Kosovo Trip Report
To evaluate the feasibility
of the project, and to explore relationships with potential local
partners, Operation Kosovo sent two IPRO students, together with
Assistant Dean Rudnick, to Albania in mid-July, 1998. During the
week-long trip, which included a visit to the Northern Albanian
region where most of the refugees are located, the IPRO Delegation
met with the following nongovernmental and international organizations,
representatives of the Albanian and the United States governments,
and telecommunications and technology experts:
- Nongovernmental and International Organizations.
The IPRO team consulted with the representatives of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the American
Bar Association Central and East European Law Initiative (ABA/CEELI),
the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Albanian
Encouragement Project (an umbrella group of seventy nongovernmental
organizations in Albania).
- Albanian Governmental Offices. The
IPRO group held several meetings with officials in the Albanian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including the Director of the
Department for the Americas, Asia and Pacific, as well as
the desk officer for the United States. The team also met
with the director and the deputy director of the newly-created
Office for Refugees within the Albanian Ministry of Local
Government. Prior to the departure of the IPRO delegation
to Albania, representatives of Operation Kosovo also met with
the Albanian Ambassador to the United States in Washington,
Petrit Bushati, who expressed his strong support for Operation
Kosovo and provided assistance in establishing Government
contacts in Tirana. A copy of Ambassador Petritís letter of
endorsement is attached to this proposal.
- United States Government Representatives.
During the trip to Albania, the team met and briefed the United
States Ambassador to Albania on Operation Kosovo, in the now-closed
U.S. Embassy in Tirana. The team also consulted with the chief
public affairs officer of the United States Information Service,
who provided advice and logistical support in arranging the
groups trip to Northern Albania.
- Telecommunications and Technology Experts.
The IPRO delegation also discussed the state of Internet
connectivity and the telecommunication infrastructure in Albania
with a representative of the Soros Internet Center in Tirana,
with the director of information technology for the Albanian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with a technical expert at
UNDP. In addition, the group conducted its own assessment
of the telecommunications infrastructure in Tirana and in
the region surrounding the northern city of Bajram Curri,
where most of the refugees are located.
Based on the information gathered
during this assessment trip, as well as significant research conducted
into the international legal and policy issues raised by Operation
Kosovo, the IPRO team has formulated the recommendations contained
below for implementing the goals set by Operation Kosovo.
Operation Kosovo proposes the
following strategy for implementing its goals:
- Expand upon existing Internet connections.
The IPRO trip revealed the existence of three Internet nodes
in Albania at the present time. Our team carefully considered
the option of establishing a new, fourth Internet node in Albania.
However, the risks associated with this approach in a country
as unstable and technologically backward as Albania are significant.
Therefore, Operation Kosovo has concluded that it will better
to expand upon one of the existing Internet connections. In
order to achieve this objective, we will seek to establish a
relationship with one of the existing Internet node operates
in Tirana. Operation Kosovo would then use radio modems from
the more remote region where the refugees are located to establish
a connection to this Internet node.
- Establish relationship with Soros Internet
Center in Tirana. The Soros Internet Center in Tirana will
make an ideal partner for establishing effective Internet connectivity.
As one of three existing Internet nodes in Albania, the Soros
Internet Center is currently applying its resources to three
primary projects: (a) operation of an "Open Internet Center,"
(b) connection of Albanian universities to the Internet, (c)
creation of an Albanian cultural database. Operation Kosovo
proposes adding a fourth element to this trinity: connection
of governmental, nongovernmental and international organizations
working with Kosovo refugees in Albania to the Internet, and
using this connection to provide legal advice and information
to the refugees.
- Pilot Project. In order to minimize
the initial investment in Operation Kosovo, and to evaluate
the effectiveness of the technological network and institutional
relationships, Operation Kosovo proposes to begin with a Pilot
Project involving one governmental office and one nongovernmental
or international organization office. We will obtain, configure
and deliver computer hardware and software to each of there
organization, and then establish Internet connections using
radio modems and/or land lines as conditions permit. This will
give each organization immediate access to the legal information
for refugees already available on our Website. It will also
enable the groups to submit questions from the refugees to the
legal experts we are assembling at Chicago-Kent. If the Pilot
Project is successful, we will expand the project to other locations
and organizations as appropriate.
Fall 1998 Implementation Trip. Operation
Kosovo prepares to send a second IPRO delegation to Albania in
October or November, 1998. This team would deliver and install
the computers, ensure that the links to the Internet node are
functional, and oversee the natural interaction with the refugee
community. The trip should take place no later than early November,
due to the early onset of winter in Albanian and difficulty of
reaching refugees settlement areas.