Thursday, July 13, 2017

The power of the individual

By Pleun Andriessen
Where does one begin in a final blogpost after a ten-day trip to Kosovo? How does one discuss the relevant and most impressive moments when the whole month has been so inspiring and eye-opening? These questions popped up constantly during the last couple days while listening to the final presentations, creating our final exhibition, and dealing with everything regarding my graduation at AUC.
It is only now, after all of the above is finished that I have had three days to reflect on everything I have seen, heard, learnt, and felt during the last month. However, even now I am not sure what to talk about in this blogpost. Perhaps the most impressive moment, or what I learnt regarding peace building, or how I feel about Kosovo, its people, and this trip in general? Maybe a bit of everything.
Firstly, I just want to point out how great the people are that I shared this experience with. I feel like we all entered this course as individuals, with some friendships already established before, but we were mostly familiar faces to one and other. It was really interesting to be in a group that all have the same aspirations and interests, and have studied the same for quite a while. This definitely helped creating the group as we are today; the same individuals with new experiences shared as new friends. We all supported each other, we went through the tough and fun times together. I want to thank all of you guys, it would not have been the same without you!
There was also the unique experience of peacebuilding becoming something more tangible and alive to me, rather than a mechanism I studied. The complexity of this process becomes visible through all levels of society where quotas are not met, opportunities not realised and only a little critical thinking about any (democratic) system is in place. This all is because of the (superficial) hatred that is partly taken over by younger generations, a process that seems a logical consequence of the war, but is actually pretty terrifying when detected among people of my age. I remember interviewing Milan, a student of my age living in the northern part of Mitrovica. He was constantly ‘othering’ the Kosovar Albanians and accusing them of the crimes committed towards the Kosovar Serbs. There was not even a tiny bit of self-reflection that I could detect with regards to the role of the Kosovar Serbs in the conflicts.
The word peace, be it positive or negative, does not represent what the process actually entails. The word implies a state between two or multiple opposing parties after a time of conflict. I came to believe that such a state might not exist, or at least not in the positive sense of the word. Also while working on our final projects during the interviews, I realised that it is not much of a state but rather a process that exists out of; peacebuilding, state-building, reconciliation and ‘opportunity building’. With time being the biggest virtue and danger to this process, I can finally comprehend that peace is something fragile and uncertain. I have seen the uncertainty, the disbelief of Kosovo being at peace, and learnt about the violent ruptures of the fragile peace in Kosovo.
It is a matter of perspective when it comes to peace in Kosovo. I have come to understand why people do not consider Kosovo to be developing towards peace, however, I have also seen the opportunities and potential within the area. I have met so many beautiful individuals who are so passionate about the development of Kosovo that no one can deny the potential of fundamental changes which occur.
Our final project both embodied the complexity of the situation in Kosovo, but also highlighted the power of the individual. This is why I believe to have learnt that the importance of peacebuilding is its being implemented bottom up rather than top-down, a lesson that is often missed and considered less valuable, for which Kosovo is a great example.

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