Building Gendered Human Security Inside and Out: A Case Study in Post-Conflict Kosovo
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Set against the backdrop of war-torn Kosovo, my thesis focuses on civil society development in the area of gendered human security. In 1999, this small nation (then under the control of UNMIK) experienced the largest influx of non-governmental organizations (NGO) in history. It wasn't just the usual suspects either--sure the Red Cross/Red Crescent and others were there--but what made the experience worth taking note of was the number of local non-governmental organizations (LNGOs) that were created during this time. Some organizations were established just to accomplish one specific and locally defined goal and others were created to act as implementing arms for the parent NGOs abroad. Why focus on civil society building by NGOs? Interventions and projects by civil society organizations (CSOs) that recognize the multifaceted and gendered nature of human security needs are critical in a post-conflict/post-crisis setting because organizations can respond in customized ways in circumstances where women (and girls) face a unique set of challenges. My thesis identifies and explores five common pitfalls that NGOs in Kosovo experienced. These are necessary to overcome in order to have both scalable and sustainable interventions; these interventions critically function as the foundation for building gendered human security (which facilitates longer-term positive impacts and more effective development). There are five core areas in which post-conflict international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and LGNOs in Kosovo have been significantly challenged: (1): Capacity building: There was a lack of training for the partners or staff of INGOs and a lack or miss-match of training given to LNGOs by parent organizations or donors. (2): Community buy-in: INGOs/LNGOs were often seen as corrupt and self-serving and out of touch with the current needs. (3): Ownership (top-down vs. bottom-up): INGOs and LNGOs often had donor-driven agendas, especially in the case of LNGOs whose mission statements and projects were variable due to intermittent funding. (4): Transparency: A lack of boards/assemblies and clearly defined stakeholders contributed to general suspicions of corruption for many organizations. (5): Sustainability: INGOs developed community reliance, but because of their short-term aims lacked a mechanism to transfer support onto either another CSO or a government program. LNGOs created in the post-crisis boom lacked long-term financial sustainability plans. Empirical research data was collected in four of Kosovo's seven municipalities through semi-structured in-person interviews varying between 20 and 120 minutes in length in 2011 and 2012, relying upon a questionnaire matrix of my own design. As the main focus of this study was the experiences and opinions of individuals from the organizations under focus, academics, civil society experts, institutional actors and the general public, interviewees were selected because of their expertise as key informants with experience or knowledge of international or local NGOs. In the case study portion of my thesis, I explore how Medica Mondiale's actions in Kosovo as an INGO, and later as the LNGO Medica Kosova and most recently as Medica Gjakova, serve as illustrations and lessons of avoiding the hazards to which many INGOs and LNGOs leave themselves vulnerable. This is not to say that the organization is a paragon. However, based on their published material and my in-depth interviews and surveys, I identify specific actions that were instrumental in their success in meeting challenges and avoiding the five areas of common failure. The INGO Medica Mondiale (and later as the LNGO Medica Kosova/Medica Gjakova) built human security into its organizational design through staffing and capacity building and through projects for beneficiaries. Both the internal staff and the external beneficiaries benefited by having their gendered human security addressed. This organization is an example of how human security does not just have to be thought of in terms of the projects/interventions an organization pursues, but how human security can be made a critical part of the project life cycle. As this case study illustrates, it can be built though staffing, empowerment, and a long-term vision for handoff to stronger local partners. It is my contention that gendered human security can be created through projects and interventions by CSOs (namely LNGOs/INGOs) and through the organization's internal operations. Organizations can build human security for the project beneficiaries and the staff/organization members. In post-crisis settings LNGO registration/creation has become the norm. It is in this critical period that INGOs, that are either funding these newly created LNGOs or else creating their own branches (as in the case of Medica Mondiale), must consider whether gendered human security is being accomplished both internally and externally. For organizations/foundations giving funds/grants to the often newly created LNGOs that emerged as a response to the abundance of funding, there must be a way to audit or evaluate the organization and their projects in order to examine whether human security is both being internally and externally addressed. For INGOs and LNGOs (or those funding them) that seek to address gendered human security, I provide a tool for self-auditing. This gendered human security empowerment tool may be applied on two levels (internal--through staffing/capacity building/successful handoff, and external--through projects/interventions). It is flexible and may be inserted into the NGO operations in multiple ways: (1) to a newly established LNGO as a form of self-check; (2) by a parent organization/INGO as a form of self-check; (3) by donors to assess the work of the grantee. The tool can be informal and part of an internal guide for a local organization, or can be more formally applied and included as part of reporting back on the side of the grantee (e.g., in a semi-annual report/progress report). The set of questions this tool provides can function as a self-audit to check that gendered human security is addressed (both externally and internally). It follows the timeline of the project life cycle (from project design to implementation to close-out) and focuses on the five core challenge areas previously identified (capacity building; community buy-in; ownership; transparency; sustainability). Addressing the questions as individuals and as a team, and later revisiting them during the project lifecycle and examining the responses, will help organizations and donors alike to strategically engage with the five core challenges.