Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Please Kosovo: challenge your thoughts

By Roos Hogerzeil

Eleven days ago we came back in Amsterdam. Since then I have been trying to process all the information we received. I realize we were privileged to have heard so many different perspectives and countless inspiring stories that we could try to understand. Although I know all of this, at the moment I actually do not know where to start. What did I learn? How did I change? What would I advice our cherished Kosovo?

I think Kosovo has, most of all, taught me personally how complicated the situation in post-conflict societies can be. We have seen the countless problems that all play in to each other, so development is not just opposed by political tensions (between the North vs. South and international recognition) but also ethnic tensions (Albanians/Serbians/Kosovars), and economic tensions (unemployment/corruption/visa liberalisation). We have visited organizations, such as the Red Cross and Unicef, that try to work with principles of neutrality that are often thwarted in their efforts to help others. Although it could be very frustrated to see this, this trip changed me as I learned that 1) it is extremely important to never underestimate the difficulties in post-conflict societies 2) there are many organizations that in their own way all try to improve the situation and can also improve the situation further by working together 3) very important: although the problems might seem to form a cycle that maintains itself, it is also possible to perceive the situation as a puzzle of which the pieces are not put in the good spot yet.

Moreover, the trip has transformed me, as I feel more open-minded right now. Most of us are brought up with a set of beliefs and values and, throughout our lives, tend to surround ourselves with people who share similar values and beliefs. Therefore, it can be difficult when we are faced with ideas that challenge our own and, though we may wish to be open-minded, we may struggle with the act of it from time to time. However, our trip to Kosovo taught me that societies flourish when the people free their minds from limiting thoughts. It showed me that sometimes people only see black and white, while many shades of colour exist. Opening up means your pallet is expanded from only having two possibilities to having hundreds of options. The selection is more plentiful as you are not so boxed in with minimal selections.

I think for Kosovo it would be advantageous if more people would open up as well. Of course this process takes time, as the traces of the war can still be seen everywhere, but the process of improvement probably develops faster when different communities would realize there are many more stories than their own. Although it can be terrifying and exhilarating to admit that you do not know everything, being vulnerable can help to think beyond the boundaries where you normally would have been stopped. This mind-set offers new possible solutions or outcomes, and Kosovo should change its thoughts and beliefs. Only then they can expect behaviours and actions to change as well. Although many people try to do it the other way and modify their behaviours in an effort to change, true change happens from the inside out.

By Marie Smit

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