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Serbia-Kosovo agreement: political breakthrough or jobs for the boys?

By Blog Admin, on 25 April 2013

Kosovo Police

Photo:Valdete Hasani CC BY-SA 3.0

The widely hailed agreement reached betweeen Serbia and Kosovo entrenches the power of clentelistic elites and is no real cause for celebration argues Eric Gordy .

 The agreement signed last Friday between Serbia and Kosovo has been widely interpreted as a major breakthrough. In some respects it is, as it paves the way for resolution of a dispute over the status of the northern municipalities in Kosovo and for both countries to forge their paths to eventual membership in the European Union. In other ways it does not, as it comes too late and does too little to fundamentally alter the situation.

The agreement responds to a gesture made by outgoing prime minister Vojislav Koštunica when Kosovo declared independence in 2008, when he established parallel institutions of government and law enforcement in four municipalities along Kosovo’s northern border where about 40% of the ethnic Serb population is concentrated.

The move had two purposes: 1) to create an electoral base for his Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), which was otherwise marginal and Belgrade-centred, and 2) to place a long-term obstacle in the way of any eventual agreements about Kosovo’s status.

The government that followed him, nominally opponents of Koštunica, left his parallel structures untouched in the vain hope of expanding its own base to encompass parts of the scattered “patriotic bloc”. It was only with the return of right-wing parties to power in 2012, paradoxically, that some movement occurred: they saw in an eventual agreement with Kosovo a chance both to satisfy powerful international political actors and to marginalise their potential competitors in the Church and on the far right.

So after fourteen years of waiting and five years of negotiation, what does the agreement involve? According to the unofficial text (no official one has been released, so everyone has been using the version published by the Kosovo paper Gazeta Express, it is mostly an agreement about the establishment of lobbies and the employment of personnel. (more…)

Human rights should be more than a buzzword

By Blog Admin, on 28 October 2012

Four freedoms human rights

Photo: dbking via Wikimedia Commons

Kristen Perrin reviews an enlightening new collection that argues that it is imperative that we cultivate a rich awareness of both human rights and peace

Challenges facing human rights are talked about so often in our current global climate that ‘human rights’ as a buzz-word manages to be both constant and elusive. The concept is constant in that conflict, poverty, upheaval and justice are rarely mentioned without human rights in tandem, and elusive in that the reality of human rights within these very discussions is never fully explored outside of terminologies that are both vague and obtuse in scope. The common trap of human rights literature is that it is almost impossible not to lean on these vague definitions, leaving the scholar lost in a sea of phrases depicting ‘the essence of being human’ and ‘fundamental moral codes’.

Fortunately, the vastness of the human rights literature has forced its own evolution  and overly optimistic language has been met with sharp analysis, the evidence of experience and current applications. Activating Human Rights and Peace: Theories, Practices and Contexts edited by Goh Bee Chen, Baden Offord and Rob Garbutt (Ashgate. 2012) is a new collection of essays, which balances itself well in the existing literature, linking human rights with concepts that have been widely discussed – such as law, immigration, and conflict – as well as adding innovative perspectives from education, tourism and storytelling. The brevity of the essays included allows for creative ideas to be introduced but not overdone, leaving the collection as less of an in-depth study and more of a jumping-off point to further inquiry. (more…)