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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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…]

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…]

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…]

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…]