Misguided motives led to the chaos in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

April 5, 2000 – on CNN Interactive

(CNN) — The conflicts that led to war and dissolution of the former Yugoslavia took shape in the 1970s and early 1980s, and their origins are much older. The paradox is that the international community’s self-appointed “conflict managers” have not treated the Balkan conflicts as conflicts.

Instead, they have wielded power and practiced Realpolitik disguised as peacemaking and humanitarianism.

The international community — a euphemism for a handful of top leaders – has historically been an integral party to the conflicts, not an impartial mediator. A policy of disinterested conflict analysis, mediation and conflict resolution would require different analyses, means and institutions (with just a minimum of training).

The leaders of the republics of the former Yugoslavia all did their best to destroy the federation from within. Today’s situation, however, is equally the result of the international community’s failed conflict management in four cases – Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo.

None of the peace agreements work as expected. The regions are more polarized and ethnically cleansed than before. Democracy is formal and imposed, not genuine. The countries are not armed simply for defense, they are militarized.

War criminals are still at large. Refugees have not returned in any significant numbers (except to Kosovo). The deeply human dimensions of tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation and societal regeneration have hardly begun. No commissions on truth or history have been established.

Money – always plentiful for military purposes – is conspicuously lacking for the prevention of civilian violence and for postwar development. Integration into the EU may not take place for a long time yet.

Finally, and fatally, the U.N. missions to these countries have been thrown out, substituted with more expensive and heavy-handed missions, or discontinued prematurely.  [Read more…]

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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…]

Good news from Western Slavonia, Croatia

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 37 – June 1998

Originally published here

“Most of what you hear from Croatia and the Balkans nowadays is negative. The good news is that it is possible to bring young Croats and Serbs together and help them develop an atmosphere of trust, tolerance and reconciliation. It gives us hope,” says Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s conflict-mitigation team, returning from the foundation’s 30th mission to what was once Yugoslavia.

Last month TFF conducted a series of reconciliation seminars in Eastern Slavonia with 120 Croat and Serb gymnasium students from Vukovar, Osijek and Vinkovci.

For most of them it was the first time they left “their” town and met “the other side.” Various techniques such as fish bowl, role play, groups discussions and brainstorming were used. The students got to know each other and exchanged views, made friends and sang songs. They cried when anyone who so wanted told about the hurt and pain and what he or she had experienced during the war; they did so with statements like “I experienced, in my family…” and not with statement like “you did this to us…”

They did a brainstorm and produced fascinating ideas and visions about a peaceful Croatia, Eastern Slavonia and Vukovar. They unanimously told us that many more ought to participate in seminars like this: parents, politicians, journalists as well as hardliners, war profiteers and people with little education, as some of them said.

“It took Croat and Serb students less than an hour to find out that they have a lot in common, [Read more…]

Brcko Arbitration Is No Solution

By Jan Oberg

February 7, 1997

TFF PressInfo 20 originally published here

“The future of the Brcko area was the only one not settled in Dayton. Thus, it was either the most difficult of all, or the United States and the parties agreed that it would be better to have their decision concerning that hot spot appear as binding arbitration. The arbitration decision is expected by mid-February.

But any solution will antagonise at least one of the groups in the Brcko area, the entities or neighbouring republics,” says Jan Øberg, director of the TFF who recently returned from the TFF’s 24th mission to ex-Yugoslavia, including a fact-finding visit to Brcko. “The Dayton Agreement created a conflict by not defining the area under arbitration, and it will create more now,” he adds.

“The three options usually mentioned – give it to the Federation, give it to Republika Srpska, or make it an area under international military control – are zero-sum games and care only for the interests of elites. A viable solution must must be based on the needs of people who lived and are living in that area.

Fateful decisions on complex issues in hot spots should come as a result of confidence-building and prior reconciliation, not its prod. Like all other civil, political problems dealt with in Dayton, this one was rushed and its timeframe completely unrealistic. It would have been wiser to have waited 2-3 years so a positive sum game had a chance to emerge in the Brcko area. [Read more…]

Letter to my daughter about Yugoslavia

By Johan Galtung

23 February 1994

To: Irene

From: Papi

Re: Yugoslavia

[1]  The Serbs want safety for all Serbs.  They have Serbia, but very many Serbs live outside, in Croatia and in Bosnia-Hercegovina.  They have created autonomous republics for the latter two, the Serbian Republic of Krajina in Croatia, and the Serbian Republic of Bosnia. It is not clear whether they have as a goal that these two should become parts of Serbia, or independent countries, or be together with Serbia in a federation.  I think they want the federation.

The Croats want expansion of Croatia into Bosnia-H as a part of Croatia, [Read more…]