Equitable and inclusive participation in public-decision making can help communities safeguard peace in fragile, post-conflict environments. However, plural participation poses a complex feat where polarization along ethnic lines has fractured horizontal relationships within a society and vertical linkages between citizens and government. These communities face yet graver obstacles to participatory governance where they confront the social and material challenges of reintegrating returnees.
Mercy Corps’ experience in Kosovo illustrates how communities can achieve participatory governance amidst a dynamic returns process and social linkages among ethnic groups torn apart by conflict. During the events of 1999, Kosovo experienced a NATO bombing campaign, the displacement of over 800,000 Kosovans, the subsequent displacement of Serb, Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) populations and the looting and burning of property. In the years immediately following, Mercy Corps has helped build trust between municipalities and communities so that together they can improve conditions for and inclusion of returnees.
Kosovans at the community-level have identified municipalities as the most effective access point for stimulating progress towards stability and recovery. Mercy Corps has thus targeted community-municipal relations as a powerful avenue to revive horizontal linkages amongst communities alongside vertical linkages between citizen and municipality.