Kosovo – peacebuilding requires patience

Creating positive relations between Serbia and Kosovo requires a patient process of peacebuilding; one that the international community is ill-equipped to conduct and unprepared to support.

By Reverend Donald Reeves MBE

As part of ‘Mediation through Monasteries in Kosovo’, TransConflict is pleased to present a short film, entitled ‘Shoes, walls, land and tables’, which documents a visit by Reverend Donald Reeves to the Monasteries of Peć and Dečani in Kosovo.

Once again the International Community has been caught sleeping. The reason is simple – after eleven years it is difficult to believe that international organisations want to do anything unless they are forced to do so. It is in their interest to do as little as possible. Stability is the key word. The EU is bored with Kosovo, reflecting the sense of fatigue about the Balkans generally (Bosnia is another story and potentially far more dangerous ).

There is already much speculation as to why the Kosovo Albanians were sent to the north. And there are impressive calls for dialogue from Serbian politicians.

It is likely the situation will calm down. It is likely too that nothing will have changed.

What should be done?

A long term programme of community development needs to be set up in North Kosovo. I have not been to Jarinje or Brnjak but it would be important to listen to the concerns of the people living in those settlements, and then responding to them. The difficulty with Serbian and Kosovo politicians, KFOR and EU officials is that they function at a level which is so often removed from the people whose interests they claim to represent. Hence the unreality of so much of what passes for dialogue.

There is vast experience of peacebuilding globally; and this works best when it begins at the grass roots with local communities. It is slow, difficult work. It is a sign of either ignorance, laziness or cynicism that the EU, for example, is unable to make available the necessary resources.

There are two difficulties in peacebuilding as a part of community development. The first is that international officials from the EU, diplomats, the military – in this case KFOR – have no experience of peacebuilding and no training to undertake this sort of slow work. The second is that there is almost nothing which looks like civil society in Kosovo; there are the politicians and then everyone else. This makes community development very problematic.

Peacebuilding involves gathering people together and inviting them to tell the stories of their lives. To begin such a process would inject much needed reality into creating positive relations between Serbia and Kosovo. But it will take time and require more than a moment of fitful idealism.

Reverend Donald Reeves MBE is the founder of the Soul of Europe. The Soul of Europe works as catalysts and mediators to ensure a peaceful resolution to conflicts, particularly in the Balkans.

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