[Originally published on Kosova/Kosovo: cultural heritage and community on 12th October 2005; I removed that "front page" to the site photo blogs, and imported this here, sticking it on 20th October 2005 to stay with the Kosovo fieldwork notes.]
Kosovo's contemporary context:
Kosovo is still disadvantaged in many respects: more than 60% of its inhabitants are unemployed; more than 50% live in poverty; water and electricity supplies are still unreliable; and mafia and paramilitaries operate with relative impunity.
Conditions fall far short of human rights standards - indeed, so far short that, under the UN's "standards before status" policy, adopted to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, Kosovo's final status cannot be decided upon. The mass of the population does not have the power to control the mafia or paramilitaries and the support those organisations do receive is largely, if not entirely, a product of uncertainty and insecurity.
In this predicament, in a complex mixture of cynical political exploitation and simple criminal opportunism, there has been an upsurge in political violence, both by members of one local community against another and by members of one local community against the international community; the Albanians and the minorities aligned with them fear the return of Serbian rule and the Serbs and the minorities aligned with them fear the lack of it, as, for the past twenty years, the extremists from the dominant community have acted with relative impunity.