Life Expectancy in Kosovo
Kosovo is a newly and controversially independent Baltic state with its fair share of hardships. After only recently deescalating its conflict with Serbia, the war-torn country must continue to find how to establish itself in the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo highlight Kosovo’s unstable internal conditions as well as the efforts that the country is putting forth to improve them.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kosovo

  1. In 2002, the average life expectancy in Kosovo was 68 years. It has steadily improved since then with the average life expectancy in Kosovo now being 72 years according to the World Bank. Improvements in many sectors, such as increased health care accessibility, education reforms and de-escalation of the conflict in the region may be a cause of this. Compared to the average life expectancy of the European Union (E.U.) nations (81 years), Kosovo has a long way to go. However, many project the yearly improvement over the past two decades to continue.
  2. According to the Kosovo Agency of Statistics, in 2017, 18 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. High poverty levels likely stem from a prevalence of unemployment (31 percent in 2017) as well as exceedingly low wages (500 euros monthly). This makes Kosovo the third poorest country in Europe. However, increased foreign investment and urban development have caused major improvements from figures just five years prior that show the poverty level at 23.5 percent, reflected by a higher unemployment rate of 35 percent.

  3. There is a vast disparity in health care access between minority populations and the general populous of Kosovo. Children living in rural areas are less likely to have access to good health care, and this is even worse for ethnic minorities. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), more than 60 percent of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children live in absolute poverty and over 30 percent live in extreme poverty (compared to the average statistics of 48.6 percent and 18.9 percent, respectively). A statistic that reflects this disparity is the infant mortality rate (IMR). The average IMR for the whole of Kosovo is 12 deaths per 1,000 live births. When looking at the IMR for minorities, that number jumps to 41 deaths per 1,000 live births.

  4. Kosovo has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $7.129 billion and spends 1.1 percent of it on health and social work, as well as 0.9 percent on public administration. While the amount the country spends on public health services is very low, Kosovars have seen improvements in basic health. The government has recently subsidized health care accessibility programs such as the Law on Health Insurance (2014) and the National Health Sector Strategy (2017-2021). The former gave all Kosovo citizens the right and obligation to have a basic, mandatory health insurance package that covers emergencies, pregnancies and childbirth and other health care essentials. The latter is a strategy the Ministry of Health adopted that focuses on better management of health care funds as well as improving the accessibility of basic health care to minorities and other marginalized communities. Ultimately, however, the outcomes of the new policies have been difficult to measure due to lacking administrative records and unclear implementation policies.

  5. The leading causes of death in Kosovo are circulatory system diseases, making up 62.7 percent of all deaths in 2015. Other prevalent causes of death are tumor diseases (14.7 percent) and respiratory diseases (5.4 percent). Kosovo also has one of the highest tuberculosis rates in Europe, according to the World Health Organization. Many of these diseases are due to the overwhelming amount of tobacco products consumed in Southeastern European countries, causing 80-90 percent of all lung cancer cases and increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and tuberculosis.

  6. Starting in 1998, Serbia cast out over 800,000 people from Kosovo during the Kosovo Conflict. Thousands of people still live in refugee camps since they have no way to reclaim their homes. Other organizations or individuals have bought the properties, and Kosovo courts make it very difficult to evict the illegal tenants and allow refugees to return to their homes. However, efforts from UN Habitat, a branch of the United Nations that deals with sustainable human settlements and shelters, have recently pushed for reform in Kosovo’s court system to more adequately handle the illegal seizures of property. The Kosovo Municipal Spatial Planning Support Programme, which UN Habitat developed, has built capacities for sustainable and affordable development of urban areas and has established institutions like the Housing and Property Directorate and the Kosovo Cadastre Agency.

  7. The homicide rate in Kosovo is measured at about 2.1 intentional homicides per every 100,000 people in 2016. This is impressively low, considering the global average is 6.2 homicides per 100,000 people and the U.S. average is 4.9 per 100,000.

  8. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) looks at three categories for fifteen-year-old students: math, reading and sciences. The test thereby evaluates teaching methods and education infrastructure and shows the government whether the improvement is necessary or not. In 2015, the PISA ranked Kosovo as one of the last three countries in all of the evaluated categories. The ranking is devastating, yet the Minister of Education Arsim Bajrami embraced the results with a promise of improvement. He stated, “[The decision to participate in the PISA] was a courageous act as well as a commitment to increase the quality of education in our country.” Since then, with the help of foreign aid, the government has worked to improve the technical training of teachers and the ability of Kosovo’s youngest generation to be financially viable.

  9. Kosovo air quality has been steadily decreasing over the past decade. In December 2018, Kosovo’s capital of Prishtina had an air quality measured as hazardous. Increased investment in coal and biofuel power plants have caused a sharp increase in air pollution. The Balkan Green Foundation and the Institute for Development Policy (INDEP) launched campaigns to raise awareness on the effects of excessive air pollution caused by fossil fuel. They have been pushing for transparency with energy expenditure and power plant output, but the government has been less than receptive. However, the green movement in Kosovo has gained traction very quickly within the past six months. There are now large pushes for the Kosovo government to be more accurate with air pollution reports as well as transportation reform to ensure car emissions are not unnecessarily high.

  10. The people of Kosovo consider corruption to be the most important problem facing them, after unemployment, according to the UNODC Corruption Report on Kosovo. Systemic bribery is endangering Kosovars by obstructing their access to law enforcement as well as health care. Thirty percent of all bribes went to police officers to overlook petty crimes, 26 percent went to nurses and a massive 42 percent of bribes went to doctors to either expedite or receive better treatment. The U.K.’s ambassador to Kosovo Ruairi O’Connell has pushed very strongly for a crackdown on governmental and private corruption, “The moment has come to remove officials whose integrity is contested. Politicians should not meddle in the work of police, courts, and prosecutor’s office.”As of yet, corruption continues to be widespread, and public opinion as well as the justice ministers in the Kosovo government call for immediate reform.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo reflect that the condition is gloomy, but improving. Corruption is still endemic and ethnic disparities are prevalent, but outside influencers, like the U.N. and non-governmental organizations like INDEP are helping the government improve. If the government carries out infrastructure, education and health care developments successfully, the country would see improvements across the board and become a more competitive piece of the world with a much higher life expectancy.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Kosovo
Kosovo is a small, partially recognized country located in Balkan that has existed since its separation from Serbia in 2008. Despite being a young and still developing nation, it is rich in culture from its diverse populace. In the text below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Kosovo are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Kosovo

  1. Kosovo’s citizens are the second poorest in Europe. The country suffers an unemployment rate of 33 percent and youth unemployment near 60 percent.
  2. Around 45 percent of Kosovo’s population live below the poverty line, with 15 percent living in extreme poverty. Most of the population lives in rural areas, living on small plots with limited industrial tools. This leads to much of the country’s citizens being forced to live on near-subsistence farming.
  3. The country does not have enough doctors. Kosovo started new health care reform in 2010. These include universal, the state ran health insurance with a network of family health centers. The latest reports found 2,664 doctors in the program with an additional 1,457 doctors in the private sector. This totals 2.2 medical doctors per 1,000 citizens, far below the European average of 3.4.
  4. Personal hygiene is a huge problem in the country. Massive inequalities exist in the lower economic classes of the country in access to hygiene and sanitation. Lack of electricity exists for only 0.1 percent of university-educated people and 10 percent of people without an education. Meanwhile, lack of personal bathrooms are reported in large numbers and are usually divided by ethnic lines (0.3 percent of Albanian households compared to 20.2 percent of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian ethnicity households).
  5. Ethnic minorities face many legal barriers that compound their hardships. Minorities such as Roma, Ashkali and Balkan Egyptians suffer problems in obtaining personal documents needed to access health care, social assistance and education. This hinders these citizens from obtaining many of the programs designed to help low-income citizens, further trapping them in the vicious cycle of poverty.
  6. Many women face domestic violence as around 68 percent of women in Kosovo report having experienced domestic violence. This is due to a few and inadequate police and prosecutors responses. The government, however, has created a new National Strategy and Action Plan against Domestic Violence to fight against these crimes.
  7. People with diseases and injuries are at greater risk for inadequate homes, water and income. Inadequate housing is reported by 11.6 percent of those with diseases or injuries and inadequate water by 7.4 percent. Even more citizens in this situation, however, face problems with affordable conditions: 26.6 percent of citizens with health-related outcomes report inadequate affordability conditions.
  8. Kosovo’s courts are packed and overloaded. The latest reports from the International Monetary Fund showed the courts had 264,193 pending cases and a backlog of inventories ranging from 25.7 to 71.7 percent in different cases. They have 29 percent of their judicial positions filled and only five specialized judges in the lower court and only one in the appellate court. These statistics show a slow and inefficient court, hindering the legal action of citizens in the country.
  9. Kosovo is a fairly safe country. Kosovo has a crime index of 33.37. The same index is 37.27 in Serbia, 39.29 in Macedonia, 40.3 in Albania and 40.48 in Montenegro, all neighboring countries of Kosovo. In 2017, 72 citizens have been convicted of murder related crimes and 218 were convicted of robbery-related crimes in a country of 1.8 million people.
  10. There is not enough housing in the country as 21.5 percent of households report having two or more people per room in the house, and 28.7 percent have between 1.5 and 2 people per room. The United Nations had long been at work to address this problem, specifically in Prishtina. The project started in 2015 and in on-going.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Kosovo are meant to highlight the problems that urgently need to be addressed in the country. Despite the problems presented in the text above and other problems facing the country, many laws and initiatives are in the works to alleviate citizens’ poor situation. Both international and local programs are currently working to improve conditions in the country, so far successfully. This, combined with a seemingly stable economy, provides a hopeful future for the citizens of Kosovo.

– Zachary Sparks
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kosovo
Kosovo, once a part of Serbia, has a long history of working towards gaining independence. In 1996, a Kosovo rebel group created the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which led to repression by Serbia and an ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovar Albanians. A peace agreement in the late 1990s ended the conflict and gave control of Kosovo to a United Nations administration. In 2008, Kosovo officially declared its independence from Serbia with support from the U.N.

However, due to this conflict, Kosovo struggled in the early 2000s to rebuild its education system. This article will discuss the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kosovo.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kosovo

  1. Education in Kosovo is split into pre-primary, primary, lower secondary, upper secondary and tertiary levels. Within upper secondary, students can either attend a vocational or general education school.
  2. In 2005, 10 percent of rural girls dropped out of school before finishing Grade 5. Due to this, female students only comprised 43 percent of students in rural secondary schools.
  3. In 2009 and 2010, although elementary and secondary schools were comprised of 52 percent boys and 48 percent girls, slightly more women attended university than men, with university enrollment consisting of 49 percent males and 51 percent females.
  4. Based on data from 2010, 7.2 percent of women aged 15 and older in Kosovo are illiterate, in comparison to 2.2 percent of men. In rural areas where literacy rates are lower, 8.7 percent of women and 2.8 percent of men are illiterate. This represents a significant improvement from 2005, however, when 14 percent of rural women were illiterate.
  5. Approximately 71 percent of all Kosovo children attended pre-primary education (for ages 5 through 6) in 2010, but by 2015 this percentage had risen to 81.3. However, poorer households and Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian families are less likely to send their children to pre-primary school.
  6. Grade 5 testing done in 2010 indicated that girls and urban students significantly outperformed boys and rural students. While the urban-rural divide in education access and quality is well-documented, reasons for girls attaining on average higher test scores is yet unknown.
  7. As of 2012, 62 percent of women and 37 percent of men had nine or fewer years of schooling and only 6 percent of women and 12 percent of men had a university degree.
  8. Overall, 99.6 percent of girls in Kosovo complete primary education and 99.3 percent of girls begin lower secondary school according to 2013-2014 UNICEF reports. However, only 85.5 percent of girls continue on to upper secondary school, as opposed to 89.6 percent of boys. These percentages have increased significantly since 2002, however, when 91.2 percent of girls attended primary school but only 54 percent received secondary education.
  9. Kosovo’s Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian populations, both men and women, are educated at lower rates than the Albanian and Serbian populations. While 91.6 percent of girls and 94 percent of boys from these communities enter primary school, only 72.2 percent of girls and 80.3 percent of boys finish. These percentages continue to decrease as the educational level increases, with 28.7 percent of girls and 37.3 percent of boys beginning upper secondary school.
  10. Poverty and safety concerns are the two primary factors that inhibit rural girls from obtaining an education. A survey from the early 2000s found that economic hardship, particularly in the aftermath of the conflict, was the most common reason for girls to not attend school. There was also little economic incentive for girls to attend school as female unemployment in rural areas was ninety-nine percent. Additionally, students often lived far away from the schools, making it potentially unsafe for them to walk miles by themselves, especially during the winter.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kosovo help illuminate the progress the country has made, but also the work that still needs to be done, namely decreasing urban and rural disparities, as well as ethnic inequalities in education. Keeping girls in school through upper secondary education is also a concern that needs to be addressed, although the higher rate at which women are attending universities suggests that education for girls and women in Kosovo is becoming more accessible overall.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Kosovo
The Kosovo War in the late 1990’s destroyed much of country’s agricultural sector and infrastructure, and a large portion of the working population was crippled by war consequences. Currently, Kosovo’s total population is about two million. The scars of the war can still be seen in its high poverty rate and human development index (HDI) score compared to its neighbors. Here is the list of the top 10 facts about poverty in Kosovo.

  1. Kosovo’s GDP per capita or Gross Domestic Product (the number that gives an estimation of individual-based economic health) tripled from 2000 to 2017 and is currently at $3,902. However, Kosovo is still the third-poorest country in Europe.
  2. In 2015, approximately 17 percent of the population was living below the poverty line of $2.11 a day, and about five percent of the population was living below the extreme poverty line of $1.51 a day.
  3. UNICEF, based on 2006-2007 data, found that families in Kosovo with children were less likely to be poor than families without children. However, this research also concluded that children aged 0-19 were more likely to be at risk of poverty than the general population.
  4. Kosovo is rich in lignite (a type of coal) and many other natural resources, but the population’s energy needs exceed the production of the country’s two power plants. Less than 0.8 kW (kilowatts) is generated per person, which is under half of that in Slovenia and under a quarter of that in Austria.
  5. From December 2014 to February 2015, the number of migrants seeking asylum from Kosovo to the EU had grown by 40 percent.
  6. Economic growth in Kosovo is projected at between two to four percent for the period from 2018 to 2020. It has held a steady rate of growth since the 2008 global recession.
  7. Nearly two decades after the Kosovo War, ethnic tensions began to ramp up again. Local politicians are taking advantage of fear from potential conflicts and are using nationalist slogans for their political campaigns.
  8. Foreign aid and remittances from countries such as the United States, France, and others reached more than 700 million dollars in 2017, reducing poverty and trade deficits in Kosovo, according to the country’s Central Bank.
  9. Self-employment is widely recognized as one of the solutions to poverty in Kosovo, but conducted surveys show that the low investment capital and limited access to loans keep most of the people away from starting a business.
  10. Kosovo’s transportation infrastructure is very weak, with undeveloped networks of railways and motorways. It lags behind the EU average as well as other Balkan states, such as Macedonia and Albania.

Silver lining

Despite many domestic challenges Kosovo faces regarding the economy and its infrastructure, the country is back on track in economic growth and self-sustainability. Country’s quality of life has steadily improved, while poverty has decreased over the last two decades and this can be attributed to international aid and domestic policy reform.

If Kosovo can continue to maintain its growth rate and effectively integrate foreign aid and advising into both its public and private sectors, in addition to addressing its social issues, the country can expect a brighter future for its citizens in the upcoming decades.

Alex Qi

Photo: Flickr

Kosovo-Serbia Relations
Kosovo was once a province of Serbia, where  Serbians discriminated against and excluded Kosovars of ethnic Albanian origin all throughout the late 20th century. Excluded from education and administrative systems, Kosovars fought long and hard for their independence.

Kosovo History

After more than 800,000 Kosovars were forced to find refuge in neighboring countries from 1989 to 1999, NATO militarily intervened against the Yugoslavia and Serbia joint forces. After three months of NATO airstrikes, Yugoslav and Serbian forces withdrew from Kosovo and the U.N. was authorized to facilitate a political process to determine the future of Kosovo’s status.

After suffering years of systematic discrimination, the people’s right to self-determination prevailed; in 2008, Kosovo declared independence and became Europe’s newest state.

However, ten years on the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia is still relatively unstable. Recent talks between the two nations have been facilitated in the hopes of coming to a peaceful resolution. Below are five facts on Kosovo-Serbia relations today.

Facts About Kosovo-Serbia Relations

  1. Serbia, a state backed by Russia, does not recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Kosovo, as well as Serbia, is not recognized by 5 of the 28 European member states. Recently, a deal was proposed to Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence in exchange for EU membership. This is a long sought-after goal of Serbia.
  2. Kosovo’s population is made up of a majority ethnic Albanian population and a minority Serbian population. Serbians are mostly found in the north of the country. These populations have created some key issues within the country, as the Serbian majority population in the north is run by a parallel administration backed by the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
  3. The Serbian population refuses to integrate into Kosovo and wishes to keep close ties with Serbia and their administration. An example of the lack of integration between the two is Serbian and Kosovo schools in Kosovo. Both teach different versions of what occurred between 1989 and 1999 to coincide with their own versions. Schools teach different languages — Kosovars learn Albanian and Serbians learn Serbian — and neither interact with each other. This has created a cycle of hostility between the two ethnicities and countries.
  4. An association of Serbian municipalities was created as part of a deal brokered between the two countries in 2015. This was done to give more autonomy to the Serbian communities in Kosovo. The deal allowed the five percent of ethnic Serbs to have their own courts of appeal, budgets and police officers. However, this autonomy has caused some tension between the two groups. This year, amendments were requested as the agreement was deemed incompatible with Kosovo’s constitution and sovereignty.
  5. In the past few years, talks have been facilitated between the Serbian and Kosovo governments to put an end to their turbulent relationship. These discussions also strove for peace and agreement to come to fruition. In 2017, the Justice Agreement was reached, integrating all judicial personnel and allowing justice to be delivered across Kosovo, including the Serbian municipalities. This was a milestone for Kosovo-Serbia relations.

Future Relations

Since the end of the war, Kosovo-Serbia relations have been fraught with disagreements and tensions. However, things are looking up and future relations between Kosovo and Serbia seem to be more cooperative and peaceful.

Hopefully, there will be a full recognition of Kosovo’s independence followed by both its and Serbia’s admission to the European Union in the near future. The relationship between these two countries should be a fruitful and peaceful one, but acceptance and cooperation must come from both sides to ensure their peaceful coexistence.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in kosovo

Kosovo’s economy is highly dependent on agriculture and related industries, which are estimated to be the biggest sector of the economy. At a broad level, Kosovo’s agricultural sector is doing well, but there are some key challenges holding it back. That being said, external aid, particularly from the U.S. and the European Union, is helping to rectify some of these issues in conjunction with many local activists whose efforts to promote sustainable agriculture in Kosovo cannot be overlooked.

The main challenge facing Kosovo’s agricultural sector amounts most fundamentally to a lack of competitiveness. This results from a variety of factors, ranging from outdated techniques and equipment (with regards to both production and processing) to difficulty with market access. Additionally, Kosovar farmers are facing increased pressure to switch to more sustainable practices before the environment can no longer support their current ones. Encouragingly, many small farmers are open to doing this, but may lack the means to do so, which is why support from outside actors promises to be wildly successful in promoting sustainable agriculture in Kosovo.

Many groups are hard at work trying to modernize the Kosovar agricultural sector and make it more internationally competitive. The EU’s mission to Kosovo has made a point of working with small farmers and providing them with grants to make necessary improvements. Additionally, the EU mission is also working closely with Kosovo’s Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development to ensure that all of the work being done is helping to bring Kosovo in line with the EU’s common agricultural policy and all of its associated regulations.

The EU has made a point to prioritize providing grants to farmers who are also advocates for sustainable agriculture in Kosovo. Saffron Team, one of the EU grant recipients, lobbies against the use of artificial pesticides and works to sustainably produce saffron, a highly valuable crop that is well-suited to the local climate.

The story of Saffron Team is also a good example of how money put towards sustainable agriculture or other seemingly-irrelevant efforts can also have unintended positive effects elsewhere. The owner of Saffron Team, Nexhmedin Kahrimani, is currently negotiating with an ethnic Serb from northern Kosovo, and the two are considering going into business together. When describing this latest venture, he emphasizes the importance of mutual trust in all aspects of daily life. It is quite possible, then, that efforts to promote sustainable agriculture in Kosovo can also play a role in helping to encourage reconciliation between the multiple ethnic groups who call this country home.

USAID is also heavily involved with promoting sustainable agriculture in Kosovo. The U.S. is currently focusing on helping Kosovar farmers improve their production and processing techniques while opening up new links to markets around the world. USAID is working to bring in new investors and generate economically sustainable partnerships that will foster long-term growth in this sector. The U.S. is also working to provide improved equipment and training to help farmers increase volume and achieve greater economies of scale. Additionally, USAID is emphasizing improved food quality to help Kosovar products compete on the international market. The United States is also helping to fund initiatives to encourage young people to enter careers in agriculture, ensuring the promotion of sustainable agriculture in Kosovo in the long term as well as the short term.

As with many aspects of international development, significant challenges are present and it will take time for sustainable agriculture in Kosovo to become firmly entrenched. It will be difficult for all farmers to adopt these techniques at the same rates, and market access may continue to be a problem. That being said, those parties working on these issues in Kosovo are to be commended for their efforts, which are already making a major difference.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

5 Development Projects in KosovoDespite turbulence in the past, Kosovo is undergoing rapid economic development at present. However, this is not distributed evenly across all populations and parts of the country. However, there are numerous development projects in Kosovo working to change that. These five promise to make a major difference.

USAID Engagement for Equity

This program works to support local civil society groups in developing policies to promote greater equity for marginalized groups and communities in Kosovo. This project has had a broad reach and has made especially notable improvements in gender equity. Kosovo has relatively strong protections for women on the books, but few women are aware of their rights and often have difficulty taking advantage of them because of the patriarchal culture in Kosovo that is common in many Balkan societies. This problem is especially pronounced when it comes to property rights, as women traditionally did not own or inherit property.

USAID recently worked with Kosova Women 4 Women to organize a class that taught women what their rights are and how to exercise them. While this seems small, this is an example of development projects in Kosovo that have a much broader reach than they seem. Women who have property in their names or register property jointly with their husbands have a much easier time accessing credit, which helps them to start small businesses, promoting the growth of the entire economy as well as greater financial security for women.

LuxDev Health Sector Support Programme

Luxembourg has been a major donor to Kosovo’s health sector for many years and has contributed to many successful projects. This latest project is expected to be completed in 2019 and will build on the successes of previous projects. Its goals primarily center around improving institutional capacity and management to ensure full implementation of previous achievements, as well as increasing access to and affordability of care.

InTerDev 2

InTerDev 2 is the latest in a series of projects supported by the UNDP to reduce economic insecurity, particularly in southern Kosovo and among minorities and women. Its primary goals are to bring down the high unemployment rate, address underemployment and precarious employment, improve public services, and end the socioeconomic exclusion of women and minority groups. The plan is to do this by expanding the capacity of municipalities and local actors, especially in rural areas, to assist underserved populations, supporting small and medium-sized business owners who wish to modernize and expand and by promoting job growth at the local level.

Kosovo Safety and Security Project

This comprehensive approach to security, spearheaded by the U.N. but also supported by several EU member states, seeks to improve security in Kosovo by focusing on small arms control, countering violent extremism, and improvements in policing. Recent years have seen multiple development projects in Kosovo focus on addressing violent crime and cracking down on the illegal trade and possession of small firearms and explosive materials. The Safety and Security Project seeks to build on best practices learned from these projects to strengthen and empower Kosovo’s law enforcement agencies. Another effect of this project will be to bring Kosovo into compliance with EU regulations regarding firearms, helping to put Kosovo on a more equal footing with its neighbors. It is also hoped that the root causes of illegal weapons possession can be mitigated, helping to make Kosovo safer.

Institutional and Technical Support for the Water Supply System

This project is a follow-up to the 2016 project of the same name, both organized by Luxembourg. The 2016 project saw the creation of the Mitrovica Regional Water Company and supporting infrastructure. The current project aims to strengthen the management and customer service capabilities of the company and enable it to run more efficiently from a business standpoint. This comes as other development projects in Kosovo are also working to strengthen and support private sector activity. Also included in the current project are the use of satellite imagery to identify leaks and the replacement of some aging infrastructure to make the water supply system more efficient and more environmentally friendly by reducing the amount of water wasted as a result of leaks.

These projects all promise to jump-start economic development in Kosovo and lift people out of poverty. They will all have a major impact on quality of life and some even promise to help calm the lingering tensions in Kosovo as a result of the conflict. Improved economic conditions and stronger legal frameworks will also make major strides towards rectifying the ongoing issues surrounding property ownership. Once this is resolved, the credit access problem in Kosovo will also become much more manageable. Taken together, these improvements promise to strengthen Kosovo’s economy and bring down the poverty rate, which is good for everyone.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

What was the Kosovo Conflict?

Starting in February 1998 and lasting until June 1999, the Kosovo Conflict was essentially ethnic Albanians being in opposition to ethnic Serbs and the government of Yugoslavia in Kosovo. Problems of the Kosovo Conflict were both widespread and numerous, despite only lasting for less than two years. Considering the issues it caused, it is important to understand what the Kosovo Conflict was in a broader sense.

The Kosovo Conflict began in response to Albanians being in the majority of the population in an area that was held in high regard by the Serbs. In addition, Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Albanians in Kosovo, sought to nonviolently protest Slobodan Milosevic, the president of Serbian Republic at the time. Tensions gradually rose between the two groups and resulted in the emergence of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Beginning two years prior to the start of the war in 1996, the KLA sporadically attacked Serbian politicians and police. The attacks gradually escalated and led to the actions of the KLA being classified as an armed uprising, resulting in the Kosovo Conflict. The Serbian police force, along with Yugoslav armed forces, tried to regain control of the territory. Attempts to regain control of the region led to widespread media attention and a slew of refugees from the area.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was instrumental in ending the Kosovo Conflict. After NATO had exhausted its diplomatic attempts to find peace in Kosovo, they turned to Operation Allied Force. Allied Force was the first time in NATO history in which military action took place against a sovereign state outside NATO territory. After 77 days of Allied Force, Milosevic agreed to NATO’s demands. One million refugees were able to safely return to Kosovo.

However, along with the influx of refugees from the region, the war resulted in various negative consequences. Problems of the Kosovo Conflict included damage to trade routes and transportation, a loss of confidence in consumers and investors, weakened infrastructure and increased stress on the economy.

Unfortunately, the response to the consequences of the Kosovo Conflict was not sufficient. Humanitarian organizations in place that represented the international community were simply not prepared to deal with the large-scale effects of the war. Training and guidelines were typically bypassed, and some members of the military admitted that guidelines were lacking.

Conflict in the region is still at an all-time high today. In January 2018, a Serbian train bearing signs saying, “Kosovo is Serbian,” was stopped on its way to enter Kosovo due to reports of a planned attack by Albanians. Kosovo officially declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but this is not recognized by Serbia or its ally, Russia. Hopefully, the region will be able to find peace, but it seems that the problems that arose from what was the Kosovo Conflict continue to persist 20 years later.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr


Access to credit is an obstacle to economic development in many countries, and this is true in Kosovo as well. Some of the factors inhibiting credit access in Kosovo are unique. Since 1989, property rights in Kosovo has been a highly contentious issue, and the war in the late 1990s only made this worse.

Following 1989, the privatisation of public property in Kosovo caused many land disputes that were only exacerbated by the ethnic conflict. As people fled their homes before and during the war, property became de facto owned by people that did not have the legal right to it. The destruction of property during the war created further disputes that authorities have struggled to fully resolve.

The tumultuous history of property rights over the last 30 years has had a lasting impact on credit access in Kosovo. Given that property is an important form of collateral that is not plentiful in Kosovo, access to credit is very difficult. Many individuals and would-be entrepreneurs lack sufficient collateral to secure a loan, and banks continue to withhold credit from people who ostensibly have the necessary collateral because of legal uncertainty.

This lack of credit access in Kosovo is a major obstacle to economic development and is trapping banks in cycles of what amounts to economic contraction. This situation makes Kosovo a good candidate for aid from the United States in order to improve credit access.

Recently, USAID launched a project to help improve credit access in Kosovo by establishing the Kosovo Credit Guarantee Fund, which has pledged to back 50 percent of the value of loans given to small and medium-sized businesses. The first guarantees for these loans were issued by USAID in just September 2016, but they are already having a major positive impact on Kosovo’s business environment.

Beneficiaries report being able to secure financing that they could not have done without the help of the credit guarantees. This financing turns into investment elsewhere in Kosovo, multiplying the impact of this one small step to improving credit access.

These improvements to the economic situation as a result of improved credit access in Kosovo have a positive impact that stretches well beyond Kosovo’s borders. Kosovo is widely regarded as a good location for U.S. investment, and these improvements to the economy are sure to help the country attract more investment.

Improved economic forecasts also mean that Kosovo is fast becoming a valuable market for U.S. exports. This has the potential to benefit not only the people of Kosovo but of the United States as well. Despite lingering challenges, Kosovo is becoming a poster child for the success of this kind of foreign aid.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

Kosovo is a country in the Balkan region of Europe that declared independence from Serbia in February 2008. Women in contemporary Kosovo seem to have perfect equality, but this perception can be deceiving.

Following a civil war from 1998-99, Kosovo was subjected to a decade of international observance, culminating in the country’s unilateral independence in 2008. During this period of change, they instituted an egalitarian law package in 2004, which was demanded by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). These laws fulfill all European Union requirements and include laws on gender equality, inheritance law and family law.

Women’s empowerment in Kosovo is assumed to be at an all-time high: it has a female president, two female former Deputy Ministers and several other female high-level officials. In addition to this, the Assembly of Kosovo has the second highest representation of women in the region.

In practice, women still struggle to gain access to property, social resources, personal security and cultural equality. Women’s empowerment in Kosovo has struggled, as women continue to live within the confines of a rigidly patriarchal society, a system in which men have the final say in all family matters, as well as having primary access to all social and economic resources. Many of the main structures of women’s oppression in Kosovo stem from cultural norms that link women’s social value to men.

Another problem facing women in Kosovo is domestic violence. Many women are often at the mercy of a justice system that fails to protect them. Kosovo is unique in the fact that it is cut off from key instruments of European justice due to the unresolved political situation in the country.

Despite the struggles being faced, there are many strides being made for women’s empowerment in Kosovo. The most significant of these is being made by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Kosovo.

The OSCE promotes women’s empowerment, gender equality and women’s rights by supporting the development and implementation of non-discriminatory legal frameworks and policies. It also focuses on women’s participation in public decision-making and gender-responsive budgeting, ensuring the interests of women and men are equally considered. Additionally, they raise awareness of the need to eliminate gender-based and domestic violence.

With the work of other initiatives that seek to impact women’s empowerment in Kosovo, the situation is constantly improving and positive strides are being made.

– Drew Fox

Photo: Flickr