Saved and Depoliticised at One Stroke

Report from Kosovo

Jeremy Harding in the London Review of Books:

Screenhunter_13_jul_15_1207‘Humanitarian intervention’ has little to show for its brief appearance on the international stage. It arrived too late for Rwanda, gestured helplessly at Bosnia and, at last, in 2003, it was discovered in the arms of Shock and Awe, where it died of shame. Only Kosovo Albanians, about 1.8 million people, still applaud the violent expulsion of Slobodan Milosevic from their province in 1999. However they are less sure about the legacy of intervention and the advantages of being a United Nations protectorate.

If intervention was supposed to bring about development, which optimists see as a prelude to civility, it has not been a success. The most startling features of Kosovo, now that the cleansing of the Serbian minority is on hold, are the poverty of the province – for Albanians and Serbs alike – and the pitiful economy that keeps it locked in. Despite the creation of a small millionaire class, 45 per cent of its inhabitants are below the poverty level (unable to meet basic needs). Around 15 per cent live in extreme poverty, earning less than a euro a day. Most of Kosovo’s poor are supported by networks of extended family and clan, more important by far than the structures of organised politics or religion: a majority of Albanians in Kosovo are Sunni Muslims, only loosely observant, and a small Catholic minority is on the rise. In the absence of public provision or private sector wealth creation, it’s the cousins who count.

More here.