Week 3 - The Beginning of National Elections

Over the weekend, I walked around as much of Pristina as I could, exploring the monuments dotted sporadically throughout the city, observing the layout of the city and its buildings, and watching the citizens go about their day-to-day lives.  I was awe-struck to see how the war still holds great significance to the people and the culture of Kosovo; there is evidence of it in the numerous monuments to war heroes, in the published artworks that illustrates the pain and horror of war, and in the ruinous scars that still mar parts of the city.  In the US, the horrors of war are either well hidden from the public or sanitized, but here they are on permanent display as a daily reminder to all that pass by them.  Seeing the city in this way makes me appreciate further the significance of the Newborn monument right outside of the city center.

At the beginning of my third week, I was approached in the late afternoon with an urgent report due at 10am the next day.  D4D was working in conjunction with another NGO in Sweden on the subject of tenant’s rights in Kosovo.  I was excited to tackle this project, as it would deal more directly with legal issues than any of the previous projects I had worked on.  I spent the rest of the evening, night, and following morning researching and writing up a paper detailing an overview of the state of tenant’s rights in Kosovo.  My research yielded interesting results: many young Kosovars are not only aware of their rights as a tenant in an apartment or home, but they also are interested in actively promoting and protecting those rights through Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).  Part of this enthusiasm comes from the large number of Kosovar youth who are currently renting an apartment, but want to own a home themselves one day.  Seeing this high level of political activism at a local level was quite refreshing; youth here take their voice in politics seriously and that is a good omen for the future of Kosovo.

Later that same day, I joined our organization for a meeting where representatives from political parties signed a Declaration to Increase Transparency of Financial Entities.  This Declaration was drafted by D4D and the meeting was organized and broadcasted on national television.  Nearly every party had representatives present for the meeting and the parties that were not present had agreed beforehand to also sign the Declaration.  Watching these political parties voluntarily signed this pledge demonstrated to me both the power of CSOs in formulating change in Kosovo and the growing maturity in Kosovo’s democratic election process.  However, I know that not every party will completely adhere to this pledge, so CSOs like ours have their work cut out for them to continue to hold these parties accountable.  But having watched behind the scenes the phone calls, the drafts, and the hard work that was put into making this moment happen, I have no doubt that they are capable enoguh to keep the parties honest.

Later in the week, I finished revising the first draft of the policy brief that I had been working on.  Shortly afterwards, I was given a “final draft” version of the brief along with the excel spreadsheets of survey data that we were using to supplement our research.  I was able to go through and continue to catch more errors, such as translations mistakes, new formatting errors, and mistakes in the analysis itself.  In the interim period between the drafts, I started additional research that broadened some of the perspectives that were introduced in the original draft.  Utilizing the resources available to me through the Wolf Law Library, I found additional research that detailed more obstacles that Kosovo women had recently faced in the labor market that could be fleshed out further in our research paper.  Once I finish the second round of edits, I will present my additional research to the project manager here, and, hopefully, it will be added to the research paper, giving a greater insight behind the obstacles Kosovar women face.  In addition to this work, I was called on a handful of times throughout the week to provide translation assistance for a few informational emails, flyers, and announcement letters that were being sent out in English.

This week also marked the beginning of the political campaigns.  Unlike the United States, Kosovo has a ten-day limit on campaigning.  Even with this limit, there is a slew of campaigning packed within this small timeframe.  Almost overnight, giant posters from the leading political coalitions and parties were everywhere, along with flyers and other advertisements.  Nowadays, you cannot walk twenty steps without encountering some sort of political advertisement. During this time, I spoke with a few locals who primarily decried the amount of money that politicians were spending on campaigning instead of on more productive social and development programs.  While the amount of campaign money may look like a drop in a bucket compared to US campaigns, it's still pervasive enough to access what feels like every person here in Pristina.  It will be interesting to see how much success each of the parties have in the following week as well as what their campaign techniques would look like in the coming days.

Finally, to cap off a busy week, I planned my first trip to a neighboring Balkan country along with some help from my coworkers.  We were able to coordinate bus schedules to get me from Pristina to Tirana, Albania.  While I was only in Albania for a day and a half, I was able to pack as much solo sightseeing as I could in that limited timeframe.  From the museums to the historic buildings to the delicious espressos, I felt like I got a taste of life in Albania.