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…]

Advertisements

TFF helps Croatia get a US$ 40 million World Bank loan

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 41 – June 30, 1998

Originally published here.

The World Bank last week approved a DEM 74 million (US$40.6 million equivalent) Reconstruction Project for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem Loan for Croatia. The project area is one of the most fertile parts of the Balkans and prior to the war, was known as the “bread basket” of the region. Due to damage to the extensive flood control and drainage system, much of the agricultural land has become unusable. The project will:

1) Repair and rebuild the flood control and drainage facilities;

2) Clear the landmines left behind in the flood control network;

3) Provide for sound and sustainable environmental management of the adjoining nature reserve at Kopacki rit;

4) Rebuild a partially completed wastewater system in one of the major towns in the area.

The World Bank explains that the project is expected to make a major contribution in stimulating the local economy, thereby creating an incentive for people to return home. It is an important contribution to reconstruction [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…]

Conflict and reconciliation in the schools of Eastern Slavonia

The UN is needed there in the future

By Jan Oberg

November 27, 1997

TFF PressInfo 29

Summary

A United Nations mission consisting of Civil Affairs and Civil Police should remain in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium in the Republic of Croatia, after its mandate expires on January 15. UNTAES, the present mission, has achieved impressive results within its very short period of work.

However, vital work remains to be done to provide psychological security, reconciliation and the provision of socio-economic development and equal rights and opportunities for all citizens.

The OSCE, UN as well as international and local NGOs should now give priority to the psycho-social aspects of re-integration. Otherwise many Serbs may leave and Croats not return. If so, the UN and the Croatian government will have failed and we shall witness yet another refugee catastrophe in the Balkans.

UNTAES had asked TFF to analyse and help mitigate conflicts in the school sector of the region.

We conclude that there are still serious problems concerning minority rights, democracy and participation, language and biased textbooks, teachers’ security and overall psychological well-being. More funds are also needed for reconstruction and employment-creation to secure the desired two-way return of Croats and Serbs to where they lived before the war.

There are very few signs of forgiveness. There is a serious feeling of frustration, insecurity and hurt amongst Serb teachers, students and their parents that needs urgently to be addressed. Even young Serbs who are Croatian citizens and want to stay are highly uncertain about their future.

These problems are not insoluble if future missions focus clearly on the human dimensions of reconciliation and long-term community- and peacebuilding and their staff be selected accordingly.

Below we have listed the problems and suggest some initiatives that we think will be helpful. [Read more…]

Post-war reconciliation – who has got a clue?

By Jan Oberg

October 28, 1997 – TFF PressInfo 28 originally published here.

“It’s easy to militarise societies and start wars. Powerful people know how to do it. The world has accumulated all the needed intellectual and material resources.

Preventing, handling and stopping conflicts and wars is more difficult. We know less about what it requires, and only tiny resources are allocated by governments. The UN – humanity’s leading conflict-management organisation – has been sidetracked, exhausted and denied the minimum funds for peacekeeping. The OSCE has a “conflict prevention centre” so small that it stands no chance to adequately meet the challenges ahead,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“In the fields of post-war reconstruction, reconciliation, peacebuilding where human beings and societies move from violence to sustainable peace and development, the global society is virtually without a clue. It lacks adequate research, organisation, professionals, funds, philosophy and strategy. Only a handful of small research centres work with these tremendously complex processes – such as the War-Torn Society Project in Geneva and UNESCO’s Peace Culture programme.

The global system is deplorably immature: it knows how to fight wars within hours but lacks about everything it takes to handle conflicts, to prevent violence, to settle conflicts and reconciliate. Top-level decisionmakers often lack knowledge about social, psychological and cultural dimensions of conflicts – vital for the noble UN norm of creating peace by peaceful means.” [Read more…]

Security and Identity in former Yugoslavia

By Håkan Wiberg
Presumably written 1995 or 96

Introduction

The concatenation of conflicts in former Yugoslavia are of a complexity that makes them difficult to fathom for the great majority of external observers, in particular mass media and politicians. This complexity derives from the high number of actors in various phases, as well as from the varying characters of actors and from the fact that different dimensions of security have played – and continue to play salient roles.

When external actors have tried to relate to this set of conflict, the heritage of the Cold War has apparently played a great role. Its essence is not to be found in the specific propaganda themes in 1991, rather in a general pattern of perception. It can be summarized in three main axioms:

1. There can be no more than two actors in a conflict.
2. These actors are states.
3. Among these, one is good and one is bad.

In virtually every situation, however, the actors have never been less than three, and even then only after great simplification. Peoples have been just as much actors as states, and – with few exceptions – the actions of these actors are a matter of bad and worse, rather than good and bad, at least if judged by generalizable morality rather than political expediency.

In addition, it must not be forgotten that the former Yugoslavia had an appallingly bad prognosis in its last period of existence by a wide range of indicators. [Read more…]

After Yugoslavia – What?

By Marta Henricson-Cullberg
Carl Ulrik Schierup
Sören Sommelius
Jan Oberg

TFF Report October 1991 that marked the beginning of this project

Some passengers and crew have been asked to leave, some are leaving on their own. Others are not permitted or cannot leave for a variety of reasons.
There is chaos and shouting on board; the old captain having disappeared many are peddling for his job.
There are those who want to continue with a new captain
and repair the ship as best they can. Some want to set a new course – but how in this situation?
Others say so, but have just changed their uniforms.
Some tear open the weapons-filled cargo and arm themselves before dawn.
In the first class restaurant the guests enjoy the delicious food and wine – unaware, it seems, that storm is rising.
Passengers who used to enjoy the sun on deck seek protection in their cabins.
Mutilated and dead bodies are mysteriously found in the mornings. Not even friends and families aboard trust each other anymore.
The good old ship “Yugoslavia” is going down, slowly but surely.
Those around it are so perplexed that their rescue attempts could well
make the situation worse.
Indeed, something must be done…

We dedicate this report to
the peoples of Yugoslavia –
past, present and future
and to those who,
unnecessarily, we believe,
have already died.

Guide

Dear Reader

This is the report of a TFF conflict-mitigation mission to Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia in September 1991. Based on an analysis of numerous interviews with very different people, we present some answers to the questions: What must be done now? How can the first steps be taken towards building confidence and peace? [Read more…]