Castro on Kosovo

Assisting Jerry with the weekly selection of picks has exposed me to an array of thought-provoking and at times soulful events around campus. I had read about the prestigious World Leaders Forum and on Thursday, October 1, I ventured to Low Library to hear Kosovo’s first female president speak.

After passing a few security check points on the steps of Low, I joined the audience, mainly undergraduates and graduate students. Surprisingly, the rotunda was not packed and gave the impression of an intimate town hall.

The lecture was titled “Kosovo: A Country in Transition”. After an introduction by David Madigan, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, President Atifete Jahjaga dove right in to her presentation recounting Kosovo’s horrific war in the 1990s. She was interested in the ways that post-conflict societies move forward.

From beginning to end, President Jahjaga’s words were compelling. She discussed the ethnic cleansing campaign that took place during the war and the organized rape of women and children. In 2012, Kosovo hosted the first international women’s conference to discuss issues ranging from gender inequality in the workplace to wartime rape. The president emphasized that this was the first time women openly shared their stories. Since the conference, the government has made the commitment to extend wartime reparations to these women. However, the status of these reparations are unclear.

The Q&A session was moderated by Alexander A. Cooley, political science professor at Barnard and the new director of the Harriman Institute. Most questions from the audience centered on what Kosovo will do to step up its efforts to join the international community; it is not yet a member of the United Nations, the European Union, or NATO. I left the lecture contemplating the president’s introductory theme: how do post-conflict societies heal – psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually – and rebuild?

This lecture served as an important reminder that as Columbia continues to globalize and engage with the world, the conversations can become more challenging and emotional. Through platforms like the World Leaders Forum, we gain a footing as global citizens.

You can watch President Jahjaga’s remarks here (her speech starts at 10 minutes in)

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