What lessons to learn? Particularly about the UN and its members?

By Jan Oberg
August 2, 2005

The international community’s conflict-management:
Short status by 2005

This blog explains why, by and large, the security approach – as described in the Prologue – has been a failure. The reasons for judging it a failure are many and pointed out through both the blog and book. They have to do with the paradigm/discourse itself but also with concrete, fatefully counterproductive decisions made throughout the crisis, one tying the hands of decision-makers when approaching the next situation.

Some of the – rather simple – methods and principles we suggest in our writings could have been used irrespective of whether the security or the peace approach had been followed. [Read more…]

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Macedonia 2002 – 2003: Assessing the risk of violence

By Jan Oberg

Written in 2001

 

1. Introduction

This report offers a framework and some tools for analysing the conflicts in Macedonia and the larger conflict formation of which it is a part. The purpose of the analysis is to assess the risks of violence and war in the country in the near future and the long-term.

 

1.1 Early warning and preventive initiatives

Early warning studies are meaningful only if combined with early listening and early action. Numerous organisations, among them Amnesty International and the Transnational Foundation, have repeatedly pointed out from the early 1990s that there would be war in Kosovo if no actors in the international community undertook mitigating, mediating and negotiating efforts. In Kosovo, there was minimal early listening and no early action to deal with the conflicts and their resolution. The conflict grew more serious and became militarised; due to the absence of early listening and action, NATO’s bombing in 1999 was promoted as the only solution, in spite of the fact that it caused even more human suffering and did not lead to a sustainable peace in the region a good three years later.

 

1.2 Theory and empirical work – diagnosis, prognosis and therapy

 Nothing is as practical as a good theory. Without thinking about it, we use theories and make assumptions when we drive a car or cook a meal. This report includes bits and pieces of general theory and some concepts to help readers understand this conflict as well as other conflicts. If the analysis increases the understanding of complex conflicts in general and those pertaining to Macedonia in particular, it will have served two of its major purposes. Without comprehensive ‘diagnosis’, we can neither produce a reasonable ‘prognosis’ nor hope to provide adequate ‘treatment’ or ‘therapy.’

A doctor uses knowledge of medicine and theories about the causes and symptoms of diseases and combines that with theories and concepts when examining a patient. In this report, we do much the same; we diagnose a ‘patient’ as suffering from serious conflicts and violence and explore the possibility that the disease may not have been completely cured and may reoccur. We also look into what is required for the patient to recover completely.

Only on the basis of both theory and empirical analysis can we hope to assess the risk of violence and war in complex systems. And only by adding constructive thinking can we hope to prevent violence and help people and societies move towards peace.

 

1.3 Causes of war and causes of peace

One particularly important, underlying assumption throughout this report is [Read more…]

If the Western press covered this from Macedonia…

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 128 – August 28, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Few citizens can go to conflict regions to develop an understanding and form an opinion. Most of us rely on the dailies, the radio and television. So, the media stand between the events and each of us. What we obtain is not necessarily reality but an image of it, a part of it, some aspects and angles rather than others. In principle, it can hardly be otherwise.

But what if the coverage is systematically biased and what if there is a tendency in what is not covered?

Once again there is a Balkan crisis and once again some of us who have been on the ground for about ten years ask: do we have a free press on which those at home can safely rely?

Here follow some 20 examples of what could have featured prominently in the headlines about Macedonia the last few months. Most citizens are likely not to have heard much about them in the mainstream media and may, therefore, not have thought of these events and their implications:

– the story of Americans working with KLA/NLA and investigate why NATO, in contravention of its mandate in Macedonia, evacuated KLA/NLA soldiers with American advisers and equipment out of Aracinovo…

– why NATO/KFOR and the UN in Kosovo turned a blind eye to KLA/NLA operations in the American sector and the demilitarised zone…

– which governments, agencies, mercenary companies and arms dealers have supplied KLA/NLA with weapons since 1993…

– what kind of misinformation and propaganda campaigns the press itself is the object of by NATO and others, e.g. why it suddenly begins to call Macedonians “Slavs” or “Slav Macedonians,” something they have never been called before. Or why Macedonians are frequently called “nationalists” while you never hear that word about Albanians with guns in their hands…

– the suffering and socio-economic deprivation of Macedonians and not only the Albanians…

– the question of whether EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, the S-G of NATO at the time when it bombed Yugoslavia, and NATO S-G Lord Robertson, then British secretary of defence, are personally responsible for the de-stabilisation of Macedonia…

– why we get no conflict journalism but only war reporting and whether there was any ethnic hatred in Macedonia that could have sparked off a war had Western countries not meddled in the affairs of Macedonia…

– the story of why one of the best missions in the history of the United Nations, UNPREDEP, was forced out of Macedonia in 1999 to allow NATO to (mis)use the country for its own “peaceful” aims…

– why the UN’s Mr. Haekkerup in Pristina, the highest authority in Kosovo, has not been asked why 46,000 NATO/KFOR soldiers in Kosovo did not actually disarm the KLA in spite of the fact that it was stated officially in autumn 1999 that it was disarmed and declared illegal… [Read more…]

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…]

Macedonia – not innocent

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 120 – May 17, 2001

Originally published here.

 

PressInfo 118 offers an independent analysis of 11 reasons why Macedonia is at the brink of war. Number 119 deals with the way the United Nations was forced out of Macedonia and not employed in Kosovo at the time when it could have made a difference. In short, there was a hidden agenda. This one deals mainly with the obvious question:

 

Is Macedonia and its various groups totally innocent?

Of course not! In some respects there is more repression of the Albanians in Macedonia than in Kosovo. Thus, for instance, Pristina University was the centre of learning for Albanians while for almost a decade the issue of higher education for Albanians have been controversial and, since 1997, the Tetovo University considered illegal by the majority. Albanians do not play a role commensurate to the proportion they make up of the population (25 – 40 pct depending on sources); whether this is a relevant criteria is another matter. If you go to the National Museum in Skopje you will not see a trace of Albanian culture. The constitution is ethnic-oriented rather than citizens-oriented.

In spite of all this, it is important to emphasise that the situation in no way justifies armed struggle or the extremist claims on both sides that ‘the others’ understand only weapons. True, it is not a perfect world, but the de facto presence of Albanians in politics, trade, schools and media in today’s Macedonia make the claim that “we are so repressed and nothing else will help so we must take to weapons” one that borders on hysteria or propaganda.

Those in Macedonia who had it in their power to do so never really sustained an honest inter-ethnic dialogue throughout society or at a government level. Informal segregation is practised by both sides in schools, media, clubs, restaurants and residential areas: “We don’t mix with ‘them’ – “we can’t live together but perhaps as neighbours” – “I would never have a boyfriend among them” – are statements visitors have heard repeated year after year. [Read more…]

How the UN was forced out of Macedonia

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 119 – May 11, 2001

Originally published here.

 

WHY THE UNITED NATIONS WAS IN THE WAY

 

UN warnings were ignored.

UNPREDEP’s leadership repeatedly warned that if NATO bombed Yugoslavia, they could not guarantee the lives of UN personnel just at the other side of the Yugoslav-Macedonian border. Western politicians, Scandinavians from where the UN leadership came in particular, did not understand that if their NATO allies bombed Serbia it could provoke Serb retaliation against the Extraction Force which was partly co-located with their own nationals in the UN mission!

 

The UN was impartial and fair.

UN peacekeepers respected and listened to all sides as a matter of professionalism. They did not see the world in black-and-white terms. They did not occupy territories or bomb their way through. They tried to be role models of more civilised behaviour. In today’s Kosovo, NATO troops implicitly tell the children that driving fancy armoured cars, wearing boots and battle dress and carrying guns is what works.

 

The excellent UN mission was forced out.

The UNPREDEP Mission in Macedonia was one of the best in the history of the UN. It was the most cherished example ever of preventive diplomacy. The military and civilian UN staff provided more stability than any other single actor. It was forced out by diplomatic intrigue (see next para), presumably because the United States, NATO and EU countries wanted to bomb neighbouring Yugoslavia.  [Read more…]

Prevent violence in Montenegro

By Jan Oberg and Soren Sommelius

TFF PressInfo 91 – April 7, 2000

Originally published here.

 

“A fifth war in the Balkans can still be prevented. But whereas the isolated leadership in Belgrade has plenty of time, Montenegro does not, and the international community is so bogged down in Bosnia and in Kosovo that it has little capacity to shape an effective violence-prevention strategy for this tiny republic of 635.000 inhabitants.

What we just heard during our fact-finding mission to Podgorica,” say Soren Sommelius and Jan Oberg of the TFF conflict-mitigation team, “was frighteningly similar to what people told us in Croatia in 1991 – in spite of all the differences between the two cases.”

Picture series from Montenegro

“It was a bit surprising to listen to the level of verbal aggression in Podgorica not only against Milosevic, but also against the Serb people and the opposition and even the federal constitution that the Republic signed as late as 1992 when a) it was fully aware of who Slobodan Milosevic was, and b) had participated in the wars elsewhere as part of the JNA, the Federal Yugoslav Army. It could hardly be argued that people in Montenegro did not know who or what they federalized with.

Violence-preventive diplomacy by everyone is dearly needed now. Patience and longterm policy for the Balkans as a whole, and implemented with utmost caution, will be essential. Unfortunately, the international community’s policy in the region up till now is not exactly helpful to Montenegro, whichever way it chooses,” state Sommelius and Oberg.

 

THE BACKGROUND AND THE GAME

In contrast to other Balkan conflicts, this one can not be acted out through ethnicity or religion. A ‘real’ Serb has Montenegrin roots and there are probably more people of Montenegrin origin in Serbia than Montenegrins in Montenegro where 62 % are Montenegrins, 9 % are Serbs, 14 % are Muslims and 7% are Albanians (1991 census). [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…]

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…]

Insecuring Macedonia

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 59 – March 18, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“NATO’s build-up in Macedonia is incredible, and goes virtually unnoticed – except in that country. The Macedonian Parliament has not even discussed the deployment of more than 12.000 heavily armed troops and NATO bars journalists from investigating what is going on. NATO is now stronger than the country’s own defence. It took the international community, read OSCE, 5 months to get 1500 civilian monitors into Kosovo, but it took only a few weeks to get the military build-up underway in Macedonia.

When does some one investigate how this happened or who pays for this and the NATO build-up around Yugoslavia? Or ask what Macedonian Prime Minister Ljupco Geogievski was promised by U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, when the had breakfast recently in Washington?” – says Jan Oberg, TFF’s director and co-founder who has just visited the country.

“Here is another reasonably relevant question: Since Christopher Hill, the main author of the Kosovo Agreement on the table in Paris and the diplomat who prepared the ground for those talks, is also the U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, did he calculate with this involvement of Macedonia and, if so, did he prepare Macedonian decision-makers in advance – or is this build-up something that has just unfolded as the things progressed? Is there any reasons for circumventing normal politeness and democratic decision-making by host-nation?

Why is NATO all over Macedonia, that already troubled and quite fragile state? For two reasons, namely a) to “extract” OSCE verifiers from Kosovo who can’t sit there if NATO decides to bomb Yugoslavia, and b) serve as a base for and reinforcement of the NATO forces stipulated in the Paris Kosovo document. Yugoslavia considers the extraction force a potential aggressor. It was NOT mentioned in the October 1998 agreement between Yugoslav President Milosevic and U.S. ambassador Richard Holbrooke – or so we assume since that agreement has not been made public.

The Yugoslav military and political leadership now perceive Macedonia as hosting forces aimed at aggression on Yugoslav territory – friends of your enemies being your enemies too. German forces are strongly represented and bring heavy equipment, and it is the first time they may get into regular warfare and not peacekeeping. Not surprisingly, Yugoslavs conscious of history will be reminded of last time Germany came to that region (1941).

Should NATO bomb Yugoslavia it can not be excluded that the Yugoslavs will retaliate against NATO troops where they are nearest, namely in Macedonia, e.g. in Kumanovo where, they are co-located with UN Blue Helmets. Thus, paradoxically, countries participating in bombing raids, such as Norway and Denmark, indirectly jeopardize the safety of their own UN peacekeepers in the region – unless they are “extracted” too. Do politicians in these countries not see the connection? [Read more…]

Rambouillet: Imperialism in disguise

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 55 – February 16, 1999

Originally published here.

“What happens now in Rambouillet has little to do with creating peace for the suffering citizens in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo/a. Disguised as “negotiations” about a “peace” plan, the international so-called community promotes less noble values and long-term goals in the region and use the Serbs and Albanians as supernumeraries in its drama. It’s time we ask what the self-proclaimed “conflict managers” are actually up to. If peace in Kosovo or the wider Balkans had been the real aim, we would have witnessed a completely different approach leading up to Rambouillet. We come closer to the truth about Rambouillet if we use words such as globalisation, strategic expansion, Caspian oil, Greater NATO, containment policy and imperialism disguised as conflict-management and peace-making,” says Dr. Jan Oberg upon returning from the 34th TFF mission to the region since 1992, this time to Skopje, Belgrade and Kosovo.

“If peace was their profession, the governments of the international community would – around 1992 – have put enough diplomatic and other civilian pressure on the parties to begin a dialogue, not negotiations. It would have provided 5-10 different secluded meeting places for Albanians, Serbs and other peoples – NGOs, teachers, intellectuals, journalists, doctors etc. – to explore their problems and possible solutions. In short, an international brainstorm to produce creative ideas for later elaboration at a complex negotiation process that would take at least a year.

Today, instead, we are left with only one – legalistic and formal – plan developed by U.S. ambassador Christopher Hill. It is not the result of neutral mediation, contains no creative ideas and is so unattractive to the parties that it has to be imposed as a fait accompli by bombing threats and by arrogant talking down to the delegations (“they must be brought to understand their own best..”) [Read more…]