All posts by Nick

Economic Instability and War

By Asger Steen Pedersen

On the second day of the project we went to Ljubija to see the once great city, which is now mostly abandoned. It is astonishing to think that Ljubija was once the cultural capital of the region and a much larger city than Prijedor. Zoran Vuckovac took us on a tour through the city while explaining the history of the mining community. Mining in the area goes back more than 100 years and was at the core of the economy in Ljubija. The mine has never been active after the war and the community has never recovered.

Zoran put emphasis on the failed economic reforms lead by the IMF and other economic institutions for why Yugoslavia since the late 1970s was in economic decline. In reality the nation was never that divided in ethnic communities prior to this economic decline. It became clear to me that the conflict in the beginning of the 1990s also had to be viewed through an economic lens. Usually the war is seen only through the eyes of the different nationalities of Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs within BiH. However, the economic problems leading up to the war are rarely addressed as an explanation for why the war broke out.

And then I wondered: has any previous genocides been committed in a stable economy? Or are there always economic components that lead up to atrocities like in BiH? Economic instability does not always cause wars within a country, but it is a big factor that is needed for war within a country to occur. If you have a job, education, and a bright future, would you really start singling out your neighbors as your enemy?

Today countries like Greece, Ukraine and Venezuela are in an economic crisis. Their economic and cultural situation is very different, but it frightens me to think that they are all in a stage of economic instability. Ukraine has chosen a new and different leader with a liberal agenda that has promised economic reforms; Greece has seen a surge in nationalistic far right; and Venezuela is crumbling under its political vacuum. All has different futures however for all I hope that their economic crisis will not lead to a national divide within the countries and eventually to something much, much worse as it did in BiH.

“We need to understand the friendship between local nationalism and international capitalism” – Zoran Vuckovac

 

Call for Applications: Democracy & Peacebuilding in Bosnia & Herzegovina 

Democracy & Peacebuilding in Bosnia & Herzegovina 

The Project on Peacebuilding will host a week-long course examining the history, context, and changing politics of peacebuilding

APPLY ONLINE

POP-2018

It is now more than twenty years since the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) but the economy is still struggling, the infrastructure is still crumbling, and the political institutions are still stalled in conflict. For the international community, Bosnia is the textbook case for post-conflict peacebuilding, but what has actually been achieved?

This weeklong course will engage students in the history, political context, and processes of change in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. Students will participate in workshops designed to expand their understanding and knowledge of peacebuilding and its challenges, in addition to guided site visits in the region.

This immersive experience is ideal for people (18-30) who want to learn more about the history of BiH and activists currently working in the region. You do not have to be enrolled in a university to participate. Now in its sixth year, the Project on Peacebuilding provides the chance for learners to engage in cross cultural learning, gain experience in the field, and develop their research and public speaking skills through interactive workshops designed to challenge and engage future peacebuilders. We are keen to work with young adults of all backgrounds from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Balkan region, and internationally.

When: 2-9 August 2019
Where: Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)
Who’s eligible: Young people and students (ages 18-30).

Costs:
We cover the travel expenses for participants living in BiH. Those living outside Bosnia and Herzegovina will need to fund their own travel to Prijedor. Once in Prijedor, the travel, food and basic shared dorm accommodation will be covered by the program. Please bring additional spending money to cover some food for the week.

Application process:
The deadline is 15 May 2019. Please complete the application online:

APPLY ONLINE

(https://forms.gle/kZqi2DWNx1hf6ZS27)

If you cannot submit online, please send the POP 2019 application (in English) and your CV (resume) to projectonpeacebuilding@gmail.com. Feel free to contact us with questions about this opportunity.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and all applicants will be notified in June. If you have any questions about the program and the logistics of taking part, please feel free to contact the Most Mira team.

APPLY ONLINE

Democracy & Post-Conflict Politics in Bosnia           
Additional information

While most courses on the Balkans focus exclusively on the 1995 conflict and Dayton agreement, this course aims to dig deeper into current politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Whole generations of Bosnian young people have grown up in the post-conflict political context, which was focused on who and what was done during the war, but these factors do not define all of current Bosnian politics. The Bosnian diaspora who fled to Europe, US, and elsewhere, have growing influence, both financially through remittances and through social movements and political activism. Bosnia’s struggling economy has forced young people to be innovative in business and careers. There are also questions about how to make democracy work at both the local and national level. This course will explore issues of poverty, environmentalism, nationalism, gender, diaspora, art, community activism, regional organizations, and NGO politics.

Finally, most courses on the Balkans are located in capitals – Sarajevo, Belgrade, Zagreb – but miss the local dynamics of post-conflict politics. This course takes place in the rural village of Kevljani near Prijedor, North West Bosnia, and will be an important contrasted to accounts of peacebuilding in urban settings.

“PoP provides the chance for young Bosnians to confront a past that their parents will not enter, in a safe and supportive environment.” – Azra, 2016 participant

“Young people don’t learn in school about the past in the 90s. It’s very important for young people to know their past.” – Slajana, 2018 participant

“My favourite moments lie in the relationships that have been forged and the experiences that have been described to me. This has created a human component to a confusing, frustrating, and terrible conflict that intentional conversations with those who have experienced it begin to bring into focus.” – Elaine, 2018 participant.

Sample Schedule:
9am – Session 1: Site visit to local war memorials and former detention sites
11am – Session 2: Workshop with local peacebuilders and human rights academics
2pm – Session 3: Conducting a survey on local attitudes to peacebuilding in the community
6pm – Social time: BBQ and performance by local musicians

All participants are required to write a short response and contribute to the annual project report. Certificates of participation will be given to participants who complete the full weeklong course.

Partners

This project is organised by Most Mira in partnership with the EU Studies Center at the City University of New York.

Most Mira is a charity that works in the UK and Bosnia Herzegovina to bring together children and young people to make friends across ethnicities and celebrate diversity in the Prijedor area, northern Bosnia Herzegovina. Since 2009, Most Mira has organised youth arts festivals, theatre workshops, peace building visits and tours and architectural workshops.

The European Union Studies Center (EUSC) at the City University of New York brings together American and European scholars, students and business professionals to encourage the exchange of ideas about the European Union. The goal is to facilitate research and stimulate transatlantic dialogue.

For more information, check out our reports and website: www.mostmiraproject.org.

Reports from previous Project on Peacebuilding courses: POP 2013, POP 2014, POP 2015, POP 2017, POP 2018.

A Long Walk from Kabul to Sarejevo

By Joss Gillespie

In the mountains of Albania, Abdullah did something he had not done in months—he waited. Since leaving Kabul, fear of being caught by the police and determination to reach a new home had driven him and his two brothers forward, never sparing a moment. But at this moment, Abdullah, the eldest of his family, was halted by a greater fear; he had become separated from his youngest brother, Abdullah-Wahrahim, with no method of contacting him. And so, Abdullah waited all night and, as he told us later, began to cry. In the middle of the night, he heard a word being shouted in the distance, a password that he and his brothers had agreed upon to use if they ever became lost. Abdullah followed the call and eventually, on the other end of it, he found his brother. They hugged, and kissed, and found solace in their reunion. But their journey was not over, and soon they continued walking.

On the 5th of August, we went to a memorial event at Trnopolje, a village near Priejdor that was used as a concentration camp during the Bosnia war. In total, over 30,000 people were detained at Trnopolje and yet almost nothing has been done to memorialize the site since. This would be the topic of the second part of the evening, but to my surprise, when I arrived at the event the words “Migranti ili progojeni?“ were projected onto the wall of the former concentration camp. This translates in English to, “migrants, or displaced?” The first speaker compared Europe’s current refugee crisis with the conditions at Trnopolje, using pictures to illustrate his comparison. Next, three brothers from Afghanistan recounted their journey from Kabul to Sarajevo. I found their story candid and heartfelt, particularly the moment when Abdullah described temporarily losing his younger brother.

The three brothers have found a new home in Sarajevo. Although their initial destination was France, what they found in Bosnia was a place that could empathize with their experience. In the last week, I have found Bosnia to be a beautiful and fascinating country, but one that is still stricken by the effects of conflict. The war of 1992-1995 still feels very present, and I think that these three brothers found kinship in a country that also knows the devastating effect of war. What I found most powerful about their testimony was the fierce love and protection that the brothers expressed for each other. Family is important to many Bosnians, and it is something that I keep very close to my heart as well. Because of this, I found the strength of their relationship and love for one another extremely touching. Their story is by no means representative of all refugees in Bosnia, many of whom suffer a huge amount of discrimination, but I hope that Bosnia can learn from its past and provide more people like these brothers the chance to live a good life.

POP 2015 Report

What is Local Peacebuilding?

This year’s Project on Peacebuilding (POP) was motivated by one central question: what does peacebuilding look like when it is driven by grassroots local activism, rather than top-down or international institutions?

Peacebuilding is often understood as work driven and led by government or international organisations, but local activists and local communities are the main stakeholders in this delicate peace that is trying to be built. In order to explore this theme, the group engaged in discussions, workshops, and activism with a variety or local organisations and groups.

This report is a collection of reflections by participants in the 2015 Project on Peacebuilding organised by Most Mira, in partnership with Humanity in Action.

“Local Activism for Local Peacebuilding – August 2015”
Download the full report: PDF

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Day 3: Art & Activism

11781873_1049354738409868_1219975206372241276_n On Wednesday, Laila led our group in a creative workshop on the role of art and artists in activism. We also visited a building that was destroyed in the war but in which Most Mira hopes to build a future youth centre.

Laila inspired us to write about the conflict, memorials we had seen, and the potential for a different future.

Check out a few of our first drafts of poems from the workshop…

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Reflecting on Ado’s house, Kevlijani, 22/07/15

Before the house was surrounded by trees,
Now the trees live in the house,
Going forward they will live in harmony.

By Asger, Caterina, Tara.

At first a field was here
village children herded cows
one of them had built a house
and ten years later
other children tore it down.

Today Ado comes to find his house is full of birds
instead of bricks he sees blackberries as walls
he smells the scent of grass and lavender
he thinks of graffiti on his garage wall.

Tomorrow he’ll see the sun
shining through his open roof
graffiti on the walls
will be signposts
to a better future.

By Kemal, Stephan, Selma

This was the site where pillars were shatters
Where walls and windows were destroyed and a family slept in the past

This is the site
Where some one’s bedroom has no roof
Where grass levels the floor
And birds sleep in their nest

This is the site
Where murals come to life
Where windows display a peaceful life.

By Tara, Nick, Maja

The memorial
Remember victims through art,
Didn’t you get that memo?
Victims remember through art.

By Asger

The memorial
First there was peace. It was full of trees, birds, and sounds carried around by wind.

Then people came with their guns, and the guns destroyed peace. The sound of peace was replaced by the sound of other people running away.

Then there was peace again. State sponsored peace, and new people came with an image of a new community to remember not peace but war.

By Kemal

 

The memorial
Bound by distance, carved in stone,
Hope was non existent
Folly of their makers was
Ideology of sorts

By Stefan

 

The memorial
The names of people lost
Sit etched in stone creating
A physical space
But this space is really reflecting
The gaping hole left in their community.

By Nick

 

The memorial
Memorials are much more about the future than the history of the past. They trigger different emotions depending on the audience of the memorial, come trigger.

 

Day 2: Memorialization in BiH

On Day 2, Elma from Humanity in Action led a great workshop on memorialization in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We started by discussing how to interpret memorials, who builds and funds monuments, and what the political purpose is of memorials. Then we analyzed several monuments from other parts of the region. After lunch, we visited monuments in the village of Kevljani and Omarska.

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Collective Memory and a Collective Funeral in Prijedor

Prijedor

Every year on the 20th of July a collective funeral is held near Prijedor for the burial of victims whose remains were identified in the last year. Most of these victims were found in mass graves and identified by the International Commission on Missing Persons. The ceremony was led by imams from the region, with speeches by local civic leaders. One speaker declared in front of a crowd of more than 400 people that all would forgive if the perpetrators acknowledged what they did. She suggested that the community needed to focus on finding evidence of genocide and proving it happened here in Prijedor as they did in Srebrenecia.

The participants of POP observed the collective funeral for the first time. The importance of collectively mourning the victims was clear and the significance of recognizing their memory. The collective funeral was an opportunity for the families and community to articulate publicly a common narrative of the atrocities in the region and construct a collective memory of the family members they lost. The difficulty with finding a common collective narrative is that some believe it is unacceptable to unite the narrative and have both Serbs and Bosniaks asking for the same acknowledgement. The politics of identity are complicated by the question of who has legitimacy to articulate and define the common narratives depending on their personal context.

Later today, we also began our discussion on peacebuilding, especially in the local context. In general, the focus was on moving on from violence and conflict. Tara defined peacebuilding as “building relationships between people who think they have nothing in common.” Yasmine suggested it is “breaking down the difference between us and them and strengthening relationships so as to move toward a common goal.”

Another important element, Goran emphasized is “cutting the cycle of social conflict- especially in Bosnia.” This must be done on two tracks: challenging the narrative and engaging new people in the civic space. Laila explained that it is crucial to “stop the myths being handed down the generations.” Some of the activists in Prijedor are trying to ensure that the public know that alternative narratives exist. This can both challenge the dominant narrative but it doesn’t force people to accept it as their own. They have the opportunity to choose for themselves. Selma concluded that the best way to challenge these myths is “dealing with the past in an honest way.”