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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

5 Active Development Projects in SerbiaSerbia is located in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula in Eastern Europe. The United Nations Development Programme measures a country’s overall development through the Human Development Index, which considers all aspects of a nation on its way to development. The Human Development Index ranks Serbia as the 66th most developed country in the world, a ranking which is certainly nothing to scoff at. However, there is still much to be done before Serbia can be considered a fully developed nation. Here are five active development projects in Serbia which are bringing the country closer to becoming fully developed.

  1. Floods Emergency Recovery Project
    The aim of this project is to make the nation less vulnerable to damaging floods, and to improve the response strategies of people living in areas which are at a high risk of flooding. This project will aid farmers in taking precautionary measures in case of a flood so that such an event would not cause a devastating effect on the food supply and economy.
  2. Corridor X Highway Project
    Corridor X refers to the road network which leads from Austria to Greece, connecting the nations of the Balkan Peninsula. This is a critical route for trade, commerce and travel, and there has been a great deal of construction on the highway to try and connect the road networks leading through Serbia. Development projects in Serbia like this one will move the nation closer to becoming fully developed, and will bring increased economic prosperity.
  3. Enhancing Infrastructure Efficiency and Sustainability Project
    This project has a similar goal to the Corridor X Highway Project in that it aims to bring increased connectivity between the different regions of Serbia. By improving infrastructure like roads, water systems and hospitals, this project will help to grow Serbia’s economy and increase ease of travel for Serbian citizens.
  4. Real Estate Management Project
    The Real Estate Management Project addresses an issue which is currently holding Serbia back on the path to development. This project will essentially make the real estate system in Serbia more reliable, accountable and transparent. It will create a dependable system of determining property value, thus ensuring that people pay the right amount of tax on their property. Serbia is adopting an internationally accepted standard of property valuation to achieve this goal.
  5. Deposit Insurance Strengthening Project
    The Deposit Insurance Agency is essentially Russia and Eastern Europe’s version of the American Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and will serve as a financial safety net or backbone behind the banking industry in Serbia. Strengthening the Deposit Insurance Agency will make banking in Serbia more reliable, and will spark economic growth in the nation.

These projects only begin to scratch the surface of all the work that has been done, and has yet to be done, in bringing Serbia into the developed world. While there is an immense list of things that need to be addressed and improved before Serbia can be considered fully developed, development projects in Serbia such as these are leading the way into the future.

Tyler Troped 

Photo: Flickr

Serbia Poverty Rate

The Republic of Serbia is a European country that declared its independence from the union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2006. Due to Serbia’s separation from the union and its rapid growth between 2001 to 2008, the country faces a substantial poverty rate.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), nine percent of Serbians are living in poverty as of 2016. Additionally, a concerning 25 percent of Serbians are on the verge of poverty. However, the Serbia poverty rate has improved since 2014, in which one in four people were living below the poverty line. Currently, the most vulnerable groups in Serbia are the Roma and youths.

The Roma are widely recognized as the European Union’s largest minority group, totaling ten million people. In many countries, including Serbia, the Roma were particularly vulnerable to poverty largely due to discrimination. Overall, 19.7 percent of Serbians are unemployed, and more than 50 percent of the unemployed are Romani.

Thus, a significant percentage of the Serbia poverty rate is made up by the Roma, who make up two percent of the Serbian population. Poverty among the Roma continues to persist as Serbia’s method for inclusion relies wholly on education, despite current statistics. As of 2015, only 8 percent of Romanis completed high school, due to discrimination and family financial difficulties. To adequately address the economic disparity of the Roma, more efforts will need to be put towards inclusion.

Youth in Serbia are more likely to be on the verge of poverty or living in poverty due to unemployment. The UNDP reported that “1 in 8 children under the age of 14 live in poverty”. As of 2016, 44.2 percent of youths were reported as unemployed. This is caused by a gap between the supply and demand of skilled labor brought about by Serbia’s flawed educational system.

Education in Serbia is currently not centered around their economic needs, so youths do not have the required skills for available positions. Poor education has led to a substantial long-term youth unemployment rate of more than 50 percent. Educational reforms will need to be made to address youth unemployment and poverty.

Governmental reform programs are underway to address the Serbia poverty rate and to prevent more people from falling into poverty. The rapid growth of Serbia led to significant internal and external imbalances that will need to be addressed through fiscal consolidation.

Structural reforms will also be needed to address the current problems with the Serbian educational system as well as other services.  With effort from the Serbia government and outside assistance, there is hope that the Serbia poverty rate will significantly decrease by 2030.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in SerbiaOver the last two years, Serbia – along with other countries in the Western Balkans – has struggled to contain a severe refugee crisis. Fortunately, there are several ways in which to answer the question of how to help the people of Serbia.

The number of refugees in Serbia has decreased since the crisis started a couple of years ago. Refugees in Serbia come primarily from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. As of late June 2017, the number of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Serbia was 5,948. In total, 93 percent of these people received shelter. This number has decreased significantly since the higher count of 7,600 refugees in mid April; at this point only 85 percent of refugees received proper accommodations.

The EU has designated humanitarian funding to Serbia as of January 2017. About €20.1 million has been spent on emergency assistance and shelters in Serbia, along with even more funding used to manage the flow of migrants.

Despite international aid and a steady decrease in the number of refugees in the country, Serbia still struggles with overcrowding and a lack of adequate accommodations for refugees. Individuals seeking asylum who cannot obtain shelter are, for the most part, found sleeping outside in the streets of Belgrade – hardly an ideal or safe outcome.

The organization Refugee Aid Serbia (RAS) works to benefit and improve the lives of refugees in Serbia during this critical time in the country. With their headquarters based in Belgrade, the organization’s areas of focus are humanitarian aid, education and community outreach. Those who are willing to donate to the cause can do so on the organization’s website. RAS also provides volunteering options and encourages fundraising events.

The agency Help Refugees currently runs 80 projects across eight different countries in Europe and the Middle East. They have focused on improving the Serbia refugee crisis since late 2015, doing things such as organizing volunteers and helping to improve living conditions by providing food and medical aid. Most notably, the organization has made major improvements to a warehouse housing site in Belgrade where 1,000 refugees lived at the time; it was evicted in 2017.

Still wondering how to help people in Serbia? Both of these organizations provide information about volunteering opportunities, as well as how to donate to the cause. With more people educated on this crisis and more people willing to do something to help, progress will continue to be made to improve the lives of refugees in Serbia.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr


The hunger and deprivation that plagued refugee camps during the Kosovo War inspired Clint Borgen to found The Borgen Project, and one of the countries that saw the largest influx of suffering refugees during that time was Serbia. Though conditions today are far better than they were in 1999, hunger in Serbia is still a problem. Here are 10 facts about the past and present conditions.

  1. In 1999, the U.N. World Food Program distributed 145,000 tons of food to Serbia, feeding approximately 890,000 undernourished people. At that time, the WFP compared conditions in Serbia, where 10 percent of the population faced a humanitarian crisis, to those in North Korea.
  2. In 2008, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) was 7.8 in Serbia and has since dropped to 7.1 in 2016. The GHI uses undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality in their formula for determining hunger levels.
  3. The proportion of people experiencing hunger in Serbia, meaning they have insufficient caloric intake, was 6.9 percent in 2016, an improvement from 7.4 percent in 2008.
  4. The prevalence of wasting in children younger than five, which means their weight is low relative to their height, was 3.9 percent, down from four percent in 2008. Wasting is a measure of acute malnutrition.
  5. The prevalence of stunting in children younger than five, which means their height is low for their age, was six percent, down from 7.4 percent in 2008. Stunting is representative of chronic malnutrition.
  6. The mortality rate for children under the age of five is .7 percent, a small improvement from .8 percent in 2008.
  7. Of 113 index countries, the Global Food Security Index ranks Serbia 47th in affordability, 65th in availability and 52nd in quality and safety. Their overall rank for food security is 59.4, making them 52nd overall of the 113 countries.
  8. The Global Food Security Index also reports that hunger in Serbia leaves the average intensity of food deprivation at eight kilocalories per person per day. Each day, Serbia’s population lacks a total of 336,00,000 kilocalories.
  9. Because the nation has been a member of the U.N. since 2000, hunger in Serbia is a major factor in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda is comprised of 17 goals, the second of which is “zero hunger.”
  10. Because it is far cheaper, it was reported that Serbians ate three times more bread than the average EU citizen in 2014 (89 kilograms/year), and close to a third of the amount of meat, at 35 kilograms per year, compared to 90 in Germany, 91 in Italy and 102 in France.

Conditions have been steadily improving to help eliminate hunger in Serbia. Where the country faced a humanitarian crisis at the beginning of the century, it is now working with the U.N. to meet a goal of zero hunger by 2030. The statistics concerning Global Hunger and Global Food Security clearly illustrate the successes of aid programs and domestic growth in the country, while the presence of malnutrition and child mortality reiterates that until there is no hunger, there is always more to be done.

Brooke Clayton

Photo: Flickr


In May 2014, Serbia experienced the heaviest rain it had seen in a century, according to UNICEF data. This caused flooding that affected 1.6 million people and significantly damaged 1,800 buildings, while also significantly affecting the water quality in Serbia. It took UNICEF 10 days to assess the damages caused by the flooding and in the wake of the emergency it provided 5,000 blankets and hygiene kits and worked with the Serbian government to determine how to rebuild the country after the floods.

The mass flooding has affected the drinking water so greatly that it will take years for Serbia to recover from the damage. According to Water and Wastewater International (WWI), only 37 percent of the total Serbian population has access to a sewage system.

In cities, 75 percent of people have access to sewer systems, which is 25 percent less than the average for European cities. In rural areas of Serbia, the data is even less promising. WWI estimates that there are 5,000 public water systems in rural areas that are not controlled for water quality and that there are many wells and other systems that are probably not documented at all. There are 300,000 private wells and only about 10 percent of them have sanitary protection, according to WWI.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency in Serbia have set new standards for water quality and have implemented monitoring techniques. The agency samples the ground and surface water and then analyses it chemically, preparing data which will be added to a database on water quality that is updated periodically.

According to WWI, this action from the Serbian government will lead to great changes in the water quality in the country. WWI says that this change is already underway because although there are only 19 water treatment plants in Serbia, 11 more are going to be constructed. The U.N. has also become involved in preserving water quality in Serbia. It is working to create new regulations for the planning and execution of wastewater management by building on the Law on Water from 1991. The original law includes a plan for maintaining water quality but was never put into action.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr

Kosovo War
The Kosovo War was a quick and highly destructive conflict that displaced 90 percent of the population. The severity of the unrest in Kosovo and the involvement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) brought the Kosovo conflict to international attention in the late 1990’s. The conflict led to the displacement of thousands and lasting tension between Serbs and Albanians. The brutality of the war is largely credited with launching The Borgen Project, a humanitarian organization that has helped hundreds of thousands of people.

 

10 Facts about the Kosovo War

 

    1. The Kosovo War was waged in the Serbian province of Kosovo from 1998 to 1999. Ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo faced the pressure of Serbs fighting for control of the region. Albanians also opposed the government of Yugoslavia, which was made up of modern day Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia.
    2. Muslim Albanians were the ethnic majority in Kosovo. The president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, refused to recognize the rights of the majority because Kosovo was an area sacred to the Serbs. He planned to replace Albanian language and culture with Serbian institutions.
    3. The international community failed to address the escalation of tension between the Albanians and the Serbs. In doing so, they inadvertently supported radicals in the region. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo formed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the early 1990s. The militant group began attacks on Serbian police and politicians and were engaged in an all-out uprising by 1998.
    4. Serbian and Yugoslav forces tried to fight growing KLA support through oppressive tactics and violence. The government destroyed villages and forced people to leave their homes. They massacred entire villages. Many people fled their homes.
    5. As the conflict grew worse, international intervention rose. The Contact Group (consisting of the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia) demanded a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serbian forces from Kosovo and the return of refugees. Yugoslavia at first agreed but ultimately failed to implement the terms of the agreement.
    6. Yugoslav and Serbian forces engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign throughout the duration of the war. By the end of May 1999, 1.5 million people had fled their homes. At the time, that constituted approximately 90 percent of Kosovo’s population.
    7. Diplomatic negotiations between Kosovar and Serbian delegations began in France in 1999, but Serbian officials refused to cooperate. In response, NATO began a campaign of airstrikes against Serbian targets, focusing mainly on destroying Serbian government buildings and infrastructure. The bombings caused further flows of refugees into neighboring countries and the deaths of several civilians.
    8. In June 1999, NATO and Yugoslavia signed a peace accord to end the Kosovo War. The Yugoslav government agreed to troop withdrawal and the return of almost one million ethnic Albanians and half a million general displaced persons. Unfortunately, tensions between Albanians and Serbs continued into the 21st century. Anti-Serb riots broke out in March 2004 throughout the Kosovo region. Twenty people were killed and over 4,000 Serbs and other minorities were displaced.
    9. In February 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Subsequently, Yugoslavia ceased to exist in 2003 and became the individual countries of Serbia and Montenegro. Serbia, along with numerous other countries, refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
    10. At the end of 2016, a tribunal was established in the International Criminal Court to try Kosovars for committing war crimes against ethnic minorities and political opponents. Additionally, an EU taskforce set up in 2011 found evidence that members of the KLA committed these crimes after the war ended. Previously, the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia tried several the KLA members.


Overall, the Kosovo War was one of Europe’s most chaotic conflicts, leaving lasting impressions on all those living in the region. Not only has the conflict been coined with the terms genocide and crimes against humanity, but the involvement and bombings from NATO also caused widespread controversy.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

 


Over the past 30 years, the Balkans have experienced levels of change and turmoil. The lack of stability in the region has resulted in high levels of poverty in the Balkans.

The Balkan Peninsula, or the Balkans, is a region in Eastern Europe with coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, and the Black Sea. The countries that make up the Balkans are Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania and Greece.

Not all of the countries in the peninsula are experiencing dramatic poverty problems. For instance, less than 10 percent of the population of Montenegro is in poverty. Overall, however, poverty in the Balkans expands to about one-fourth of the region’s population.

Albania has one of the lowest standards of living and the lowest per capita income in all of Europe. Twenty-five percent of its population lives on less than $2 per day.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, more than 15 percent of the population live in poverty. Croatia just broke through a recession that lasted until 2015. During the recession, the number of children in poverty rose by 50 percent. About one-fifth of Croatia’s population is considered poor.

Greece is in the middle of a longstanding economic crisis, on par with the Great Depression. During this time, jobs have dissipated and wages have decreased. Today, almost a quarter of Greece’s population is considered to be in conditions of severe deprivation.

Other regions experience their own financial difficulties. Kosovo was the poorest region of the former Yugoslavia, and declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. Years of political instability have left 30 percent of Kosovans in poverty. In addition, one-third of the population of Macedonia lives at or below the poverty line. The country faces high unemployment rates. In Serbia, one-fourth of the population is poor, and some of its southern regions lack basic infrastructures and public services.

Despite all of the economic issues in the Balkans, there are certainly signs of optimism, specifically the crime rate. Usually, high levels of poverty coincide with an increase in crime. However, this is not the case in the Balkans, which are regarded as some of the safest countries in all of Europe. Most of the countries are simply lacking the resources necessary to provide for their people. Assistance on an international level is imperative to lift these states out of poverty.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Ikea_SerbiaA new e-permit system in Serbia, created with the help of USAID, has shortened the process for obtaining a construction permit from 240 to 28 days. It cut out the 50-plus interactions between the investor and the government. One can register for an e-permit through the Business Register’s Agency website, the Minister of Construction website, or other government websites.

The new e-permit system will help develop Serbia’s important infrastructure as well, particularly transportation. Serbia has been called the “gateway to Europe” as it is the crossroads between Western Europe and the Middle East. The Serbian parliament is looking for private investment in this sector, and the e-permits system has made this process more efficient. In addition, the new e-permit system is allowing the Clinical Center of Serbia to build new healthcare facilities. New jobs in the construction sector lead to new jobs in other sectors. The new e-permit system has not only helped construction in Serbia, it has increased the nation’s GDP by 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

One company already taking advantage of the new system is IKEA, and its investment is expected to bring 700 million euros and 300 new jobs to the nation. IKEA took advantage of the new permit process to build a new store in Belgrade. This new store is expected to open in July 2017. IKEA will be the first international business to invest in Serbia after the introduction of the country’s new construction e-permit system. The store in Belgrade is only the first store IKEA is building in Serbia, and the company is planning to invest 300 million euros in five stores across the nation.

IKEA will hopefully pave the way for more investment in Serbia, whether through creating new businesses or encouraging domestic construction in Serbia.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

 Bosnian War
Between the years of 1991 and 1992, the country of Yugoslavia suffered mass chaos as nationalism in six different regions of the country began to surge, due in large part to growing perceptions of ethnic distinctions and a faltering economy. The Yugoslav Wars gave rise to intense violence and ethnic cleansing throughout the region, and one of the resulting conflicts, the Bosnian War, was no exception. Here are five things to know about the Bosnian War:

    1. On March 3, 1992, Bosnia (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) declared its independence from Yugoslavia, following in the footsteps of neighboring Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia from the previous year. The official beginning of the Bosnian War is typically marked as April 6, 1992, less than a month before Bosnian Serb forces invaded the capital of Sarajevo.
    2. Three primary ethnic groups were embroiled in the conflict: the Bosniaks, Bosnian Muslims who comprised more than 44 percent of the population, the Bosnian Serbs, who predominately practiced Eastern Orthodox Christianity (31 percent of the population), and Bosnian Croats, a Catholic minority who comprised 17 percent of Bosnia’s populace at the time.

  1. Reelected to the Serbian presidency in 1992, Slobodan Milošević encouraged rising nationalist sentiments within the region and backed the attacks on Sarajevo, as well as the siege on Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. Serbian forces invaded the town, which had previously been designated a safe haven by the U.N., and separated the Muslim Bosniaks from the rest of the population. The women and girls – many of them raped and sexually assaulted – were bussed to nearby villages, while the remaining 8,000 men and boys were murdered immediately and left in mass graves.
  2. By the end of 1993, Bosnian Serbs controlled 75 percent of the country, and most Bosnian Croats had fled. The term “ethnic cleansing” arose, a painful euphemism for the thousands that had been expelled, tortured, raped and murdered at the hands of Serbian forces. Many were forced into concentration camps, while vestiges of Bosniak culture, including places of worship and sites of cultural importance, were destroyed.
  3. In May 1993, the U.N. created the first war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-1946, which indicted Nazi officials for crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) charged more than 160 individuals for their participation in the violence, including Slobodan Milošević, who was tried and convicted in 2002 of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. He was found dead in his prison cell in The Hague in 2006 following a heart attack.

From 1992 to 1995, the Bosnian War claimed the lives of roughly 100,000 people, 80 percent of whom were Bosniak – the worst act of genocide since the Holocaust. To date, almost 120,000 of the original 2.2 million people displaced by the conflict still live in bleak conditions in refugee centers far from their homes.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr