A bouquet of peace ideas to Macedonia … and Kosovo

By Jan Oberg and many others

TFF PressInfo 80 – November 22, 1999

Originally published here.

 

”With e-mail and Internet it has become so much more easy to generate and share ideas instantly. Below you find 53 different ideas about peace in Macedonia from people around the world who responded to our call in the preceding PressInfo. It’s a free gift to anyone who cares to listen and take inspiration – many could also be implemented in Kosovo,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“Our respondents are not a representative sample but, among other things, this exciting experiment shows that:

1) there are so many ideas out there and an amazing willingness to contribute constructively;

2) people who have not been to Macedonia can share ideas and initiatives that have worked in other conflicts, a general body of knowledge and experiences are developing;

3) they focus much more on the human dimensions of conflict-resolution than governments do;

4) they by and large reject military means in peacebuilding, and

5) they focus on local forces and bottom-up approaches rather than top-down, foreign imposed peace – indeed, quite a few tell us right away that the West in general and NATO in particular should stay away. This is a very moving appeal. People obviously must be given a chance to find their own solutions.

We have chosen not to list the ideas theme-wise. Enjoy them as a bouquet. We just edited and shortened what we got – in some cases actually whole articles.

TFF does not endorse every idea, but we convey them all for your inspiration,” says Oberg.

 

Develop a true image of the place

It’s a great problem that, regarding the Balkans, East Timor, Colombia, Haiti, Ecuador, Cuba, North Korea and many places in Africa, we may not have a broad enough image of what it is all about. Modern media should show us peacebuilding efforts, accompaniment, non-violent direct-action and cover it live. That would give people hope that something can be done. So, peace news and not only war news, please.

 

NATO is not for peace

It is disastrous for Macedonia and others to accept NATO as the “international community”; NATO is a military alliance of countries whose goals are the realisation of the policies and interests of the transnational corporations and the economic neo-liberal agenda of the wealthy countries. And each country with its specific problems should not expect NATO to solve them by means of its standard military package.

 

Go for the European Union, in spite of all

The far-from-perfect European Union points to the economic advantages of cooperation and the increased political clout of the whole region. It is a feasible model of a union of sovereign states, particularly if they pursue a course of people-oriented social and economic policies.

 

Development and politics from below is basic democracy

Countries such as Macedonia should develop their own political structures and not simply model them on those of the wealth-driven western “democracies.” Rather, go for the “bottom up” approach in which local councils are at the base of the political system, and are thus more sensitive to the issues which dominate everyday life of citizens. These local councils then elect the legislators at the higher level of governance, which assures local input into national political decision-making. Such a system can break free of the rigidities of ideologically dogmatic party politics.

 

The Balkans between Third World and Rich World

It would be a stimulating challenge to the Balkan states to take on the role of leadership in the gap between rich and third-world countries, which they could only do by cooperative action and a “global”view which wipes out all traditionally corrosive “ethnic” biases.

 

Great Peace personalities must be found

All (!) it takes is a Gandhi, a Mandela, or someone like them. Perhaps only deep conviction with a morally-based vision can open the gates to a rational and truly democratic new world order.

 

Let them find their own way. Don’t impose peace

The people of Macedonia should be allowed to determine how peace should be maintained. It may be (and I believe is) appropriate to assist them in this process. I do recommend facilitating group processes at all levels, from small groups of individuals to higher level groups.

 

Selfishness and materialism must be stopped

The root of the problem is selfishness and materialism. Selfishness not only on the part of the people living in Macedonia , but also of the people living in the rest of the world.

 

Love and personal commitment

Love God, love your fellow man, yes even love your enemy. We can all contribute and this is a nice way.

 

Stop your Western colonialism

In the way you’ve come: go away and leave us alone! We Macedonians are not “Indians”. You should acknowledge the difference and recognise that “civil society” is not what we need. After all, your own countries are not civil, you are all Swedes, Britons, Germans, French etc.

 

The West cannot and should not “help”

Most of the ideas you have listed (in PressInfo 79) are more like academic talk. They will not necessarily have any impact on or connection to real life. Probably I would have viewed it better if only I had any confidence in Western values left. Unfortunately, after NATO’s Yugoslavia war I realised that we ARE two different worlds.

 

Focus on women for development and peace

The empowerment of women is key to a more peaceful future. Find ways that will encourage women to think and speak out about what they want for their children and grandchildren. Assist them in identifying and developing the means to equip themselves for action: a group or institute that can help develop processes and train animators who can nurture vision and hopes, encourage dialogue and mutual listening, help shape constructive aspirations and attitudes, foster creative problem-solving, and build networks.

 

“Apples for Peace” – A Tax to finance a Centre for education and environment issues

We could start a movement, “Apples for Peace.” A peace tax could be added to the market price of vegetables from Macedonia. The idea could catch on to other agricultural products, like peppers,tobacco and grapes. Imagine trucks of apples, walnuts etc. heading for Western Europe, for Christmas, with a ten percent “peace tax” added. The kilo price would still be under the going EU rates. The members in Diaspora would help out in the marketing. This tax could then help finance, among other socially inventive projects, a permanent educational and environmental centre; remember, the region borders on Greece and Albania, and it might be a good site for such a centre. And then we should leave the talk about multiculturalism off centre. My experience in the field is that too much talk about multiculturalism inhibits cooperation between members-citizens.

 

Removing trade tariffs to Europe and get rid of the mafia

A removal of the existing trade barriers to Europe would foster economic and social development of Macedonia. If more options for prosperity existed, corruption and the mafia would become less appealing to people. As in Yugoslavia there are people making a living from the possibilities created by barriers in trading. It is vital to avoid that counterproductive forces to economic and social development becomes an integrated part of the future society of Macedonia.

 

Let us be and be in peace! Stop arms profiteering!

There was peace in former Yugoslavia before profit-makers started their marketing for selling weapons wrapped up in nice words like: civil society, democracy, free competition, peacemaking, and so on. I would really like to know when will we can hope for an end to all this peacemaking in the Balkans which suits western profit makers more than us? Is there anyone in UN with heart and consciousness who can say: people in the Balkans have paid enough. Now, let them be…

 

NATO is irrelevant, also for Macedonia

“Macedonia was seriously destabilised by NATO’s militant conversion of it into a combined military base and refugee camp.” This sentence in Dr. Oberg’s article defines the most serious problem in keeping peace in Macedonia. NATO has destabilised the Balkans for years to come. No state that once comprised Yugoslavia should ever become a member of NATO. The existence of NATO is as relevant to world peace as would be the Warsaw Pact coming back and expanding into Western Europe…

 

Get the OSCE and UN back

The present OSCE mission must be expanded. Also, the reestablishment of the remarkably successful UN mission is imperative.

 

Lift the sanctions on Yugoslavia

Sanctions is a horrible threat to peace and reconciliation. They make the people suffer while the leader consolidates his power. The horrendous damage to the civilian population in Iraq should be a lesson. Sanctions are war against the people, and do nothing to dislodge the tyrant in power.

 

Towards a people’s economy

Macedonia needs micro-loans to help people start their own businesses. It needs cooperative business ventures. Lift the sanctions against their largest trading partner, Yugoslavia. Prevent Macedonia from sliding into a long-term dependence on foreign aid. The banking structure within Macedonia should be supported to help local economics, not be complicit in creating more dependent economies.

 

Women can move society from violence towards caring

Women’s energies and creativity, if focused, can help people move away from violence: personal connections, educational means, writing, the media, and community development are all pathways to be taken. Harness this power of bonding and reaching out beyond oneself in caring: channel it into the education of children, the reweaving of community, and the rejection of violence as a means to resolve the conflicts inherent in all living.

 

Create a culture of forgiveness

People need support to create a culture of forgiveness throughout society. Dedicated peace activists have to make small groups. The groups must be two types.One would be specific religious peace group, the other would be multi-religious peace group, the latter also including non-religious, spiritually developed persons. Let’s call them People’s Peace Action Group of Macedonia, but people of all religions and ethnic status must be included. Its task would be to formulate nonviolent peacebuilding actions with a view to establishing a culture of reconciliation and forgiveness. In short, create a land of peace for our children.

 

Provide a basis for mutual learning

I know that with the current situation it is too much to expect that Albanians and Macedonians live together in ‘peace and harmony’, but I think it’s possible to have them respect each other, or at least not disrespect each other. This might be done by teaching children about both cultures, so they can get an idea about the points of view of ‘the others’. I have been to the country and I think a lot of Macedonians have never even really met or talked with an Albanian, and it is very easy to scaffold a group of people when you don’t know anyone of them. Getting them into personal encounters can soften the opinions of both sides.

 

Exchange of journalists and have Europeans learn about this cradle of culture

The ideas in PressInfo 79 – to exchange journalists, establish innovative institutions, respect Macedonia’s sovereignty – are important. Maybe this can start by having Greece accept the name of Macedonia so it stops calling it FYROM? People must have stake in their own future; we can help by investing more in this small Balkan state – and in the whole Balkan region: it’s a cradle of culture that many people in the West have no idea of.

 

Regional self-reliance: don’t be a client of the West

It would be of great importance to stop this senseless race towards the West. These countries were put in a very difficult situation and they had to fight for their own development and survival. Be fair: if sanctions, sanctions for all. If help, help for all. Maybe it sounds odd, but the Balkan is a rich part of the world; it has its own food, fuel, energy and human resources; Balkan countries should strive to depend on each other: if they are suppressed to count on food from Hungary, Bulgaria and Macedonia, energy from Serbia, Rumanian fuel and Montenegrin and Croatian ports, they will certainly develop respect for each other, and develop mutual needs. If we don’t wake up, NATO will spread all over the Balkans towards Russia and “Pax Americana” will come. Eventually, this could mean wars in Rumania, Moldavia, Ukraine and so on.

 

Call conferences all over Europe to generate good ideas

Why should the Swedish – or any government for that matter – not gather labour unions, church groups, peace and women NGOs, humanitarian organisations, area experts, religious groups, media people etc and have an inspiring debate on what they can do now to help, and not harm? After almost ten years of ‘experimenting’ with conflict-management, it’s time to learn some lessons and avoid future mistakes.

 

We need a U.N. TV News channel and ‘good’ news

It should enlighten people on complexities, underlying issues, violence-preventive options and not just do war-reporting. Good news about peace activities too, not only ‘bad’ news about wars, earthquakes and other suffering. We could have global media brainstorms where viewers would call in or e-mail their ideas for peace.

 

Reform and strengthen the United Nations now

The fact that UNPREDEP was forced to leave Macedonia as the result of a ‘game’ between Macedonia, the US, China and Taiwan should be a lesson learnt: it must not be manipulated that way ever again. We need UN reforms, including reforms of the Security Council but also a new supportive attitude among member states – and a willingness to pay for peace.

 

10.000 peace monitors to the region

If Macedonia can host all these soldiers and serve as a NATO base, why should it not also host some 10.000 people from all over the world, citizens trained in peace dialogue, education, conflict-handling and human rights? They could be present there and elsewhere in the region. Countries who know that their own citizens are on the ground would be less likely to bomb…Macedonia could become a treasure for international peace efforts – something of what Switzerland is for capitalism…

 

Treat the traumas

We can learn from what has happened in ex-Yugoslavia that old traumas, when hidden deep down, will pop up at some point with very dangerous consequences. ‘Armies’ of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, priests and – simply – fellow-human beings, would be more useful to peace than all these soldiers and ‘security’ structures.

 

Exchange of students and others

The EU ought to give the countries in the Balkans opportunities similar to those of, say, the Erasmus program: for students, union leaders, journalists, parliamentarians, cultural workers etc. We’ve all still got a long way to go to really learn from each other and stop all the one-way Western aid.

 

Prepare them now for EU membership

Promise all the Balkan countries a future EU membership and start helping them now; in short, divert their attention from negative ethnic divisions to positive integrative projects.

 

Norms and campaigns against ethnic cleansing

If we can do campaigns and develop norms against the Holocaust, Nazism, discrimination and slave labour – why not against ethnic cleansing?

 

Focus on cultural and other types of autonomy

Stop talking about ‘nationalities.’ Why don’t you (foreigners) let common people rule, here and in your own countries? History is no proof that the bigger guy is more clever than the small guy. So too for nations. Creative, tailor-made solutions for minorities in each country, particularly various types of autonomy, could help us a good part of the way to peace.

 

Decide the country’s name and make better neighbours

The formal name now is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM. Macedonia is problematic for Greece, it can’t just be ‘Macedonia’ in the future. This is part of a larger problem: for peace to develop in FYROM/Macedonia, it must make ever better relations with its neighbours, Bulgaria and Greece in particular.

 

The US can contribute, but not as it does now

We should recruit Cyrus Vance and Henry Kissinger, a Democrat and a Republican and both highly skilled diplomats who are well regarded in the international community. They could be special envoys to the UN. They could help select a UN high commissioner for the region. Their main role should be to get religious and civil society leaders together. And CIA must be kept out of the country!

 

Face the facts!

Big troubles appear where big powers go. Unfortunately, Macedonia accepted NATO’s military machine, hoping for the NATO membership. Instead it got the roaring machine of the NWO, the New World Order. Somebody planned these dirty wars long before. People with good ideas must also fight the real causes of this expansionism, particularly that of the US and NATO here.

 

Peacebuilding and work for all

The word “peacebuilding” refers to the economic and social work that is required after a peace has been negotiated – and is often a good way of avoiding an armed conflict in the first place, if it is used well before a violent conflict takes place. Work for all who need it must be seen as an integral part of peacebuilding everywhere in post-war societies. The role of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) should be enhanced in reconstruction after a conflict. And mass media should be encouraged to give greater coverage of this type of reconstruction

 

Full employment is a human right

The Depression provided the opportunity for Hitler’s rise. Therefore, it was decided that the UN should have the promotion of “full employment” as one of its tasks (Article 55 of the Charter). Many of the disputes underway today have economics as one of the basic causes. People may use, say, religious or ethnic labels, but often the underlying cause is unemployment. If everyone is doing well, there is little need for civil unrest because the citizens are too busy enjoying the fruits of their labour. But if there is a major economic downturn, then there is a search for scapegoats – people to blame.

 

Ex-fighters need an incentive to help rebuild society

Macedonia has not seen war, but Kosovo has. Soldiers and paramilitaries there have just had a major status in their community. Peace brings the risk of losing that status – and the prospect of unemployment. Work will enable them to achieve social inclusion. If this is not secured, they could run to the neighbouring countries and create troubles there.

 

Re-federating the region

Everybody can see that nationalism and small ethnic projects were a disaster here as well as for the former Soviet Union. We must find new structures and do new things but ALSO not throw out what did work in the past: federation, confederations and local autonomies. Injecting capital into such structures under new circumstances might help bring about peace.

 

Human shields

It’s essential that international solidarity with suffering and threatened minorities find expression in time. Being present and do international people-to-people projects together with the locals is peace in terms of both ends and means. Thus, for instance, we could build an organisation with prominent and non-prominent, well-educated peace workers who are a) trained professionally in solving conflicts without violence, b) have knowledge and skills about international information policy, so that they are able to get publicity for their field peace work, c) are able to educate other peace workers in the villages and towns and who d) are trained to cooperate with other responsible groups, civilian as well as military.

 

Make Albania a well-functioning, attractive country

With conditions being what they are at the moment, it would be a good long-range strategy to focus on Albania so that the population and other pressures could be somewhat relieved on Macedonia and Kosovo/Serbia. More Albanians ought to be given the chance to see Albania as an attractive place to live. At present, everyone seems to want to settle in Kosovo – including the mafia – and operate from there; that will lead to nothing good for Kosovo nor for the region.

 

Early warning and early action – learn that lesson!

Politicians must not deal with only those conflicts and problems that media choose to give attention. There must be some general criteria and priorities; beside all humanitarian and human rights aspects, it would be much cheaper to spend money to avoid the fiasco than to pay for the intervention and later on for the reconstruction. In short, the whole Balkan crisis should teach us that we need much more early warning and action and investments in violence-prevention.

 

Remember that only the people can force their governments to peace and not opposite

Self-evident!

 

Join Yugoslavia

This region is a playground for the world’s power games. It is difficult to see how Macedonia can survive as an independent state, even if it tries hard. It can never be a Switzerland or Iceland, as you suggested in PressInfo 79. Too many also in the region are out to undermine this country’s economic, cultural, and political future. So, why not start a dialogue with Yugoslavia now? Joining Yugoslavia (Montenegro and Serbia) at some future point is the most natural solution in view of history, language, economy, etc. This of course would be discouraged by the West…

 

Invite students to study abroad

– with the intention of coming back and implement their new knowledge in Macedonia.

 

Create an international university in Skopje

– and invite more students from abroad. The international community ought to create a foundation, with equal seats for students in Western and Eastern European countries, helping to create a common understanding between peoples.

 

Create a peace institute within the country

A group of locally – as well as internationally recruited members – taking the conflict ‘temperature’ of the country and produce analytical reports and proposals for peace policies.

 

Build better highways to the borders of Albania, Greece, and Bulgaria/Rumania

Skopje-Ohrid-Tessaloniki – and Skopje-Ohrid-Tirana. (This will force Greece to make up its mind about how it wants to relate to Macedonia).

 

Use the networks of religious communities

The Orthodox church and Greek Orthodox have the best of relations with Muslims in the Arab world. They could encourage them to network more intensely with Muslims in the Balkan regions, including Albanians – and directly with Greek Orthodox Albanians. They can be used generally as mediators.

 

New peace educational materials and teachers’ training

Let religious and other multi-ethnic bodies of educators write a teacher’s training guide. It should be ensured that the Government(s) adopt it to be used in teacher’s training institutes as well as distribute it to public school teachers. We can’t do too much in the field of education for conflict resolution, education for peace, human rights and democracy – and of course on the potential of women in such peacebuilding efforts.

These teaching materials will contain of lot of ‘general’ stuff about these issues and here international peace educators can help. But then they must be adapted to the local and regional circumstances, and produced by local, multi-ethnic, -religious teams. This would create an absolutely necessary interaction and mutual learning – for the ‘producers’ as well as the ‘consumers’ of these manuals.

 

The region’s women must come together for peace

Women from Macedonia, Greece, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina can join together and put down ideas on how to foster peace.

 

Children and youth

Work a lot with children and youth, from the kindergarten and upwards. And involve their parents. No peacebuilding now will be worth it if the future citizens, decision-makers, civil and military leaders are ignored. Look what the Children’s Peace Movement in Columbia does! Let young people visit and inspire each other across the globe. Children camps and summer schools all over the place – integrate them with other civil society, NGOs – give them a chance to learn how to deal intelligently – nonviolently – with conflicts. And make friends instead of making enemies.

 

UNESCO and Culture of peace

UNESCO can play a primary role in conflict prevention by financing projects that consolidate a culture of peace through education and training at all levels and of women in particular. UNESCO’s Culture of Peace Program should be implemented in every conflict and be part of every UN mission.

 

“So! 53 ideas here and 14 in the preceding PressInfo = 67 peace proposals. Created by impartial, concerned human beings from around the world! Weave them into the Stability Pact, integrate these human dimensions with infrastructure programs, economic reconstruction and humanitarian aid. There is no end to what can be done to create peace, particularly when we look beyond the very limited horizons of single governments and international governmental organisations – not to mention the interests of naked power.

And one final thing: these ideas were produced with Macedonia in mind. Move north! KFOR, OSCE and the UN in Kosovo are at a loss of what to do; they look increasingly as peacebuilding failures in-the-making. Why are ideas like these hardly ever discussed? You can say ONE thing about them, in contrast to what has been done with Yugoslavia and Kosovo so far: they won’t make things worse or hurt anybody” – says Jan Oberg.

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