One of the first projects the centre will be taking on is taking the Merton work and seeing how some of it could apply to Cameroon and Kosovo.
The ICO has already been apart of extensive research in Kosovo focusing on the conflict in Mitrovicka. By using historical/ contemporary research, demography, and geography to understand fully the root cause of the conflict, the ICO can then develop local government strategy to dissolve issues of regional conflict. Merton’s focus on maintaining financial stability at a local authority level will be a valuable asset to understanding the effects economic inequalities have on stability.
The ICO project on Mitrovicka illustrates the positive developments of the Institute and foreshadows the potential the Institute has for successful community development and cohesion. Through research and thorough analysis the ICO have looked into the demographics, economy and education of Mitrovicka’s municipalities in order to disseminate contributing indicators that have caused conflict between the north and the south of Mitrovicka. ICO continue their work on the area of Mitrovicka by working on peaceful courses of actions, namely this has been working towards signing a Memorandum of understanding between the north and the south of Mitrovicka. The work the ICO has done with local government has meant there has been such room for positive developments because local government has acted as an initiator for starting up the process for community cohesion and reconciliation. Despite the ICO’s work with Mitrocvika being very much a progressive and continual course of action, the projects direction could be the first case of a partnership between south and northern municipalities in a divided city. The cross community work that will be achieved is diverse from public, social, economic concentrated courses of action to practical developments of activities and shared living.
The Brussels agreement has also played an important role in reducing conflict in the Mitrovicka region on a larger scale as they worked in improving relations between Kosovo and Serbia. There was a series of negotiations and activities aimed at understanding motives from each side and understanding cultural and territorial divides that had been the instigator for so much conflict. More importantly there were practical problems and technicalities that needed to be addressed which was also similar to the problems in Mitrovicka. The Brussels agreement strategy is a useful example for the ICO’s approach to the problems in Mitrovicka. The ICO takes notes of this comparison and strategy and incorporates it into their own work and research.
There is an important reason as to why the ICO is looking at and focusing in on targeting local government to create sustainable development and change. The role local government plays in staging community cohesion is highly important and there are a number of examples from the United Kingdom, which highlights local governments success on implementing positive community development. Firstly local government acts on neutral grounds, they aren’t particularly favoured often towards one side and have nothing to benefit from the conflict, therefore, local governments only means of interest is based upon seeking resolution. This contributes to the ideas that local government can almost act as a third party for progressive intervention. Local governments non-threatening status as a result of their weakened notoriety compared to national governments means communities in conflict are more receptive to them and their suggestions. In turn they are presented as an unbiased mediator for communities in conflict with polarised beliefs and opinions.