Intellectually the Kosovo Commission Report is a turkey and it won’t fly

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 105 – November 23, 2000

Originally published here.

 

We expect soldiers we send to the front to have some military education and training. As patients we hope the doctor has studied medicine. And who would write a constitution for a new state if not professionally educated lawyers?

But not so when it comes to conflict-analysis, mediation or peace-making. In this field it seems that neither specific education, practical experience nor knowledge about the conflicting parties and their cultures is of any importance. The important thing is that you want to do good.

Last year, Prime Minister Goran Persson of Sweden took the initiative to establish an independent international commission tasked with analysing the equally enigmatic and tragic Kosovo conflict and NATO’s bombing as well as outline the lessons to be learnt. He appointed Richard Goldstone, the well-respected South African judge and former chief prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal to chair it together with former Swedish education minister, Carl Tham, as his deputy.

The Swedish government allocated about 1 million dollar for the one-year work of the commission, which also obtained support from the Carnegie Corporation, George Soros, Ford Foundation and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Among its members are Mary Kaldor, Michael Ignatieff, Richard Falk (TFF associate) who represent themselves and not their countries – of which anyhow six are NATO members.

No doubt, it was a noble initiative, with all wishing to do good – although even Sweden never expressed a critical word about the West’s handling of the crisis or of what, at the time, I called NATO’s Balkan bombing blunder. To identify what we must learn from this conflict and the international attempts to handle it is, beyond doubt, one of the most important intellectual, political and moral tasks – for Sweden itself, for the EU, for NATO and for the United States. The problems that caused the violence in the Balkans are far from solved – if at all addressed – and the place with most rapid and positive change today is Serbia whose people took matters in their own hand and put an end to the Milosevic era. Around the world, conflicts similar to that in Kosovo are queuing up, waiting to be diagnosed and treated well or turn into tragedies.

My TFF colleagues and I have, since 1991, worked in Kosovo and Belgrade, with the political leaders on all sides and with civil society organisations. After some 40 missions and 3000+ interviews, we know a bit about the place, the personalities and the problems as well as about the rest of former Yugoslavia with which the Kosovo issue was and remains fundamentally intertwined.

During a number of years I personally functioned as unpaid, goodwill adviser to Dr. Ibrahim Rugova. Under his wise leadership the Kosovo-Albanians was the only people in ex-Yugoslavia who had decided – in contrast to everybody else – to try to achieve their dream about an independent state by means of a) a non-violent struggle, b) the building of a parallel society and c) intensive international diplomatic and media activity. It was a dream, of course, as nationalistic or and exclusionist as any other and was greatly assisted by the bullish arrogance of Milosevic and the repressive forces in the region.

But a simple conflict is about the only thing it was not. So the Commission has ploughed through hundreds of human rights documents and other types of materials and consulted hundreds of experts, politicians and military people involved in the matter – although, however, surprisingly few among those who were close to issue, on the ground. Goldstone and Tham want to do good, for sure, but none of them are conflict analysts or Balkan experts. That could, with a different mandate and more creativity, actually have brought in new aspects or have lead to the creation of more innovative proposals. But it doesn’t. This turkey won’t fly.

One the positive side, [Read more…]

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Background on Kosovo – and the management of it*

By Jan Oberg

Manuscript about Kosovo for the World Bank 

26 June 2000

 

A word about diagnosing conflict

A conflict is a problem that arises out of two or more actors’ incompatible expectations, needs or values. The sine qua non of effective conflict-mitigation (or -transformation) is comprehensive quality analysis of the root causes (diagnosis) of that problem. Without it, interventions to ‘manage’ or help solve somebody else’s conflict and prevent/stop violence will invariable fail – as will surgery on a patient whose disease is unknown to the doctor. You may add that violence is usually not the root cause of a conflict but, rather, a consequence of maltreated, ignored or otherwise non-resolved conflicts.

There is a tendency in Western culture to locate conflict (and violence, but the two are not idenical) in certain actors only. Thus, conflict is often defined as a good guy being attacked or quarelling with an evil guy about one object such as land, rights, resources, etc. Many therefore believe that conflict-resolution is about punishing the designated bad guy, rewarding his counterpart and then things will be fine.

Making “evil” the root cause is much too imprecise to serve as a diagnosis (as it would be to say that a disease is caused by demons in the body). In addition, it begs the philosophical question: What drives humans to do inhuman – evil – things to each other?

This approach is indicative of ‘conflict illiteracy’ – a recipe for failure: Conflicts are not only rooted in individuals (although, of course acted out by and through them) but also in structures in time and space, in circumstances and trends – in the “Karma.” This approach also overlooks that there are never only two parties and that most actors behave as more or less grey, rather than black and white.

 

The case of Kosovo

So, what’s is the conflict – the problems that lead to the violence – in Kosovo all about?

Having worked there over the 9 years, I would say: it is not predominantly about human rights violations or ethnic cleansing, they are symptoms of deeper lying problems, but – most unfortunately – the only aspects the so-called international community has focussed on hitherto.

As in so many other conflicts there is a history going decades, if not centuries, back in time. There is constitutional matters, general political and specific Yugo-structural features. There is a series of regional dimensions involving neighbouring countries.

And there is economic mal-development. If the GNP of Kosovo is set at 100, Slovenia (1984) had 766, Serbia without Voivodina  and Kosovo 375, Macedonia 249 – and the income gap between the richer and poorer republics and peoples in Tito’s Yugoslavia began to increase rapidly in the 1980s. Structurally more advantaged republics such as Croatia and Slovenia paid considerable parts of their profits to the federal redistribution mechanism, but much of it ended up in corrupted pockets, showplace extravagant public buildings and in land purchases in Macedonia – little left for productive investments in Kosovo.

Depending on the definition, at least 55 per cent of those seeking work were unemployed; illiteracy passed 20 per cent and perhaps as many as 400,000 kids were out of the regular schools; over 40 per cent of the people had no access to tap water, only 28 per cent lived in areas with a sewage system.

Kosovo had the highest birth rate and the highest infant mortality rate in Europe; more than 50 per cent of the citizens were below 20, the average age being 24 years of age. Albanians made up 67 per cent of the population in the province in 1961 (they also lived elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, some sources say 100.000 in Belgrade alone), they appear to have risen to about 90 per cent in the 1990s.  [Read more…]

Preventing Peace – New TFF report

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 82 – December 16, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“We are seeing it for the umteenth time in international conflict-management: when intellectual analysis and politics fall apart, cover it up with military potency and give it all a human face!

One would like to believe that the West’s moral, legal and political conflict ‘management’ disaster in the Balkans and in Kosovo 1989-1999 would be debated throughout the West – democracies with freedom of speech.

The silence about that failure, however, is roaring. It’s just the locals who won’t understand how well-meaning we were and are!

But something else is happening: the disaster is turning into a recipe! Read the statements from leading ministers, top generals, EU, and NATO during the last six months. They invariably state ‘that we have learnt in Kosovo’ that we need more military capacity, more force. NATO’s Secretary- General, Lord Robertson, tells the world that “the time for a peace dividend is over because there is no permanent peace – in Europe, or elsewhere. If NATO is to do its job of protecting future generations, we can no longer expect to have security on the cheap.” Well, Lord Robertson is of course constitutionally prevented from pondering what world leaders have done so miserably the last ten years since the century ends under such dark clouds. [Read more…]

Your ideas for peace in Macedonia wanted

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 79

Originally published here.

 

“Read the farewell interview with Macedonian President Kirov Gligorov and the analysis by TFF’s Macedonian Associate, Dr. Biljana Vankovska on our site and you will understand how fragile Macedonia’s stability and peace is.

Why not try a citizens’ ‘early warning’? We invite you to send us your ideas on how we can help Macedonia avoid violence and move towards peace in spite of all the obstacles,” says director Jan Oberg.

“After the Kosovo war, all citizens of Macedonia go through very difficult times; presidential elections take place on October 31. If there is one lesson from Kosovo, it is this: the earlier we deal with the problems, the more options there are, and the easier it is to solve conflicts without resorting to violence.

It is a safe prediction that, unless various types of violence-preventive measures are taken and taken in time, Macedonia is likely to slide into chaos. If citizens around the world apply their experience from violence-prevention and peacebuilding and their creativity, we could produce a series of proposals for early action.

You can participate even if you do not have detailed knowledge about Macedonia. Lots of generally violence-preventive steps can be taken to prevent violence and solidify peace anywhere. Below we provide some ideas – just a beginning. Readers, their friends and colleagues, are invited to brainstorm and send us more and better proposals which we would be happy to publish in future PressInfo(s). And we would very much like to receive proposals from our readers and subscribers in Macedonia!

 

• Watch the Kosovo-Macedonia connection.
It is important that the international community does not make any final decision now about the future status of Kosovo. At this juncture, any final settlement will impact negatively on the fears, hopes and political strategies of both Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia. [Read more…]

Post-Milosevic dilemmas – and an imagined way out

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 103 – October 25, 2000

Originally published here.

 

Based on the analysis in PressInfo 102, here follow some examples of the cul-de-sac created by the Milosevic/West symbiosis:

 

Kosovo options

1. Declare it an integral part of Serbia/Yugoslavia.

If so, it can’t be excluded that hardline Albanians would begin to attack KFOR, UN, OSCE, and NGO staff. The risk of losing lives would scare the West, the US in particular. The Albanians are perfectly right in interpreting US and other Western actions the last years as a policy of strong support to their struggle for Kosova as an independent state. The KPC could quickly become KLA again. And if Serbs and other chased-out people came back to Kosovo we would see much more violence.

 

2. Declare Kosovo an independent state.

That is incompatible with UN SC resolution 1244. More important, no democratic government can be elected in Belgrade on “let’s give Kosovo away forever.” If a democratic government actually did so after having been elected, the people, the Army, the police, paramilitaries – or whoever – would likely attempt to turn over that government and we would be back to a Milosevic-like situation, a stalemate. Neither could attempts to militarily re-take Kosovo be excluded. People knew that Kosovo was lost to a large extent because of Milosevic’ arrogant policies, but it does NOT mean that they think it should be permanently lost under a democratic government. Furthermore, Albanians in Montenegro and Macedonia would ask: if Kosovo-Albanians can achieve independence, why not us?

 

3. Declare Kosovo a protectorate for decades ahead or just make no decision concerning its future status.

Would also go against SC resolution 1244. No government is willing to pay for the international presence in Kosovo the next 10-20 years which is what would be required; the UN and others are already strapped for funds. Donor conference promises have never materialized – money never being a problem for war, but certainly always for peace. A protectorate would also sour relations and make cooperation impossible with Belgrade and, thus, be an impediment to Balkan stability as well as to the promotion of Western economic and strategic long-term interests. [Read more…]

The world needs reconciliation centres

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 76 – August 20, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Crotian version here.

 

“Do you remember Kim, the 9-year old Vietnamese girl, running as she was hit by napalm from U.S. warplanes in 1972? That picture haunted John Plummer for 24 years; he’d been a helicopter pilot and helped organise the napalm raid.

His marriage crashed, he isolated himself and took to drinking; he eventually became a Methodist pastor in Virginia. In 1996, Kim and John met and he says: ‘Kim saw my grief, my pain, my sorrow…She held out her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was ‘I’m sorry; I’m sorry – over and over again. And at the same time she was saying, ‘It’s all right, I forgive you.’ They are now good friends, and call each other regularly.*

This may be a unique story, but how can we talk about restoring peace after wars’ hurt and harm without paying attention to the human aspects of conflicts in general and that of forgiveness and reconciliation in particular?” asks TFF director Jan Oberg. “I think we need to make forgiveness and reconciliation a central objective: in research and studies, in training and education and, above all, we should empower every civilian and military – and every international organisation engaged in war-torn societies – to work for it with the locals.

“Take a look at Bosnia and Croatia since 1995, look at Kosovo now, or Somalia, or…Have people really held out their arms or said ‘I forgive you’? Come together in trust? Have they learnt how to deal with the past, not in order to forget it or to blame each other, but to acknowledge what happened and find ways to avoid it ever happening again? Can that even be said about South Africa?

It is easy to repair houses and infrastructure, it’s easy to throw money around and talk about human rights? But what if people deep down keep on hating each other and won’t even dream about doing what Kim and John did? Will they themselves ever be happy and at peace with themselves? Will their children? What kind of society will it be if we cannot also, so to speak, repair souls and help create tolerance, co-existence, even cooperation and love?”

Jan Oberg continues, “One of the most moving experiences in my life was when, together with TFF team members, we helped a few Croats and Serbs in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia, come together: young boys and girls as well as the parent generation who were permitted for the first time to talk face-to-face about what had happened – but to stick to facts only and ‘I language’ and avoid blaming. Many cried, successively many laughed together – some now are friends and some do projects together – and, yes, some have left or lost hope again. TFF keeps working there today.

It made me understand how neglected the whole issue of ‘soul reconstruction’ is – and how vain everything else will be without it. You can pour any amount of dollars into Kosovo – it will not create peace unless we also, in deep respect and cooperation with the locals on all side, do something that can not be measured in money terms. [Read more…]

NATO’s psychological projection

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 75 – July 30, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“I believe there were overlooked or suppressed dimensions such as collective psychology, deep cultural codes and domain Western expansionist/missionary values at work in the West’s handling of Kosovo, and I think we do wise to discuss them.

For instance, does the US-led West in fact hide a latent, deep-seated authoritarian ideology that seeks world dominance while pretending to create global democracy, partnership and multiculturalism? And does it in its own manner – like Milosevic and Hitler in their different manners – thrive on somebody else’s crisis while pretending to help them?

It is fascinating to see how quickly the public, the politico-diplomatic discourse and the media have managed to relegate the crisis, this turning point in contemporary history, to the past. But what has happened in, and to, the West itself during the Balkan wars and during Kosovo in particular deserves a bit of introspection – and perhaps we won’t like what we see if we try,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“Norwegian-Swedish philosopher Harald Ofstad 30 years ago analysed the ideology of Nazism. He maintains that Nazism builds on and is an extreme version of Western values, of its ‘Weltanschauung.’ Its main feature is ‘our contempt for weakness’ and a celebration of strength, power and heroism. The Strong SHALL rule over the Weaker. The good/stronger has a right, or God-given authority, to control or eradicate the evil/weaker who only deserves our contempt. The stronger takes upon him a burden of civilisation, sacrifices and acts heroically in the name of a higher principle or ‘law’, of Good.

Thus he is never made responsible for his deeds; he has a higher mandate and is above common law. Those carrying out the leader’s orders are conveniently also relieved from responsibility, no matter how criminal they may be – since they too aim to drive out Evil and (re)install Good. Anti-semitism is not essential to the authoritarianism of the Nazi worldview, rather just a flawed, perverted element in it. [Read more…]

Some ethical aspects on NATO’s intervention in Kosovo – Part B

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 74 – July 29, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

• Stereotyping and discrimination
Ask yourself whether NATO’s bombing and subsequent occupation could have been done against any other nation in today’s Europe. Whether any other country than Yugoslavia and any other people but Serbs is so despised? The plight of the Albanian refugees is in focus, but how well and how extensive did media cover that of the Serbs, Goranis, Montenegrin, Turks and Gypsies in Kosovo? The refugee camps in Macedonia and Albania entered our living rooms – but did the human suffering of people living in and fleeing to bombed-out Yugoslavia?

Recent Albanian extremist violence against Serbs is reported with ‘understanding,’ presented as (justifiable) revenge for what Serb police, military and paramilitary units did. But the media which told the story this way, never ‘explained’ that Serb ethnic cleansing after NATO started bombing could be ‘understood’ as (justifiable) anger at what THEY saw as the destruction of their entire country commissioned or demanded – as it was – by moderate as well as extremist Kosovo-Albanians.

Everybody knows that humanitarian aid should be based on needs only. But people living in Yugoslavia shall not receive any assistance ‘as long as Milosevic is at the helmet.’ One wonders whether the international human rights community is on collective holiday? Since the early 1990s, Serb human and minority rights were never cared for to the extent e.g. Croatian, Bosniak and Albanian rights were.

In social science, stereotyping can be defined as ‘a one-sided, exaggerated and normally prejudicial view of a group, tribe or class of people, and is usually associated with racism and sexism.’ Stereotypes are often resistant to change or correction from countervailing evidence, because they create a sense of social solidarity. Is it so unlikely that the United States and NATO did just a bit of stereotyping to maintain alliance credibility and solidarity?

• Authoritarian politics undermining international democracy.
NATO now has a near-monopoly on conflict-management. The UN, the EU, single governments in the region, OSCE and NGOs went out of the region when NATO went in. No NATO government declared war, no parliaments voted about participation in the campaign. (In contrast, the ‘dictatorship’s parliament in Belgrade debated both the Rambouillet and the G8 plan). None of the democracies in NATO dared challenge the near-total US military and political dominance in this operation or that of the “Quint” – the five biggest NATO leaders. [Read more…]

Belgrade under the bombs

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 68 – June 1, 1999 

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“The lack of empathy and solidarity with the 11 million citizens of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia whose society is being destroyed is as amazing as it is deplorable. Remember when people of culture, science, politics, media and humanism flocked to Sarajevo when it was under siege? Where are they now?

Journalists flock to Macedonia and Albania – admittedly for very good reasons – and they flock to NATO’s well-staged press briefings. But seeing for oneself what it means to be the object of the worst military, economic and social destruction in Europe since 1945 seems, remarkably, not to be as good a reason,” says TFF director Jan Oberg who has just visited Serbia under the bombs.

Where are those who believe Yugoslavia is a dictatorship? Supporting fellow human beings suffering under dictatorship is a noble reason to go but those around the world who hold this view stay away. Where are the human rights activists when numerous human rights are being violated by NATO? Where is the sympathy with innocent citizens who endure the systematic destruction of a European society and capital in the name of Western civilization?

So much for humanism, intellectualism and civil courage at the end of the 20th century. In spite of the war, it is perfectly possible to go there and freely meet anyone you like. I did that,” says Dr. Oberg. “It is mind-boggling that even intellectuals seem to be able to hold only two categories in their head at a time: if you are anti-NATO’s bombings, you must automatically be pro-Milosevic or pro-Serb. Or, if you go there, you support the regime and is disloyal to the West. I am afraid that those who hide behind such banal dichotomies are responsible for a gross civilisational injustice done to every and all citizens in today’s Yugoslavia.

I believe it is possible to be against all the violence – Yugoslav/Serbia’s, that of the Albanians and NATO’s. None of them will help solve the original problem of mistrust between Serbs and Albanians. All of them have made the situation worse. And I believe it should be possible to recognise and respect the human suffering of all sides – that of the Albanians, the Serbs and that of every other group in all of Serbia and Montenegro. [Read more…]

Read the military Kosovo Rambouillet agreement !

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 58 – March 18, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“The military provisions in the Kosovo Agreement on the table in Paris has nothing to do with peacekeeping. Neither the civilian nor the military provisions will help bring about peace among Serbs and Albanians. It will further antagonize the 10 million citizens of Yugoslavia and the international community. There is simply nothing in it for the Yugoslavs and that’s why I am deeply afraid that we are likely to see something very bad happen very soon. This whole affair has nothing to do with violence prevention, the appropriate term would be: peace-prevention.

Leading media, commentators, scholars and diplomats join in condemning the Yugoslav side in the Paris talks on Kosovo and thus legitimate subsequent NATO bombing and de facto NATO control over the territory. Who can be so ungrateful, stubborn or scoundrelly to refuse an offer of peace? However, no one asks: what does the Kosovo Agreement in Paris, the “peace” plan, actually contain?

I don’t think this is necessarily deliberate,” says Dr. Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s conflict-mitigation team in ex-Yugoslavia since 1991. “Rather, it proves that professional knowledge about conflict-resolution, negotiation, mediation and peace politics in general is virtually non-existing in the international discourse and media.

When someone presents an economic plan, economists can discuss its pros and cons. When a document is presented as a “peace” plan, everyone takes it for granted as such without even asking: What’s in it? What are the weak and the strong aspects? Why seems one side to say yes and the other no? Will its implementation help the parties to live in peace? What kind of peace, if any?

I have studied the early versions of the Agreement and the version of February 23. The document has undergone remarkable changes over time. My hypothesis is simple: this document has been adapted to be acceptable to the Albanian delegates to such an extent that the Yugoslav side – ready to accept the political parts at an earlier stage – now find the changed document unacceptable both in terms of political and military aspects. Why this change? Because worst case for the international community would be Yugoslavia saying yes and the Albanians saying no.

Did your media tell you that the document does not even mention KLA, the Kosovo (Albanian) Liberation Army? It it called “Other Forces” throughout the Agreement. You may wonder how parties can be held accountable if they are not mentioned by name or actor in the document. Worse, could it be that there is a KLA, or a fraction of it, that is not represented at Paris and will NOT feel bound by this document?”

Jan Oberg is puzzled: “As you will see below, the text gives plenty of arguments for FRY President Milosevic to say no thanks, [Read more…]

Civil society in war and peace – New TFF report

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 53 – December 23, 1998

Originally published here.

“This is yet another publication from TFF – ‘Violence, Postwar Reconstruction and Civil Society – Theory and Yugoslavia.’ It’s main focus is civil society in war and peace. It relates this concept to the economic globalisation, to international conflict-management and to the case of Yugoslavia and the Dayton agreement,” says Jan Oberg, TFF director and author of the study.

It reflects the fact that everything TFF does is based on triple-thinking: We have three types of activities – academic analyses, field work and advocacy. We do three things in conflict regions – conflict analysis/early warning, conflict-mitigation and peace and reconciliation education. We offer three perspectives – analyses, criticism and constructive alternatives. We believe that conflicts deserve three steps – diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. And we work with three conflict regions – former Yugoslavia, Georgia in the Caucasus and one more conflict,” says Oberg.

The first chapter deals with civil society and violence-prevention; the second discusses various concepts of ‘civil society’ and relates it to various types of power. [Read more…]

Interview With Jan Oberg in Kosovo-Albanian “ZËRI” in Pristina by Blerim Shala

By Jan Oberg
December 22, 1998

1. DR. OBERG, HOW DO YOU EVALUATE THE PRESENT SITUATION IN KOSOVA, ESPECIALLY REGARDING THE OSCE OBSERVER MISSION WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO BE ESTABLISHED IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS?

Compared with one or five years ago, the present situation is worse for all parties. Innocent civilians – about 10% of the Kosovo-Albanians and 10% of the Kosovo-Serbs – have lost their home, belongings, human rights and safety. No politician ever asked them and I am sure they did not want this to achieve any political goal. Second, Serbia/FRY has lost important parts of its control and sovereignty and it has more international interference than ever – what all Serbia was directed out to vote against just a few months ago.

And the Albanians in Kosovo are worse off too – they no longer obtain the sympathy, solidarity and admiration for their nonviolent policies from the world community. Some may value that as irrelevant anyhow, I don’t. With blood on their hands, the political goals and the vision of a independent, peaceful and democratic Kosova is gone. You can’t obtain a good thing by bad means: killing, maiming and terrorising those who disagree with you, also on your own side. No election or referendum was ever held that, directly or indirectly, gave KLA/UCK a mandate to militarize the issue.

Some here will say: “But we had two!” I understand this psychological mechanism, given the politically unwise and untalented policy of repression by Belgrade. But here I want to point out what, in all humility, I consider the “Himalayan mistake” of some Kosovo-Albanians: they believed that the alternative to Dr. Rugova’s somewhat passive and practical policy of nonviolence was armed struggle, killing and all that. The real alternative would have been active and principled nonviolence and training the whole people in this different way of thinking and struggling.

In short: it would have been good if someone in power on either side had read and understood the deep messages of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Dalai Lama – if someone among all your good intellectuals had learned from the nonviolent victories of the European peace movements and Soviet dissidents who, together with Mikhail Gorbachev, dismantled the whole Cold War structure; or had learnt from the Solidarnosc movement in Poland and the Velvet Revolution in Chechoslovakia, from the resistance movement against the Shah of Iran, from the Catholic nuns who lay down in from of Marcos’ tanks in the Philippines etc.

Modern history is full of conflicts at least as bad as that in Kosovo that have been overcome by nonviolence. But – all these issues were never studied, people never educated and trained in nonviolent politics, ethics and methods of struggle. Your alternative schools never trained pupils in thinking this way. So, the shortsighted militarists took the lead. That’s why pragmatic nonviolence of Rugova/LDK was never enough – and was tainted by wishig all the time that the US/NATO should come and do the dirty job for them. [Read more…]

Forums for human rights and peace education in Eastern Slavonia – and elsewhere

By Jan Oberg

October 11, 1998

Originally published here.

“This is a modest proposal for institutionalisation of peace-related teaching in regions of conflict. It’s a Citizens Forum for Human Rights and Peace Education, HR&PE. It mentions Croatia but is equally relevant for, let’s say, Kosovo or Macedonia, or any other trouble spot. You may think that this is relevant only after war, but I strongly believe that forums like this should be created wherever the situation threatens to erupt into violence. If the trigger-happy international “community” had invested in such projects – both in their own ministries of foreign affairs, in international organisations and in trouble spots such as Kosovo – 5 or 10 years ago, people on all sides would begin to realise the utter futility of using weapons to achieve their goals,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“You see, there are no limits to what can be done to help people coexist in postwar communities. The international community has no specialised competence or organisations in this field. Post-war reconciliation is the most important measure to prevent future outbreaks of violence – and we must focus particularly on children and youth,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“TFF has been working for more than one year with reconciliation issues in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia. We have analysed problems of co-operation in many schools, served as resource persons at three UN/Council of Europe seminars for principals and teachers, helped about 120 Croat and Serb gymnasium students to see a better future together and we’ve supported local Serb media in their wish to contribute to reconciliation. Just a couple of weeks ago, TFF conducted a seminar with CINES – the Citizens Initiative Network Eastern Slavonia that we helped create in June, an effort to bring mixed groups of teachers, media people and all NGOs together as they are all educators.” [Read more…]

Reconciliation through a history and school book commission – in Croatia and elsewhere

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 40 – June 1998

Originally published here.

“Postwar initiatives can help prevent future policies of revenge, violence and outbursts of repressed traumas. It is possible to develop policies of reconciliation and trust-building and take initiatives which encourage citizens to take steps toward forgiving. One such initiative could be the setting up of history and school book commissions. A truthful approach to history is a vital element in shaping a future together and help the next generations live peacefully in spite of what happened,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

In societies which have gone through civil wars, one or more parties can choose to be triumphalistic, punishing or humiliating, an option often chosen by winners. They can also decide to be reconciliatory and tolerant and help innocent citizens irrespective of the side to which they belong and thus set an example for the young who will be future leaders. Reconciliation speech can replace hate speech.

This choice depends on the types of atrocities committed, on the configuration between winners and losers, if any. It depends on the personality of leaders and the character of their government. It also depends on their understanding of – and the availability of expertise in – what it takes to provide future generations with the minimum conditions for their living and prospering peacefully together in spite of what happened. And, naturally, on the culture, norms and traditions of the particular war-torn society.

In addition, the so-called international “community” can decide to reward reconciliatory policies with former adversaries or turn the blind eye to ongoing hate policies and triumphalism. [Read more…]

By Jan Oberg

June 1998

Originally published here


EASTERN SLAVONIA – GENERAL BACKGROUND

The mission of the UN in Eastern Slavonia, UNTAES, was the peaceful reintegration of the region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium into the Republic of Croatia. Until January 15, 1998, UNTAES exercised authority over this region through a basic agreement of 12 November 1995 and through UN Security Council resolutions 1037 of 15 January 1996 and 1120 of 11 July 1997.

The follow-up consists of only a small group of UN Civil Police and Civil Affairs staff. OSCE has less than 200 personnel in place. There are also some European military monitors (ECMM, the white suited brigade) who continue to be in the region. All executive power has been handed over to the Croatian government; the international organisations only monitor.

According to the census of 1991, before the war 45 thousand people lived in Vukovar of whom 47% were Croat, 32% Serb and the rest were of other minorities; 35 thousand lived in Vinkovci, 80% Croat, 11% Serb; 105 thousand in Osijek, 70% Croat, 12% Serb.

At the end of the UN mission, about 80,000 Serbs lived in the region about a quarter of whom were DP’s mainly from Western Slavonia. Very few Croats are now there although they have the right to return to their former home places. Croatian police has taken over duties from UN personnel during spring 1998. An exodus of Serbs was considered a likely consequence of the UN leaving the region, but it seems that they are departing on a more slow, regular basis – many to Serbia and some to Norway and Canada. [Read more…]

https://yugoslavia-what-should-have-been-done.org/1998/06/15/516/