CRS in Kosovo
Kosovo’s economy has shown significant progress in transitioning to a market-based system, but is still highly dependent on the international community. The unemployment rate is more than 30% and its citizens are among the poorest in Europe.
There is a long history of struggle between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo. Limited opportunities for employment, feelings of isolation and lack of hope can lead to frustration.
In Kosovo, a very uncertain and sometimes volatile environment, CRS focuses on education, preventing conflict and stopping human trafficking.
CRS' History in Kosovo
Catholic Relief Services began its operations in Kosovo in 1994, prior to the full-scale conflict between Serbs and ethnic Albanian separatists. When conflict came, CRS managed refugee camps in Macedonia and Albania that accommodated the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from the fighting. Within a day of the signing of the cease-fire agreement in early June 1999, CRS returned to Kosovo along with the returning refugees to find a society largely destroyed and deeply divided along ethnic lines. With its worldwide reputation for emergency relief, CRS obtained significant financial support to help address immediate humanitarian needs. At the height of the emergency response, CRS had more than 400 staff in Kosovo.
While CRS primarily focused on food, shelter and medical care for those returning, it simultaneously began to develop a strategy for rebuilding a more just society in the wake of the conflict. A program to promote peaceful cooperation between Albanians and Serbs began in 2001, which, along with continued education efforts, forms the core of current CRS programming.
CRS’ peacebuilding programming brings together ethnically divided communities around common issues. Since CRS began this type of programming after the 1999 crisis, the agency has increased participation in many places in Kosovo, restoring trust and hope to divided Albanian-Serb communities and bridging the ethnic and religious divide.
In its counter-trafficking programming, CRS seeks to prevent young people from being forced into the sex trade or street begging, and helping the victims of trafficking.