The purpose of the ‘Deconstructing Reconciliation’ research is to deconstruct the concept of ‘reconciliation’ through the authentic view of the Kosovar population and to call attention on what might be the significant changes to take in order to reach it. To date, the transitional justice and reconciliation process in the Republic of Kosovo is in a paralyzed state and the population is still facing socio-economic difficulties and political instability while ethnic tensions are palpable. To the aim of the project, the methodology used involves both a quantitative approach, to gather data from individuals through a semi-structured questionnaire, and a qualitative approach, done through focus groups.
According to the main findings, important disparities can be drawn between generations over the issue of reconciliation and coexistence.
However, the primary tension between Albanians and Serbs remains at the center of a potential reconciliation process. Besides, the results highlight a gap between legislation and implementation of reconciliation processes, and a call from the population to focus on economic development and political stability.
The ‘Deconstructing Reconciliation’ research reveals the need for the Republic of Kosovo Government and International Community to develop a bottom-up approach in order to reestablish confidence between the population and state institutions but also to address the Albanian and Serb tensions and to deal with the population’s needs and expectations regarding their socio-economic situation.
Over the last decades, the field of transitional justice has developed and much discussion has happened on how countries emerging from a conflict address the legacy of gross human rights violations and mass atrocities. In a similar way, the concept of reconciliation increased in importance over the years and it is generally acknowledged that the success of transitional justice is conditioned on how reconciliation is dealt with in post-conflict societies.
While there is no universal agreement on what reconciliation is, it may be defined as a process that involves mutual recognition of a common violent past and the transformation of a harmful relationship and behavior to promote a shared future towards sustainable peace (Lederach,1997; Bloomfield, 2003). Such a process is crucial in Western
Balkan countries that have been left economically and politically devastated, with many people traumatized, displaced or still missing after the violent conflicts that occurred during the 1990s. In the Republic of Kosovo(her
eafter Kosovo), although the war ended in 1999, the process of reconciliation has not yet been successfully conducted and the country still faces a certain level of ethnic tensions and communities in a state of despair, distrust, and hostility towards each other. Reconciliation is indeed fundamental in post-conflict situations not only to understand
the roots of violence that occurred but also to initiate a deep societal transformation to achieve peace. However, the lack of a common understanding about what exactly reconciliation implies makes it even more difficult to have a common ground on how the process should be implemented in Kosovo.
Some academic researchers have pointed out that reconciliation should be seen as a multi-dimensional process that includes the promotion of different values such as truth, justice, mercy, and peace at all levels of society. Hence, for many of them, the success of reconciliation is based on the development of a comprehensive strategy sustained by both top-down and bottom-up initiatives. Moreover, it should involve political, religious, or ethnic leaders, civil society groups, and non-governmental organizations at a top and middle-range level, but above all, the process must focus on individuals at a grassroots level.
In the Kosovo, despite formal processes including the establishment of The Hague International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, (ICTY) which was designed to deal with war crimes in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, and with the focus of the international community in dealing with the past mainly through promotion of criminal justice, transitional justice and reconciliation initiatives have remained somewhat marginal in the political and social life in Kosovo. Indeed, the process has been developed at a top-level approach, valorizing criminal prosecution, administrative reparation, and institutional reforms but has failed to involve the communities and population so far. Furthermore, the recognition of the past is mainly controlled by the government and fails to promote truth and pacify ethnic tensions.
The need for this research comes from the fact that there is no common understanding of what reconciliation in Kosovo and the Western Balkans is – both etymologically and empirically. The lacks of official or unofficial publications that address reconciliation strategies in a regionally appropriate or critical way further point to the need
for the development of an authentic/own regional understanding. It is important to address the topic with a conceptual approach on different levels as well as with a different set of stakeholders. To address the academic gap in
understanding what reconciliation means for its main carriers, the people of Kosovo, this research paper aims to find a Kosovar specific understanding of reconciliation and its prevalent concepts. For the purpose of this study, it appeared necessary to develop a concrete database in order to know how ethnic groups and individuals in Kosovo foresee reconciliation, based on their own experiences and specificities. The research paper has been designed to provide a new approach for the process in Kosovo, by focusing on a grassroots understanding of reconciliation. According to the results, the ‘Deconstructing Reconciliation’ research will try to establish a set of recommendations to complete the strategy developed so far and to address adequately the reconciliation objective.
Chapter 1 will look at the literature on reconciliation that provides theoretical understanding of the nature, the actors, and the dimensions the concept encompasses. Some of the main cases of transitional justice will be explored to give a more concrete vision on how reconciliation has been addressed in the world but also in the Western
Balkans so far. Finally, considering what has been done in Kosovo, the study will aim to determine which theory is the most relevant in regard to the current situation.
Chapter 2 will look at the methodology followed in order to deconstruct the concept of reconciliation through a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. The qualitative approach is based on focus groups, grounded
on four groups of questions regarding: first, the concept of reconciliation and mediation of international organizations; second, the alternative mechanisms of healing the wounds and mediation, reparations, and apology; third, the respondents’ level of institutional trust regarding national and international judiciary; and fourth, the additional mechanisms required to reach reconciliation. The quantitative approach was designed to gather more extensive data from randomly selected individuals through a semi-structured questionnaire based on three main groups of questions regarding the demographic dimension, perception of reconciliation over the socioeconomic environment, and the understanding of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Chapter 3 will focus on the results and discussions from the quantitative and qualitative approach. The results will highlight that the meaning of reconciliation differs depending on the gender, age, and the socio-political level of the individuals, but above all, depending on the participants’ understanding of their own ethnicity and the interactions between the ethnicity of the forgiven and the forgiver. They will demonstrate that tensions between Kosovar Serbs and Albanians are still at the center of on-going tensions and that fear of conflict resurgence are still on their minds. Furthermore, it will be stressed that low inter-ethnic cooperation, lack of confidence on international and national institutions, and the gap between policyframeworks and effective implementation regarding the work on both memory and the economic and socio-political aspects are seen as challenges for the reconciliation process.
Chapter 4 will lay out the main conclusions of the study. It will go over the principal aspects the research has highlighted and how, in a more general way, the process should now evolve to include the people of Kosovo as the main carriers of any possibility to reconcile.
Authors and Contributors: Nora Ahmetaj, Besa Kabashi-Ramaj, Morgane Jacquot, Yllka Buzhala, Adnan Hoxha