In memoriam: Ilija Zupanoski (1982-2023)

In memoriam: Ilija Zupanoski (1982-2023)

With sadness of his passing, we want to remember Ilija Zupanovski and his role and contribution to supporting the culture of debate in North Macedonia.

Ilija Zupanoski was one of the most notable figures in the building and development of the debate community in North Macedonia. In 1999 he was one of the founders of Youth Educational Forum (YEF), one of the largest, most active and influential youth and civil society organizations in North Macedonia, and an active member organization of the International Debate Education Association (IDEA).

YEF begun as a community for debate, and as the organization scope of work grew, the debate remained one of the foundations and one of the most active programs of the organization. Ilija led the Debate Program of YEF between 2003 and 2007, a period in which the program expanded, and with it the debate community. Debate clubs were established not only in the capital, Skopje, but also in other cities across the country. Debating became available not only to high-school students but also to university students, and the first debate show for young people aired on TV with YEF support.

Among the most notable achievements was that in 2005, North Macedonia hosted the IDEA World Debate Championship, gathering 300 debaters from across the world in this competition, supported by IDEA and the Open Society Foundation. Ilija’s debate experiences and values continued to be represented in his time in the leadership of the organization, when he held the roles of President and later Executive Director of YEF, between 2007 and 2010. His vision to support debate, argument-based deliberation and a culture of dialogue remained a strong part of his work and led his vision for a debate community and youth led membership organization that will have a say in society, empowering thousands of young people to speak their minds and became actively engaged in shaping democracy.

Following his departure from YEF, Ilija continued to work as the Head of the Unit for Social Media and Digital Transparency in the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia.

Through developing MoF as an integral part of IDEA's network, his contributions to fostering debate and democratic participation in North Macedonia and beyond have left an indelible mark. His efforts in expanding the debate community exemplify a legacy of inspiring leadership and commitment to youth empowerment. In honoring Ilija Zupanoski, IDEA reaffirms its commitment to these ideals and to continuing the important work he was so passionate about. His memory serves as a guiding light, encouraging all within the IDEA community to persevere in empowering young minds and fostering a culture of open, respectful, and impactful debate.



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