Moving Macedonia toward peace

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 123 – June 2001

Originally published here.

 

The following proposals are presented exclusively out of a deep concern over the deteriorating situation in Macedonia/FYROM. It’s an act of goodwill from TFF.

We want to help everyone in Macedonia strengthen their belief in peace and work for it with hope and persistence. The aim of this PressInfo is to stimulate concerned citizen and political leaders in Macedonia, in the region and elsewhere around the world to produce ideas that can help turn Macedonia away from the abyss.

You may find some of the ideas and proposals “unrealistic.” But please look deeply into the problem; then you will also recognise that the idea of war and killing to solve social and psychological problems and bring about peace is even more unrealistic.

Those who insist on solving conflict predominantly, or exclusively, by peaceful means are at one with the Charter of the United Nations. Conflicts simply happen and are legitimate parts of any human group in development. But we must begin to recognise that violence is just an added problem, not the solution. It is easy to abstain from violence when we are at peace and in harmony. The test of civilisation, of whether we have learnt to clash as civilised creatures or not, stands exactly when we are most prone to pull a trigger.

The peoples in the Balkans and the so-called international community have pulled enough triggers. Macedonia’s problems are more dangerous than most we have seen as they could spill over, for the first time, to countries which are not part of former Yugoslavia. Handling the complex conflicts in today’s Macedonia therefore requires new thinking and courageous initiatives.

To put it bluntly, it won’t be enough to have single diplomats come visiting a few hours wringing their empty hands Solana style. The sounds of war drown their press conference mantras about “progress” and “understanding” and “stopping violence.”

The numbers below do not indicate priorities. Some of the things can be done by some actors, while others do other things. That is precisely what peace is about: a plurality of mutually supporting initiatives rather than a linear process.

 

1. Establish a National Truth and Co-Existence Commission

Most wars are made possible by propaganda, lies, stereotyping, rumours, threats and deception. They are fuelled by untruth. [Read more…]

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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. [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…]

What could be done? The politics of conflict-resolution

By Johan Galtung

First version written mid-1993, revised 2006

Let us first engage in some counter-factual history.  Fall 1991 Yugoslavia and Europe, and the world in general, was faced with a war unfolding in Croatia.  Yugoslavia was not that strongly coupled so fortunately the war spread slowly; after all, it was a federation bordering on con-federation. Many of the national mixes were tripartite. So is gunpowder: carbon, sulphur and salpeter.  Proceed with care. And, if you use a hammer, do not be surprised if you see an explosion.  There were many hammers, some inside, some in the region some in the larger international system.

A major condition for war, polarization, was fulfilled as the logic of a war is bipolar.  If there are more parties than two the condition for war is alliance-formation combined with neutrality for some; the wars being more or less shifting.  Alliances, like the highly unlikely Croat-Muslim alliance in B-i-H could be forged from the outside; or, like the counterpoint, a Serbian-Croat alliance in B-i-H, from the inside (the Milosevic-Tudjman scheme).  What would be the minimum assumptions for an alternative, more conflict solution oriented course of history?  Opinions will differ on that one, but here are two, and they are far from unrealistic:

[1]  We might have not only expected but demanded more conflict literacy in the definition of the conflict. To cast this complex conflict in a small number of parties – or only Serbs versus the rest and Serbia alone in the role as problematic (to the delight of the others), ending up with the Hague Tribunal conflict map of the world against Milosevic is simply dumb.

[2]  We might have followed Pérez de Cuéllar’s three-point advice:  do not recognize “too early, selective and uncoordinated”. We could have decided to not recognize any party as independent before a solution satisfactory to the minorities has been found, not favoring the more Western of the republics and have a policy for Yugoslavia as a whole. In other words, priority should have been given to the United Nations over the European Community/Union.
There is also a third, but less realistic, assumption:  more attention given by media and politicians to the numerous ideas from NGO/civil society that we have mentioned in another post here.

Ten pointers toward a peace process in Ex-Yugoslavia 1991-1995 [Read more…]