June 29, 2009
More information about RECOME
Here is the website for RECOM, by the Humanitarian Law Center.....
More information about RECOM
Here is the website for RECOM, by the Humanitarian Law Center.....
Half Way and still finding new work
I can't believe that I have already been living in Belgrade for nearly 5 weeks! I've really made a lot of friends and settled into life at the office; my colleagues in FRACTAL are all so friendly and welcoming, it is going to be very hard to leave them!
I am really enjoying my work here: I have had the opportunity to go to Kosovo for debates around Kosovo's proposed decentralisation. I recently also did a research piece on the process, and compared it to other such decentralisation processes in Africa and South America.
I am actually going to be starting with some new work in the last part of my time here. I'm really interested in the RECOM coalition's work. A huge group of civil society groups, activists, students and artists have been campaigning for the establishment of the first regional truth and reconciliation committee for the Balkans. The 'Regional Commission for Establishing the Facts about War Crimes and other Serious Human Rights Violations in former Yugoslavia' [Coalition for RECOM] has been proposed as a means of bringing truth about the recent wars in the Balkans, and a better form of reconciliation than either the ICTY or regional courts. Three NGOs from three former Yugoslav states, Documenta in Zagreb, the Research and Documentation Center, [RDC] in Sarajevo, and the Humanitarian Law Center [HLW] in Belgrade, are moving ahead with plans to set up this single fact commission for the former Yugoslavia. FRACTAL, the NGO I work with, has been involved with holding consultations on how to actually establish the commission.
My research, I hope, is going to focus on how RECOM is actually going to get established. I want to hold interviews with important players in the coalition; especially those leading the different working groups. I think an interesting area of research might be looking at the concrete tasks of civil society in establishing a regional commission of this kind, especially one that has not been engendered by a coalition of governments. The break-down of the respective tasks of the different organizations, as well as the challenges facing the coalition, is the proposed focus of my paper. Being a part of this process will be really interesting for me, and will tie into what I plan to do after Brown. RECOM is a very exciting development and, hopefully, my work will be incorporated into the coalition's resources. In some small way, it may even be useful or helpful for the coalition in bringing about meaningful reconciliation and societal healing in the Balkans.
Tomorrow, I will have my first round of meetings, to properly define the scope of the research that I will do for the next four weeks. Then, my plan is to do interviews in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo with civil society RECOM members. Then, I will come back to Providence and do most of my writing of my report in August- with the resources of the Brown libraries and the comforts of home. I did not really expect to be working into August, but I think this research will be valuable for the RECOM coalition and FRACTAL, so I am happy to do it.
RECOM, and my research, will be something to look back on after this internship is over, and I think I will be really proud to have been involved in a meaningful and lasting way in this process!
June 09, 2009
My first week with NGO FRACTAL
I arrived on June 1st to the bustling city of Belgrade. After being ushered into my new apartment with the help of a Dutch intern and future colleague, I explored some parts of the chaotic city. Belgrade is not beautiful, as even locals will tell you, but it is certainly an interesting place. The last few days in the city have made me very excited to get accustomed to my new whereabouts.
The first days of work at FRACTAL, the NGO I will be working with this summer, have been equally stimulating. FRACTAL primarily works in three key sectors for confidence building and conflict resolution in Kosovo and the greater Western Balkans. Firstly, the organization attempts to increase awareness on civic activism throughout Kosovo, and especially in Serbian enclaves. FRACTAL founders believe that Serb minority communities in Albanian Kosovo need to find ways to make their voices heard to Belgrade and Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. Further, FRACTAL works to promote stronger and more positive inter-ethnic relations in Kosovo, the goal being that by fostering better inter-ethnic dialogue across all sectors of society, there is a much better chance of fostering better relations within Kosovo and between Belgrade and the seceded state within its borders. Lastly, FRACTAL works to promote a better network of similar organizations in the Balkans. By working with UNMIK, EULEX, NATO and various embassies and organizations, FRACTAL hopes to create more of a network for information sharing on important obstacles to European integration regional development.
Many of the measures that FRACTAL undertakes have not been warmly recieved by government authorities in Belgrade. Being one of the few organizations to have a real reach into Kosovo and the Serbs of Kosovo, the Serbian government fears that FRACTAL will be able to promote better relations with these communities and the local government in Kosovo. This leads back, constantly, I have learned, to fear of tantamount recognition of the Kosovo by Serbs. Belgrade officials have proven that they will go to huge lengths to make sure that such a process of cooperation is not encouraged. Regardless, FRACTAL has formed strong relations with international organizations and local people alike, and the their projects are progressing promisingly.
I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Kosovo for the first time after a mere three days in the office in Belgrade. After a long drive, we came to the capital city of Pristina. Despite the pristine natural setting, poverty of the region is quite obvious. Furthermore, the maintained presence of international security organizations is notable- KFOR, UNMIK and NATO troops still roam the streets of Kosovo, especially in the high tension Serbian enclaves.
It was in the enclaves that we held our first few meetings in Kosovo. I am currently working on a project called Enclavia, along with another Dutch intern and team leaders. The project works with the International Civilian office, the ICO. The ICO is a cooperative international force that was established to help Kosovo create viable local institutions and administrative agencies.One of the central aims of the ICO is to help with the process of decentralization, as outlined by the Ahtisaari plan. 'Decentralization' has been a byword for for allowing Kosovo Serbs to run their affairs separately from the Albanian majority. New municipalities will be set up, and Serbs will be able to vote in their own representatives that will have more voice in Belgrade and Pristina alike. Pristina hopes that with more say in their local government, the Serbs will come to accept Kosovo's secession from Serbia and stop looking to Belgrade as their capital. Our main visits in Kosovo were aimed to educate Serb potential voters about the upcoming local elections, and the process of decentralization. Without the participation, the new municipalities will have no legitimacy, and the process will not be able to progress. Through local conferences and debates, FRACTAL has set about holding meetings to debate the sensitive topic. Many Serbs fear that voting in a Kosovo supported process will mean losing ground with Belgrade, which opposes any such cooperation. The debates were heated, and I really got a good sense of the the extant political tensions in Kosovo, as well as the main issues at hand. I look forward to seeing how the Enclavia project progresses, as we hold more debates and meetings with ICO and Serb envlave leaders.
This Friday, I will be traveling to Novi Sad, Serbia's second biggest city. My colleague and I will be going to a conference called 'RECOM'. FRACTAL has been invited to the conference, along with organizations from all over the Balkans. RECOM is a coalition of civil society groups, artists, government officials and students, that is currently advocating the creation of a regional truth and reconciliation committee for the crimes during the 1990's. It is hoped that the proposed commission will investigate, establish, and publicly disclose the facts about war crimes and other serious human rights violations committed in the past on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Being part of the conference will be especially interesting for me, as a South African. The truth and reconciliation committee in South Africa was one of the first commissions to see truth-telling as a meaningful way for societal healing after violent conflict. FRACTAL will especially be inviting youth participants to the conference, in an attempt to hear their views about the past and their future hopes for a regional truth commission. I will be in touch with some of the organizers of the RECOM, and will also be helping in research and networking to further support the initiative.
So far my work with FRACTAL has been really exciting. I see myself really being involved in the next 7 or 8 weeks with the current projects. I feel privileged to been given this exciting opportunity, and I think I will learn an immense amount during my time in Belgrade!
Till next time,