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The Obama administration intends to leverage U.S. leadership in lowering racial tensions in the U.S. by making such ethnic-peacemaking expertise available globally.
Obama’s most recent endeavor specifically wants to “increase constructive inter-ethnic cooperation and interaction” among people in the Balkans region of southeastern Europe.
Although this approximately $15 million U.S. Agency for International Development venture arguably could benefit the minority Christian Serb population, its scope is notably miniscule in contrast to other ethnic and tribal peacemaking initiatives around the globe, particularly in Africa.
In and around Nigeria, for example, USAID is engaged in a $600 million initiative in which the Obama administration has dismissed Islamist violence against northern Nigerian Christians, identifying these conflicts as tribal disputes over land, rather than viewing the ongoing slaughter as a religious conflict.
Separately in Kenya the agency is devoting millions more toward a program aimed at changing cultural practices that often lead to inter-communal violence. The administration in that project acknowledged that chronic cattle rustling and other Kenyan cultural practices – such as killing rivals “to prove their manhood or impress young women” – may serve as impediments to progress.
The aim of the Advancing Kosovo Together, or AKT, program, is to ease tensions “particularly between the Kosovo Albanian majority and Kosovo Serb non-majority population,” according to a Request for Proposals that WND discovered via routine database research.
The absence of adequate public gathering spaces in some areas inhibits productive interactions between majority and minority cultures and religions, among other factors, it claims.
“Currently, there is a lack of confidence in the other between all sides – the GoK [Government of Kosovo], Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians. This has resulted in isolated enclaves of Kosovo Serb communities, and a lack of interaction between Serbs and Albanians.
“Opportunities that foster inter-ethnic interaction do not exist or are not maximized. For example, in many of the target areas, no spaces for community gatherings exist – spaces that could foster inter-ethnic interaction if events are continuously planned to achieve this goal.”
The USAID document makes no mention of the fact that the Kosovo Albanian majority is largely Muslim and the Kosovo Serb minority is Christian; however, it emphasizes the importance of creating “conditions that enable Kosovo non-majority communities to preserve, protect, and develop their identities.”
These identities are particularly critical in “their religious and cultural heritage and other rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including non-majority employment in the public sector.
“Creative solutions will be essential, such as activities that cut across ethnic and community boundaries.”
The agency also wants to persuade the government of Kosovo to create institutional mechanisms that will increase minority participation in local government activities as well as increase their capacity to secure work in the public sector.
The agency acknowledged the difficulty of bringing ethnic peace to the region. It noted, for instance, that the “growing number of unemployed and unemployable youth is Kosovo’s most serious conflict driver.”
“USAID should prioritize vocational training and university training that produce graduates with marketable skills.”
Not all groups embrace U.S. and international support of the Kosovo government.
The American Council for Kosovo, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, says this broad, global backing of Kosovo’s split from Serbia has only served to strengthen the “criminal and jihad terrorist elements of the supposedly disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army,” according to its website.
The KLA, the group claims, already dominates “the province’s civil administration (under U.N. authority) and maintain a reign of terror over Kosovo’s still-dwindling Christian Serb population.
“Churches and monasteries that have not already been desecrated, blown up, or burned by mobs of Muslim Albanians exist under tenuous protection from NATO.”
The administration’s new Kosovo initiative will comply with the USAID Forward reform agenda, which directs U.S. assistance programs to strengthen the capacity of “local” businesses and institutions.
The RFP says details of how the agency will accomplish that goal are still under consideration; however, previous WND coverage of initiatives under USAID Forward reveals one certain element of that agenda: U.S. companies will be ineligible to bid on contracts.
Prior examples of USAID Forward-related exclusions include a project to steer up to $300 million in contracts exclusively to Palestinian construction companies. A smaller USAID initiative in Mexico – a project that will assess conditions on the northern Mexico side of the U.S. border – likewise is limited to “local,” meaning Mexican, firms.