The eighth annual RIT Kosovo (A.U.K) Peace and Conflict Summer Program began on June 18 with a total of 50 student participants from the region and around the world.
The participants began with an 8-day regional study tour that left the Germia campus for Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia. Participants familiarized themselves with key historic places and events throughout Balkan history so as to provide a rich and tactile context for the studies in the program’s academic program. In Kruje Castle, they learned about the fifteenth century Albanian revolt against the Ottoman Empire led by Skenderbej (Gjergj Kastrioti). They familiarized themselves with the Albanian, Venetian, Yugoslav and Montenegrin legacies of Ulcinj and Kotor.
In Bosnia, participants explored Sarajevo’s Baščaršija, the most extensive old Ottoman market place in the Balkans, and met with the Office of the High Representative’s Principal Deputy High Representative Bruce Berton, who frankly discussed the implementation of the Dayton accords and current challenges facing Bosnia-Herzegovina. Memnuna Zvizdić, Executive Director of “Women for Women” (Žene Ženama) NGO that has been working since the 1990s, outlined the significance of gender as both a weapon in war and tool for peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Srebrenica, participants explored the painful and moving cemetary and museum memorializing the biggest war crime in Europe since World War II.
In Belgrade, Jelena Džombić of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia talked of the ‘inter-cultural icebreakers’ program that brings together Serbian and Kosovar artists and performers to re-connect and develop some common programs in education and culture in both countries. Executive Director (and former RIT-K Board Member) Sonja Biserko insightfully briefed on the many challenges in a practical agenda for human rights and democracy in Serbia and the region. The Director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights Anita Mitić reviewed their programs aimed to win acceptance for marginalized groups in Serbia. In Skopje, distinguished veteran journalist Saso Ordanoski delivered a superb tour d’horizon of challenges facing Macedonia as it seeks a European future by looking to the land’s ancient past.
The academic portion of the program began on Tuesday, June 27 with distinguished faculty including former principle deputy of the United Nations Special Representative for Kosovo Jock Covey; former Chief of Staff for the UN Special Representative for Kosovo Colonel Michael Hess; former American diplomat, Dayton Conference participant, and author Professor Louis Sell; former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Leonard Hawley; Westminster University (London) expert on conflict prevention Professor Aidan Hehir; and NGO human rights activist and former journalist Shukrije Gashi and a group of distinguished RIT faculty from public policy, and photojournalism.
A highlight of the 2018 program will be a one-day workshop for CVE (countering violent extremism) and PVE (preventing violent extremism) with academics and practitioners from Kosovo’s policy community working with the program’s participants in developing a ‘tool box’ of activities that are consistent with the Kosovo Government’s strategy and action plan against violent extremism. Program Director Mark Baskin said that “this work follows on from RIT-Kosovo’s ongoing S’Bashku (Together) initiative aimed at countering violent extremism and it is aimed to bring our teaching and research to important issues in Kosovo’s public life. Students will continue working to design a set of tools that can be of practical value in building a democratic and prosperous future in Kosovo and the region.”