Geert Lovink on Sat, 1 May 1999 11:26:19 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> On the Record to Report on Civil Society

From: The Advocacy Project <tmcrawfo@MAILBOX.SYR.EDU>

                   AMID THE KOSOVO CRISIS

              Excerpts from Internet traffic show
         that civil society struggles, but survives.

The crisis in Kosovo is changing the face of civil society in the
region, according to a new series of the E-letter, On the Record.

The series, which will shortly be sent out to subscribers by The
Advocacy Project, will start by excerpting previously unpublished
reports and personal accounts from Internet traffic. This will be
developed and expanded into a series of profiles of civil society
in the region once funding is secured from donors. The second phase
will also involve working with others to help Albanian groups make
better use of the Internet and broaden their contacts abroad. This
is one of the goals of The Advocacy Project.

The series is being compiled and edited by Teresa Crawford, a
founding member of the Advocacy Project who was arrested by the
Serbian authorities in 1998 while working in Prishtina with Kosovar
peace groups.

Like others, Crawford was impressed and inspired by the alternative
"parallel" society that was constructed by Albanians in Kosovo
after provincial autonomy was revoked in 1989. In an introduction
to the series, Crawford writes that these autonomous structures
also fueled the demand for independence: "These autonomous
structures were developed by ordinary people, even if they were
funded in large part by the diaspora community. It meant that
Kosovars began to see themselves in a democratic political
environment. This helped to change the demand for autonomy into one
of independence."

While not disputing the brutality of the Serbian crack-down, and
the devastation it has caused to civil society inside and outside
Kosovo, the first issue also shows that Albanians and their friends
are responding to the crisis with courage and initiative in the
refugee camps and in private homes:

"We are learning of women helping other women. There is the woman
who was blocked at the border for 24 hours before being able to
leave Kosovo. Once in Macedonia, she contacted the local Macedonian
Albanian Women's Organization. Within days, they had a clinic open.
 There are the two women from the United States, who rescued
another woman's 84-year-old mother in law from the camps and paid
for the rent of a clinic with money collected in the United States.
There is the group of former women journalists who are organizing
to go out and interview refugees in private homes in the south of
Macedonia and sell their stories to news services to avoid becoming

"There is the man in Tirana who is helping women organize within
the National Albanian Farmers Union. There is the 24-year-old
Albanian-American woman who (with her father) has started the
"Kosova Humanitarian Aid Organization" and is sending two teams to
Macedonia and Albania to distribute aid and register the names of
refugees in a database.  Then there is "Women 4 Women," an
organization that originally started working with women in Bosnia,
and is now opening an office in Tirana."

These examples underscore the fact that civil society is never
completely destroyed by a crisis. More important, it often rises,
Phoenix-like, from the ruins in a different form to play an
important role in reconstruction. This has happened in many other
war-torn societies, from Bosnia to Rwanda, and the current crisis
will prove no exception. In the meantime, however, international
agencies and foreign governments must do more to identify and
nurture the seeds of self-help, even as they struggle to provide
basic emergency aid.

This series is one of two new initiatives by The Advocacy Project
to inform our subscribers about the efforts of civil society in the
Balkans to build something amidst the chaos and carnage. Peter
Lippman, who was also arrested and expelled with Crawford in Kosovo
last year, has spent the last six months visiting communities in
Bosnia, and trying to understand why so few refugees have managed
to return home. His dispatches will be available to subscribers and
posted on the Projects webpage, early in May. They present a
unique community-based portrait of one of the key elements in the
Dayton peace package.


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