19th Annual Report
You may download the report here
For a third year running, the introduction to our Annual Report notes a deterioration of the socio-political situation in which we live and work, both globally, on our continent and in the Western Balkans region. It seems we must keep up with the events unfolding in the Near East, in Turkey, but also in Germany and France, because this is the curse of our geopolitical situation. We are not innocent, however, because if need be, the world powers will arrange the division of interest zones in the Balkan peninsula without our participation, but it seems our peoples (or rather, the militant minority of each) are eager participants. Therefore, any elections, be they parliamentary or local, are the greatest threat to peace in the region. Hate speech, abuse of the past and open threats have all become so commonplace that they are now considered an integral part of election campaigns. It is, naturally, the political elites that excel in these activities, but that still speaks volumes about the rest of us. The war didn’t even happen in the 1990s, the war is being prepared. It has long been clear that our social masters feel and accept no social responsibility, but we ordinary citizens cannot afford such luxury. It is true that we bear unresolved traumas and that fear is much more easily instigated when the memory you unearth is still fresh. We have already adapted history to the needs of war. Our reality contains all the necessities – pain, fear, hatred and unsettled accounts. But there is also an awareness about what war brings with it and the responsibility not to repeat the past. To seek creative possibilities not just to undermine retrograde attempts, but to actively oppose them. The kind of society we would like to live in and in which we could build a future for our children needs to be thought out, needs to be constructed. We need to be able to imagine the kind of life we would like to live and the society that would make that life possible. That is why even the smallest resistance to what they are trying to drag us into is an activistic act, a conscious taking on of responsibility for the reality we live in.
With that idea in mind, in 2015, we published a multilingual competition for a short story about reconciliation. We named the competition and the short story collection that resulted from it, which will be presented in the following pages, Biber [pepper], because the name of that spice is shared among all our languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Macedonian, Montenegrin and Serbian. The competition will be published again at the beginning of next year. The topic remains the same – reconciliation. It is, of course, closely linked to constructive dealing with the past – understanding how war “happens” and how it was possible, so that we may not be condemned to endless repetition. This year, we published a publication called “War of Memories” that resulted from the project “War Memorials in Bosnia and Herzegovina (since 1991)”. The aim was to research (document and analyse) memorialisation policy and culture of memory in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from all warring sides, viewing it primarily in terms of potential to bring lasting peace and reconciliation. Our findings are available at kulturasjećanja.org and will be presented in the coming months at exhibitions 73 in Sarajevo, Mostar, Banja Luka, Bihać and Belgrade. Another study we published this year concerns the fate of the Danube Swabians in Vojvodina following the Second World War and is part of the same effort – constructive dealing with the past, this time from the perspective of “unpopular victims” such as the German minority in Yugoslavia in the aftermath of the Second World War.
This year we organised the first visit of a mixed group of war-veterans to sites of suffering in Pakrac, Lipik and Daruvar in Croatia. This is noteworthy because this particular door, important to peacebuilding in the Western Balkans region, was closed to us for far too long. Apart from that, we had some difficulty organising veteran visits this year, which is the expected repercussion of a deterioration in the socio-political situation. Thus, after a long time, we could again hear that it was “too early” for some visits or that “it is not yet time”. However, what we have learned from experience is that it is worthwhile to persevere, that every visit is important, not least because it projects a different image of veterans in the region and contributes to peace and reconciliation.
In the past year, we have considerably enhanced our international cooperation and exchange. We tried to adapt some of our experience with constructive dealing with the past to a context we were not familiar with before, in Manipur, India, for a training organised for members of an NGO network in Manipur. We also organised two study visits: a visit to Vukovar, Jasenovac and Prijedor, where we were joined by our partners from the region; and another, in cooperation with the German Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung, a visit to Belgrade, Vukovar, Srebrenica, Sarajevo and Mostar for a group of theorists and practitioners in the field of memory work from Germany.
No less important was our continued support to the activities resulting from the Training for Trainers – workshops with secondary school pupils and trainings with students. The multilingual training in peacebuilding for citizens of Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia has since become a regular activity. Part of these efforts is the activity to mark unmarked sites of suffering, which will continue in the future, and a documentary film about people who, following the signing of the Dayton Agreement, exchanged their houses with people “from the other side” of the entity demarcation line. The documentary “… let me ask, where’re you from?” is now in the final stage of post-production and should be out by the end of 2016.
We have a lot of plans for the coming year, we will soon be organising the 36th Basic Training in Peacebuilding, and we are closer to having the Peacebuilding Strategy, that we have been preparing for Serbia, finally enter the public debate and then the political negotiation process so that it may hopefully become part of national policy. But first we invite you to read what we have prepared in this report. As always, we welcome your feedback, criticism and support.