, administering and monitoring 50–70 community projects each year. The project carried a strong capacity enhancement component with emphasis on ethics for the participating NGO Managers.
This project benefitted very much from the guidance and commitment of Farimah Daftary of the ECMI. When no international expert was willing to travel to Macedonia due to the armed conflict, Farimah headed to Macedonia to meet with stakeholders and do a direct assessment of the ground realities. Her research and reporting were instrumental in the project receiving its seed grant. Dr. Eben Friedman succeeded Farimah Daftary at the ECMI as the focal point for Macedonia and maintained the high standards set by Farimah.
Farimah and Eben have contributed to civil society development in Macedonia in the most low profiles yet most effective way. Both heroes!
European Centre for Minority Issues
Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Secretariat for Peace and Stability)
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Established the first truly multi-ethnic network of NGOs in Macedonia consisting of 70 NGOs committed to improving inter-ethnic relations.
50–70 community projects generated and implemented each year jointly by NGOs members of the Network.
Network becomes reference point for good practices and NGO ethics in Macedonia.
External Evaluation of “ECMI NGO Network for the Improvement of Interethnic Relations in the Republic of Macedonia” 15-19 April 2003
“ In the words of Regional Representative Dr. Sunoor Verma, the Regional Office in Skopje aims to be a model office in terms of professional standards, transparency and accountability. The evaluator gained the impression that the office very much lives up to this goal. The Regional Representative, Dr. Verma is obviously a perfect choice: he is not only very committed to the success of the Network, but also very competent. His critical view of the donor-driven character of much of the NGO activities in Macedonia, especially in the realm of improvement of inter-ethnic relations, helps to make the ECMI Network genuinely innovative in that context. He maintains close contacts with relevant donor and other institutions, and is respected by the member organisations of the Network.”
DR. ULF BRUNNBAUER
Department of Southeast European History, University of Graz
Bringing together political adversaries on policy
Minority issues; Inter-ethnic relations
Dialogue Management; Strategic partnerships; Capacity building;
Republic of Macedonia
The Ohrid Peace Agreement signed between the Republic of Macedonia and the Albanian armed groups in 2001 was meant to end the armed conflict in Macedonia. The peace negotiators felt that if the communities would not see rapid implementation of the agreement, it would have no meaning and violence would stage a comeback in the country.
I performed the needs assessment was to examine what intervention would lead to rapid results and de-escalation of ethnic tensions.This led to the design of a dialogue project in the Republic of Macedonia that provided politically influential persons with the opportunity to work together to create more sustainable and inclusive policies. A highly committed team led by Michael Szporluk implemented the project. I supervised the implementation and ensured support from all political parties and donors.
European Centre for Minority Issues, Germany
Ministry of External Affairs, Ireland
Policy recommendations generated by the multi-ethnic, multi party working groups were channeled to policy and decision makers. This led to emergence of new policies, which contributed to making the peace agreement work for the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia.
The dialogue process led to the formation of expertise based working groups, which demonstrated to all involved parties that concerns of all ethnic groups are very similar and need to be tackled with professionalism and seriousness.
Experts of the “minor minorities” were engaged in mainstream policy and advocacy work, which opened new channels for their respective communities to express their concerns.
“ Sunoor Verma makes ideals work in practice by focusing on issues that successfully bring together parties, which in another context might be on opposite sides of a conflict. In so doing, he brings about action, which brings concrete benefits to all while making the potential lines of conflict gradually less relevant. ”
Dr. Eben Friedman
European Centre for Minority Issues
International conference on minorities
Dialogue management; Peace-building; Strategic partnerships; Fundraising
The Ohrid peace agreement signed in 2001 marked the end of the armed conflict in Macedonia. As part of confidence building measures it was important to highlight the position of minorities in democracies. South Eastern Europe had much experience to share and learn from each other.
2002, 2003, 2004
I negotiated a strategic partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Germany to advance this conference jointly. Andreas Klein who was the Director of this foundation and was posted in Macedonia was that rare breed of expatriates who knew what was happening and what was hurting in the country. Equally comfortable with the grassroots as with the political elite, Andreas ensured that there is a strong buy-in from the office of the President of Macedonia for this initiative. Marc Weller, the Director of the ECMI was quick to see value in the initiative and as a global authority on this subject galvanized a star studded line up of international experts for the conference. Florian Bieber, Eben Friedman and Tom Trier all with affiliations to ECMI and a deep commitment to the region provided cutting edge content and moderation. The South East European university had collaborated in the past with the ECMI and was an excellent partner for this initiative. Among other things I was also responsible for raising funds for hosting this conference. The ECMI team in Macedonia led by the Office Manager Gordana Cvetkoska managed the invisible backend of this huge logistic challenge as always without any show of fatigue or stress.
Office of the President of the Republic of Macedonia
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Germany
European Centre for Minority Issues
South East European University, Macedonia
An annual dialogue forum “Minorities in democracies” has been established which brings international and regional south-east European experts to debate on the position of minorities in democracies. The first two editions saw the late President of the Republic of Macedonia HE Boris Traijkovski deliver the opening speeches before his untimely death in an airplane crash.
“ Sunoor’s insatiable desire for critical and meaningful dialogue has profoundly influenced the format and content of the Geneva Health Forum, pushing us to consider new rules of engagements, and new ways to frame and debate global health topics. ”
Dr Slim Slama
Geneva Health Forum