Week 9 has come and gone- I am writing this blog on the precipice of Week 10, or commonly known here in Prishtina as the final count down!
I have a new experience in Kosovo every week and Week 9 was no exception, I arrived at work on Tuesday morning and was told that I had been assigned the task of attending the Capacity Building Seminar/Training that CLARD had paired with ASB (German NGO) to put on. So I walked to Hotel Sirius that morning and started to attend a training session that was completely built to increase Kosovo's NGOs capacity to serve their identified beneficiaries and continue to bring in donors for their ever dwindling funding. As the training session went along I realized several different things. First, that "Albanian Education" time is very real obstacle in starting anything on time within Kosovo. The Albanian Education time factors in at least 45 minutes to any start time. For example, the morning session of training was to commence at 9am. This entire week we never managed to start a session before 9:40am. Anton always tells me its a cultural factor that is similar to Kosovars parking their cars on the sidewalks. Basically, Kosovo citizens have a problem with authority after being ruled over for so long, first with the Ottomans and then with the country of Serbia. So instead of actively resisting with free speech, because that was a facet of protest that was never available to the population, they instead carry out subtle resistance with refusing to comply with Westernized concepts such as start times or parking spaces. Second thing that I noticed was the utter diversity of the NGOs that chose to attend this training session. We had participants from the Down Syndrome Advocates group, LGBTQ communities, and all the way to international groups promoting womens rights and economic development. It was a diverse group, but they got along well and really used the time they had for the "break out" sessions (real time practice) to apply the different theories that were being presented.
The presenter that was assigned to this ASB project was named Daniel Wagner. Former resident of California who had started his own consulting firm then moved to Poland in the early 90s to help facilitate European development, in which he then ended up with a career in the Balkans. Daniel is a veteran presenter in the Balkans, he knew all about the Albanian Education time lapse and even managed to keep everyone moving even when we hit the 3pm afternoon "slump". He did a fantastic job in presenting the ideas and theories in manageable concepts that actually translated pretty well into Albanian. A lot of the participants commented afterwards that Daniel was great at connecting confusing topics with real time examples and analogies. Personally, not knowing a thing about NGO grant proposals, this was a great opportunity to see how the internal system of grants, NGOs, and donors really plays out on an international scale.
One thing that I learned through these training sessions is that Kosovo is about to experience a severe shortage of funds. Because the country is a post conflict area a lot of donor money has been flowing in for a very long time. Daniel told me that organizations, embassies, and private donors were practically running people down on their door steps and just throwing money at them in an attempt to help everyone out. Which on its face is very kind and filled with good will. The problem is that because donors are literally showing up on people's door steps and asking to sponsor activities the NGOs are at a loss on how to write a competitive grant proposal. With everything that is happening in the Ukraine, and generally around the world, Kosovo is about to bottom out on the donor money. So with that concept in mind programs like ASB and CLARD are trying to prep everyone for the new reality that will be Kosovo. I think that by the fifth day it was actually starting to sink in that these concepts really could be the difference between a NGO staying open and continuing to facilitate help for their beneficiaries or in the worst case scenario, when the money is gone being forced to shut down. Daniel really pushed the concept that a NGO must have a unyielding mission, vision, and values. That those three tools were the foundations of long lasting NGOs, and that when seeking donors to not chase down anyone with money. To be competitive and to not waste resources a group must seek out opportunities that aligned with their foundation- and if people really, truly stuck to that concept than the entire grant proposal process would become less scary. He also liked to tell people that they didn't have to be perfect to start down the road of writing grant proposals and increasing their organization's capacity.
It was a long week with the training sessions, but the people that I met and watching Anton wrestle with using a MacBook Air was priceless. I met another native Kosovar who spoke four different languages, participates in international moot court, and is finishing off her own law degree with her last semester of school in Rome! She was an awesome participant and really highlighted the potential of the younger generations of Kosovo have. Daniel asked her to present her NGO's current plan on raising donations and she "mooted" so well! The entire presentation was laid in three steps and she started off each segment with an introduction statement and closed with basic conclusory statements for each idea. She verbally laid out the entire map of her argument and I was immediately taken back to oral argument in spring semester with W&M's legal practice course. I think she would have given some of our current Moot Team members a run for their money. On the technology front, I have noticed that a mark of an American in Kosovo is to run around with Apple products. Anton had to use my MacBook during the training session to finish a translation of paperwork from Serbian to Albanian- I told him by the time that I left he would be a real pro at Mac usage.
After the morning training session on Friday we all went back to work at CLARD. Anton assigned me a new memo on ex-officio appointments, a new Fair Trial article on Letter of Rights, and a report on my time with the training session. I will have to keep everyone updated on what an "ex-officio" appointment really entails in the Kosovo context, because at this moment I am quite unsure. But I was able to talk with Shibani at PILPG and she agreed to help me out in the explanation of Kosovo's ex-officio appointment process. Her scope on her memo is that the juvenile court has strict requirements for training with the judges and prosecutors. Both of those parties must have specialized training in juvenile law. But the defense counsel, the people actually defending these kids, do not have to be. Which has led to this major snafu in the works because prosecutors find themselves both arguing and defending the case because the defense counsel is not protecting their client's rights.
The last Fair Trial article that we submitted was rejected because the stance was too aggressive. Anton was disappointed, but I can see where they are coming from. So instead of re working that first article I get to take stab at writing a new, academic article on the Letter of Rights conundrum that is Kosovo's struggle to align their internal system to match that of the EU. It's going to be a busy week! Hopefully if everything goes according to plan then I will be able to finish all of CLARD's work and come home with an accomplished state of mind.
No traveling this weekend. We spent the weekend in Prishtina and I even got to walk around Gramea park which was on my bucket list to complete before coming back State side. We even expanded our network a little this weekend by meeting people working within the EULEX police force that hail from Hungary. They were quite shocked that I was a "smart" American- bear in mind that they were defining this off the fact that I knew the capital of Hungary was Budapest. Quite funny, and they had hilarious, satirical versions of their work within Kosovo.
Because there has been a lot of serious photos in this blog I am including a funny one from Croatia.
When we were in Croatia we stumbled upon this little ethnographic museum. Completely hidden away between a couple of churches but everything inside was really interesting. The first look you would take would be fine, but then you would look closer and realize that there was something different or "folksy" with each display. For example the picture above. First look, I had the thought that it was a little strange that there was a morose looking woman in a window. Second look, figured out that her blackened feet were actually not feet at all. They were hooves. All the placards within the museum were not translated into English so I will always wonder what story was behind a woman/centaur sitting in a window in Croatia. Maybe one day I will find out. According to everyone here I am coming back to the Balkans to continue legal work, so who knows?