Claudia Zambra (Kosovo)

Claudia Zambra (Kosova Women’s Network – KWN): Claudia was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from Swarthmore College, where she focused on development in Latin America and the Balkans. After graduating, Claudia worked for the Law Offices of Bagia and Morley in Philadelphia, preparing asylum cases. In 2002, As part of a summer job, Claudia helped to produce a website for Globovision, the largest news channel in Latin America. At the time of her fellowship, Claudia was pursuing a Master of Science in Foreign Service at Georgetown University. After her fellowship, Claudia herself concluded that she had only partly achieved her objective: “The website was updated and new material was posted. I was also able to redesign some parts of the website and tailor it more to the needs of the organization, plus I attempted to make it more dynamic by adding a highlights section and making an actual home page for the website. However, only about half of the organizations were profiled. The biggest problem was gathering the information. Most members of the organization do not speak English well enough to sit through an interview. I was dependent on my trainee for translation, but she was frequently absent.” This suggested to Claudia that while the idea of a network is appealing, it can take a lot of hard work, skill and resources to coordinate a diverse group of organizations. Her recommendation? “The network needs to have at least one staff member to take care of the website, coordinate activities and meetings, act as translator if necessary, and serve as a contact person for the KWN. Another Advocacy Project intern could help train this staff member in all necessary areas, including website maintenance.”

We’re in Trouble

04 Aug

Last week, I felt that life in Pristina was normal. I went about my daily routine, like everyone else; I went to restaurants, bars, friends’ houses, took the bus to and fro, and walked around the city. I felt safe, and although the water and electricity problems tested my good humor on a regular basis, I was almost used to it. Once or twice I caught myself thinking that things were so “normal” here, that I didn’t understand the need for a huge UNMIK complex and a constant NATO military presence. But after leaving Kosovo for a brief visit to Greece, my initial impressions came back to me twofold.

The sharp contrast between the two places in every respect made me realize that I had been blinded by my routine and sucked into a black hole of acceptance and nonchalance. While I don’t like to be negative, I have to admit that the picture changed from “it’s not that bad at all,” to, “wow, we’re really in trouble here”.

Two days of interviews in Pristina and Prizren have come and gone. I had the chance to travel and meet with several members of the network to gather information for the website, and to assess some of their needs. Their comments and concerns rested primarily on the silver dollars (or euros) that currently make the world go round; or, rather, on the lack thereof. The glory days of NGO building in Kosovo have come to an end, and everybody is feeling the squeeze.

The situation was inevitable. Even today, in NGO recession time, you can’t walk down the streets (if you’re lucky, the sidewalks) of Pristina without stopping to “read” the cars. If cars don’t boast “UN” boldly on the two front doors, then they will likely remind you, with an appropriate symbol, that they belong to another organization: OSCE, Doctors of the World, KFOR, IOM, MotratQiriazi, AVSI, etc. An obscene number of NGOs were registered in Kosovo after the war…over 1000. The money flowed in like water, and every self-respecting donor felt it his or her duty to provide funds for projects in war-torn Kosovo.

Unfortunately, many of these projects were poorly designed, and anyone with a half-way decent one page project proposal was an NGO in the making. Some succeeded in carrying out changes, but others did not. Today, many NGO’s have closed their doors and moved on to greener (or sandier) pastures. This is partly due to a decrease in the size of available funds, and stricter guidelines for obtaining grants. On the one hand, this is positive, as it will likely filter out the less efficient organizations and direct available funds towards organizations that achieve concrete results. On the other hand, the decrease in donor funds also forced many good organizations to cease operations.

More problematic is the fact that things are far from normal, and help is still needed. Bombings occur even now on a regular basis in Pristina, and serve as reminders that peace in Kosovo is a fragile construction. Although Kosovo is the poster child for UN peacekeeping missions, it remains to be seen whether or not this phenomenon will survive in the long run. In conversations with locals and UNMIK staff members alike, they clearly believe that upon UNMIK’s departure, Kosovo will fall back into old patterns.

The odds are against an independent Kosovo; coupled with old tensions that remain vivid, new and unstable institutions that demonstrate a tendency towards clan politics, and overall disorder and complications in the completion of regular tasks, there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, Kosovo’s lack of status hinders its ability to undertake new economic and political projects that could possibly help to modernize its society and its infrastructure. Present-day Kosovo represents the age old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Without national status, Kosovo cannot move forward and strive to become a European-integrated society. But the only way for Kosovo to receive any consideration for its quest to become independent is by modernizing and developing its political institutions.

Is it really a dead end? Hopefully not, but four years after the war, efforts seem to be declining. This is expected, as in any other crisis situation—life goes on, things go back to “normal”, and the presence of the international community eases up. In this case, though, only the money has eased away. Thus, Kosovo is stuck on a plateau; yes, it is on higher ground, but it is nowhere near the top of the mountain. The (limited) view from this plateau should not deceive anyone, for Kosovo is still in trouble and still needs help from the international community, NGO’s and international organizations alike. NGO’s need to take a deep breath, continue their work, and devise new strategies to make their work more effective in order to continue to attract donors. Their work here is important, and nowhere close to completion…

Posted By Claudia Zambra (Kosovo)

Posted Aug 4th, 2003


  • Richard green

    August 3, 2007


    i love to walk with this n g o .because i believe in the cream of professionals here ,so as to get help on funding my n go at the local areas n as point of helping the needy in eveyaspect of life.i also comeend all u there to keep up the good work.please reply me as soon as posible.we are patrotic ambassadors of rivers state of nineria.

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