Week Two: The Beginning

After a weekend of settling in and exploring, I started work at CLARD! 

CLARD is an NGO focused primarily on establishing the Rule of Law in Kosovo, working together with the national government, a network of local NGOs, law enforcement, and international partners. CLARD also directly serves the community, providing legal aid for marginalized groups and individuals seeking help. Because my knowledge of the Albanian language is virtually nonexistent (I have managed to perfect one word so far; "faleminderit" which means "thank you"), I will not be involved as closely with CLARD's legal aid work as I will with various Rule of Law projects. This week has mainly consisted of me shadowing the head of CLARD, doing historical and legal research on Kosovo, and asking as many questions as I possibly can. 

Broadly, CLARD is one of Kosovo's older and better-known NGOs and receives funding from a variety of sources, including USAID. I spent this week learning about CLARD's mission, and the country they serve. Kosovo is a modern, international country (as reflected in their Constitution, which contains many provisions referencing their deep respect for the international community and international law). However, Kosovo is also young, growing nation; the scars of the Kosovo War still run deep socially, politically, and economically. CLARD is one of the many actors working to develop the legal and political systems of Kosovo, eliminating the remnants of corruption, reforming the laws, and rendering analysis and advice to political leaders and young lawyers alike.

CLARD is engaged in a variety of projects at any given moment, which is sure to make my time here extremely exciting! This week I was able to attend a meeting at the Kosovo Assembly building that brought together political leaders, law enforcement professionals, lawyers, and NGOs to discuss a new resolution designed to increase oversight and transparency in the assignments of judges, prosecutors, and investigators. Unfortunately for me, most of the meeting was in Albanian (the translation was not functioning), but I was able to get the gist. I also got a chance to speak with the Executive Director of the Kosovo Bar Association, with whom I will be working on one of CLARD's joint projects. I will also be working closely with the Program Director of a private law college here in Pristina; this week we developed a plan for me to meet with a group of Kosovar law students to answer and ask questions about the differences in our legal educations and legal systems!

The legal work I will be doing here for CLARD is heavily influenced by Kosovo's history, politics, and current events. Serbia (and a number of other nations) do not recognize Kosovo as an independent country, but rather as a particularly rebellious province of Serbia. I learned this week that U.N. Resolution 1244 (passed in 1999, mandating the deployment of international troops to stabilize the area) is still in effect, meaning that Kosovo is still very much tied to the U.N. The remnants of Kosovo's complicated and bloody history are still palpable today, years after the war. This week, Kosovar special police arrested a number of police officers in the north of Kosovo from a variety of different ethnic groups, including Serb, Albanian, and Russian (a U.N. mission member) for alleged corruption. This event prompted cries of outrage from Serbia, who (from what I have gathered by talking to my coworkers) is extremely protective of its people living in Kosovo, and is asking the international community to view this as a purposeful attack. This event further exacerbates already high tensions between Serbia and Kosovo (Kosovo has also recently imposed a 100% tax on imports). Both countries needing to resolve their intense geopolitical issues before either will be allowed into the EU (one of many requirements, some of which CLARD is directly working on). I am looking forward to learning more next week, and experiencing firsthand how a modern postconflict nation is built. 

CLARD photo

On a lighter note, I was able to do some more adventuring this weekend. The weather has been beautiful (slightly rainy here and there) and I made the twenty-minute stroll from my apartment downtown to take in the sights. I specifically wanted to see the National Library, known as one of the ugliest buildings in the world. Let me just say, the monolith took my breath away. It is absolutely spectacular, and while not traditionally pleasing to the eye, it already has a special place in my heart. I also came across a beautiful (but unfinished; building was interrupted by the Kosovo War) Serbian Orthodox Church here in the city center on University of Pristina campus. I'm learning every day that Pristina is a city full of unexpected treasures!

Until next week!

My stroll into downtown Pristina:

Walk into Town

My new favorite library (after Wolf at William & Mary, of course):

National Library

The Serbian Orthodox Church:

Orthodox Church