(By Steef van den Einden)
For me the best day so far was this Friday, our second day in Mitrovica (North-Kosovo), as we started at the Peace Park on the bridge over the river that divides Mitrovica, went on to Kosovo’s largest lake and drove home with a bottle of UN “water”. Yes, I like water. In my second year at AUC I found out that I am really interested in the geopolitics of water resources, which I now try to implement as much as possible in my International Relations major. Our fieldwork in Kosovo is perfect (this sentence could very well stop here) to see what issues a water scarce post conflict zone has to deal with.
On Thursday, we already saw how water can enhance segregation by literally splitting Mitrovica in two, as you can read elsewhere on this blog. Since we were rather surprised by the negative atmosphere in Mitrovica, it was really nice to start the day at the NGO Community Building Mitrovica (CBM). This organisation tries to let (young) people from all ethnicities participate in their events to show that the people on the other side are not full of hate. Personally, I really liked the project in which CBM set up a rock school, which now teaches about 200 youngsters how to make music together. It really cheered up the whole group to learn about this positive perspective, with a personal climax that not everyone might have noticed: The Serbian representative from CBM referred to the population of Kosovo not as “the Kosovar Albanians and we Serbs”, not as “them” and “us”, but as “we”. Amazing how such a small detail could give me more confidence in the future of Mitrovica.
Our second appointment was at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission In Kosovo, to which I was looking forward, as I read their really interesting report on water safety and security in Kosovo. This report is from 2008, so probably a bit outdated, and I could not find a newer version. Instead of boring the rest of the group with my water-related questions in the conference room, we went outside and chatted with the OSCEers in smaller groups over a cup of coffee (so I could bore only a few of the group). This was a really nice set-up, as it was much more personal and you did not only hear what the mandate requires the presenters to say.
Unfortunately, this exactly what did not happen in our next meeting with the UN Interim Administration Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK), because we only got general information from the representative. He carefully chose his very politically correct answers and was gone soon after the group picture, so we then turned our attention to the UN’s home-grown cherries.
After the “official” programme, we got into our UN bus and drove further
north to the largest lake of Kosovo close to the border with Serbia, which is when it really got interesting (for me). By coincidence someone from the UN Development Programme, had sent me all the technical hydrological details about this Gazivode lake, so I had already looked into its function before we even knew we would go there. I thus thought that seeing the lake “in action” was quite cool. Everyone else also thought the lake was cool, but I think they referred to the temperature, rather than its function in Kosovo’s water management. I did not disagree and soon most of us were swimming and talking to the “authentic Serbs” (quote of the day, according to Anne) on their boat. When the sun started losing heat, two lovely UN guys had dinner with us at the lakeside and had a great surprise for us. Just before we all sat down in our bus, we got a bottle of home-brewed rakija and some cups for the way back to Pristina. This obviously resulted in a bus full of happy students singing Queen for the first 20 minutes and a bus full of sleeping students for the rest of the trip, which allowed me to study the Albanian that our amazing Enver and Bardha were speaking to the bus driver. Now, I know that if you would have said the title of this blog post out loud, you are, instead of expressing great joy, in fact saying the Albanian word for water: ujë.