University of Prishtina

Statement by the Norwegian Ambassador Per Strand Sjaastad

| Prishtina

It is not easy to agree on narratives about violent conflicts and wars in the past, and to have a common understanding of what is needed to reestablish justice, reparation and fairness. Both or all sides of a violent conflict may see themselves as victims.

However, there is no alternative to reconciliation or at least co-existence. A rejection to deal with the past may have a negative impact for generations – and put the whole of society into a state of stagnation, permanent tension and recurrent open conflicts. 

Providing reconciliation and transitional justice is a broad and complex task, including measures such as criminal prosecution, truth-seeking, reparation, reform of laws and security institutions.

Several measures have been put in place in Kosovo after the war in 98-99, but the job is not completed. The establishing of the Transitional Justice Resource Centre will be a very useful tool supplementing previous efforts and providing progress.

Academia and the educational sector may play an important role in facilitating reconciliation and transitional justice.

I highly welcome the bold ambition the Rector has stated for the University of Prishtina, to have the University set its mark on the development of Kosovo society and your country, as has also been the case at times in the past. All countries would benefit from a dynamic and competent academia, that can be in the forefront of public discussion and help set the agenda.

In more general terms, it is essential to promote academic integrity and maturity, and the methods of independent and critical thinking. Higher education does - of course - have to operate within state budgets and other legitimate requirements. However, academic work and teaching has to be based on the principle of independence and academic freedom, and not act as an instrument of any government preferences and narratives.

Establishing a truly independent university sector, does not happen in a vacuum. It is a reflection of the overall situation in society, whether the government tries to interfere in the work of independent institutions, being the justice system, academia or the NGO sector. It is, basically, a question of good governance.

Norway has a long and strong tradition of peace and reconciliation efforts around the globe. Norway has been involved in peace and reconciliation efforts in more than twenty violent conflicts worldwide, including Somalia, Guatemala, Myanmar, Colombia, Middle East and Sudan – sometimes with success and sometimes without. We fully acknowledge the complexity of this work and that no case is alike.

I believe the Transitional Justice Resource Centre will have many opportunities to engage in a constructive way. It will strengthen  research and documentation of transitional justice in Kosovo, the region and beyond. It will be able to give competent advice to policy-makers and stakeholders. It will also be a welcoming sign that those suffering from wrongdoings are given priority. 

I can assure you that Norway is prepared to help in these efforts, in any which way we can.