The Ninth Annual Peace and Conflict Summer Program Builds Bridges of Understanding

The ninth annual RIT Kosovo (A.U.K) Peace and Conflict Summer Program successfully concluded on July 27 with a total of 45 participants from the region and from a variety of US universities. Their 8-day regional study covered to Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia.

  • In Kruje, Albania, participants learned about the fifteenth century Albanian revolt against the Ottoman Empire led by Skenderbej (Gjergj Kastrioti) and familiarized themselves with the region’s Muslim Bektashi heritage before they travelled.
  • In Dubrovnik, Croatia, distinguished Yale/University of Zagreb historian Dr. Ivo Banac lectured on Dubrovnik’s history at RIT Croatia’s campus that prepared them for tours through the city’s museums and walls that showed the Adriatic legacy of Balkan governance.
  • In Mostar, the participants visited the 16th century Ottoman bridge, one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans, which was destroyed during fighting in 1993 and repaired at the beginning of this century. The head of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) spoke to the group of remaining challenges in healing Mostar’s wartime wounds.
  • In Sarajevo they learned about efforts at post-conflict reconstruction from senior officials at the Office of the High Representative and the OSCE – and visited museums demonstrating the city’s complex Ottoman, Habsburg, Yugoslav and post-socialist realities and wandered through Baščaršija, the Balkans’ most extensive traditional market place.
  • In Srebrenica, participants toured the scene of the most significant European war crime since World War II, spoke with a survivor of the massacre and explored the museum that showed in detail the elements surrounding this horrible massacre.
  • In Belgrade, Serbia, participants met with an award-winning artist, Vladimir Miladinovic, whose work documents the mundane details of war crimes – in Bosnia, Kosovo and further afield outside the Balkans – that provide a key to the banality of organizing evil and to the tragedy of individual human loss. Their meeting with the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, which is one of a network regional youth groups, demonstrated how an important segment of the population continues to fight for a decent, democratic future for the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

The academic portion of the program from July 2-27, enabled participants to study with with distinguished faculty including former principle deputy of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General (PDSRSG) 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 distinguished student of negotiation and terrorism Professor Karen Heste of the University of Denver.

A one-day workshop on July 18 brought 20 Kosovo Security Force (KSF) Cadets and 6 KSF officers to engage in a civil-military planning exercise that was placed in mid-july 1999, one month after the conclusion of NATO bombing and the beginning of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Under the guidance of faculty who served in senior positions in that mission in 1999, participants addressed: security, civil administration, organized crime, humanitarian relief, inter-ethnic conflict, economic development and other urgent issues facing UNMIK at the time. The workshop concluded with briefings to former PDSRSG Jock Covey on the near-term challenges and mission objectives. KSF Major Berat Shala observed that “the workshop provided an important opportunity for the Cadets and civilian participants to work in realistic conditions.”

Program Director Professor Mark Baskin concluded that the 2018 program demonstrated said that “the RIT K program in peace and conflict studies provides students and faculty a unique opportunity to go beneath the surface of daily events to understand the multiple perspectives of all regional and international parties to the tragedy of armed conflict in the contemporary world. Each year we succeed in strengthening bridges of understanding among all local, regional and global parties to the conflict.”