Western Balkans

The wars of the 1990s and their aftermath are still very much present in the states succeeding former Yugoslavia. Till today, each country, each ethnic group, each conflict party is nurturing its own selective memory of these events. Stereotypes of the enemy are thus preserved, and there are still many conflicts with an enormous potential of turning violent. The forumZFD works in this region with a focus on dealing with the past and capacity building for peace. It aims at discrediting militancy in public debates, overcoming stereotypes of the enemy and promoting a culture of non-violence.

The wars of the 1990s and their aftermath are still very much present in the states succeeding former Yugoslavia. Till today, each country, each ethnic group, each conflict party is nurturing its own selective memory of these events. Stereotypes of the enemy are thus preserved, and there are still many conflicts with an enormous potential of turning violent. The forumZFD works in this region with a focus on dealing with the past and capacity building for peace. It aims at discrediting militancy in public debates, overcoming stereotypes of the enemy and promoting a culture of non-violence.

The forumZFD works in the Western Balkans with his strategic partner pax christi in the diocese of Aachen.

Analysis of the conflict and strategies for conflict management

More than a decade after the wars in former Yugoslavia, the countries of the Western Balkans are politically classed as fragile democracies. With the exception of Croatia, they are all facing severe economic problems. Conflicts over power, resources and territorial claims are smouldering under the surface at regional level and beyond borders. They contain a high potential for renewed escalation and prevent a sustainable consolidation of peace as well as urgently needed reforms.

The troubles of the past, which have not yet been overcome, are constantly exploited for political gain and are thus a constant source of potential strife. At the same time, the countries of the region are inevitably interlinked. This fact permanently reflects upon the dynamics of conflict in ethnically mixed areas and easily causes negative chain reactions.

With its involvement in the region, the forumZFD pursues a number of goals:

  • to encourage official institutions in the medium and long term to develop a responsible and peace promoting approach to the violent past;
  • to discredit debates which glorify nationalism and violence and to foster a culture of non-violence;
  • to institutionalise methods of nonviolent conflict transformation (especially in the educational sector) and to strengthen the corrective role of civil society organisations;
  • to re-instate social relationships on the basis of mutual trust, empathy, basic values like human dignity, non-violence and tolerance and to enhance the capability of conflict management.

The work of the forumZFD in the region is focused on dealing with the past and educating for peace at a formal and informal level.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

From 2006 onwards, the forumZFD, together with its partner pax christi Aachen, was involved in the Derventa-Doboj-Brod region of Republika Srpska. The aim was to cooperate with civil society groups, war veterans, youth and community institutions. The focus lay on supporting local NGOs, workshops on conflict transformation as well as inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue and the promotion of constructive debates about the conflicts of the past and their aftermath. This project expired at the end of 2012. However, the regional peace organisation ReMI, which was initiated by pax christi as a network of twelve local NGOs, will continue to safeguard the sustainability of this pioneering work.

At the beginning of 2013, the Project Office was transferred to Sarajevo. The focus of the intervention lies now even stronger than before on overcoming the past in general and militant debates in particular.

Contact
Project Location: Sarajevo
Project Manager: Judith Brand
Email: buh at forumZFD.de


KOSOVO

The Project Office of the forumZFD in Pristina supports and connects local initiatives to overcome the past (Dealing with the past – DwP). It thus cooperates, for example, with Serbian and Kosovo-Albanian organisations for missing people. The forumZFD team offers training and advice and facilitates meetings.

The website "dealing with the past" (it will be relaunched) and the new magazine “Balkan:Persepctives" are recognised discussion platforms for coming to terms with the past of Kosovo.

The forumZFD also supports the local population in dealing with its political past in further ways. In the so-called “Thinkers’ Forum“, prominent people from the fields of history, arts and the media, amongst others, debate about the “social wounds“ caused in society by its volatile past. These discussions resulted in the book “Considering the Future. Perspectives on Dealing with the Past in Kosovo“, which was published at the end of 2011. It summarises important discussion processes and takes a lead in promoting further approaches to overcoming the violent conflicts in Kosovo.

In cooperation with local partners, the forumZFD encourages young people to find creative ways for raising awareness of the need to deal with the past. The forumZFD also seeks to promote conflict sensitive journalism by supporting radio stations, training journalists and initiating public debates about coming to terms with the past.

Contact
Project Location: Pristina
Programme Manager: Nehari Sharri
Email: kosovo at forumZFD.de

MACEDONIA

In Macedonia, the forumZFD seeks to implement sustainable changes in the educational system and to strengthen the inter-ethnic cooperation of young people from Macedonian and Albanian families.

The forumZFD could convince the Macedonian Ministry of Education of the effectiveness of nonviolent conflict management in schools. Since 2010, mediation and nonviolent communication have been on the list of mandatory school projects.

In the communities of Struga and Kicevo, the forumZFD together with UNICEF supports the establishment of two ethnically mixed youth centres. The activities offered – e.g. theatre, dance and language courses – are taken up with great interest by both the Macedonian and the Albanian youths.

Furthermore, the forumZFD supports local communities in organising multi-ethnic sports events. In an advisory capacity, it also promotes the initiative “City of Peace“ in Tetovo.

Contact
Project Locations in Macedonia: Skopje, Struga
Programme Manager: Silke Maier-Witt
Email: mazedonien at forumZFD.de

SERBIA / REGIONAL OFFICE

Local and national conflicts in the countries of the Western Balkans can’t be viewed in isolation. Rather, they are characterised by regional as well as border transcending interdependencies. Since 2002, our Regional Office in Belgrade has been addressing these aspects.

Furthermore, the Regional Office is a focal point of liaison between the Head Office of the forumZFD in Cologne, the different project partners and the project staff in the Western Balkans. Due to its proximity to the situation on the ground, the office could develop regional expertise for the planning and implementation of projects. This safeguards direct support for the peace experts and a strengthening of the intervention by means of networking and advocacy in the region.