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«Martina Fischer/Ljubinka Petrović-Ziemer Forschung DSF Nº 36 Dealing with the Past and Peacebuilding in the Western Balkans1 Martina ...»

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Balancing resources of CSOs in TJ: War crimes monitoring vs. fact-finding • International and local TJ protagonists are convinced that state institutions that are in charge of war crimes prosecution need to be carefully observed and monitored now and in future. CSOs and also several politicians suggest that international actors should continue to ensure at least a minimum of monitoring of legal proceedings and justice reforms in the respective countries. In contrast, international representatives suggest and express hope that civil society actors will take on this role (see Fischer 2013a, 78), emphasising their watchdog functions. Some international interviewees are concerned that the monitoring of war crimes trials might cease altogether or become a lower priority on the agenda of human rights activists, as these have started to focus much of their energies on additional TJ mechanisms, such as the campaign for REKOM. This campaign has illustrated that CSOs in the region are able to develop a variety of activities for dealing with the past and to set up effective networking activities across countries and diverse actor groups (peace groups, human rights organisations, including women’s and youth groups, victims’ associations and veterans’ unions). However, the core group that drives the campaign consists of a small number of organisations and activists. A challenge is to further balance limited financial and human resources and expertise in the long run in a way which allows CSOs to stay involved in both the field of justice, providing monitoring of war crimes trials, and truth recovery, advancing fact-finding or story-telling activities in the scope of a REKOM. To avoid gaps, it will be necessary to forge effective alliances with independent media and journalists, and thus establish a division of labour which allows both fields to be covered. During the REKOM campaign, the CSOs involved have already proved that they can set up such cooperation and have thus created a solid basis that can be extended in future. Trial monitoring will remain an important task for CSOs in particular in settings where international oversight has ceased, i.e. in Croatia, where OSCE ended its mandate by December 2011, and 677 murders of civilians in the context of the “Storm” operation have to be investigated and prosecuted by local institutions.

Developing civil society as a realm for top-down and bottom-up initiatives • The field research revealed that there is continuous interaction among the courts in the region and that the cooperation of judicial institutions across countries has improved. The same applies to the work of the Commissions for Missing Persons (CMPs) that have also institutionalised regional collaboration. There is also close interaction and cooperation among victims’ associations and human rights activists, and all these groups also cooperate with the courts and the CMPs. Some interaction and cooperation have been observed between peace practitioners and human rights organisations (and in a very few cases, organisations combine both agendas), although this is the exception rather than the rule. There is also some ongoing cooperation among peace groups and veterans, and between peace groups and victims’ organisations. In this context, it is noteworthy that the campaign for REKOM has encouraged networking among CSOs across very diverse agendas and many countries in the region. This campaign therefore offers a great many opportunities for debate among different actors and within wider society. The question is whether it will maintain or even gain additional momentum and finally materialise as an institutionalised mechanism for documentation and dialogue on war events that is endorsed by the governments.

Initiated by local CSOs, the initiative for REKOM can be called a bottom-up initiative as it is intended to put pressure on policy-makers to establish a joint mechanism. It has received support from policy-makers in different countries, including presidents and prime ministers.

In this context, grassroots initiatives have shown a remarkable potential to dovetail with initiatives at the top level. But REKOM – although enjoying broad support in the region – has yet to be operationalised and implemented. The news that on 8 May 2012, Croatia’s President Josipović received a delegation from the REKOM coalition and announced that he will urge presidents of other countries in the region to delegate legal experts to form a joint regional team to examine each country’s constitutional and legal options for the establishment of a REKOM sounds more than encouraging.56 At the same time the course that was announced by Serbia’s new Prime Minister Ivica Dacić seems far more ambivalent.57 It remains to be seen how neighbourly relations and prospects for political reconciliation will develop under this government. It is also an open question whether the impetus and incentives that stem from the process launched by the promoters of a REKOM will link up to a joint initiative and long-term cooperation between political and civil society actors which advances dealing with the past processes and enhances political as well as cultural reconciliation in the region.

56 RECOM Initiative !Voice, 7/2012, 1.

57 Presenting his government programme on 27 July 2012, he said: "If they say the word Balkans means blood and honey, there has been enough blood. It's time that we tasted honey. Serbia is extending the hand of reconciliation to all. Let's not dwell on the past, let's think of the future. We want good relationships, with mutual respect of the independence and territorial integrity of all states".


It can be concluded that initiatives at the political level and at the grassroots level still do not dovetail in a way that creates strong synergies, and thus it is questionable whether these activities can actually be captured with the terminology of “bottom-up” and “top-down” approaches, or are just undertaken as parallel endeavours. There are only occasional points of contact between them, mainly facilitated by international funding activities.

Furthermore, it can be concluded that apart from internationally facilitated ad hoc consultations (i.e. in the development of a national TJ strategy in Bosnia), there is not much institutionalised cooperation among CSOs and political actors. In all three countries under review, CSOs still have reservations about collaboration with government institutions and local authorities, although many of them express a belief that such interaction is necessary in order to advance dealing with the past and peacebuilding. At the same time, many politicians, although acknowledging the need for grassroots activities, do not become actively involved in cooperation and partnerships with CSOs. While CSOs actively strive for new alliances, politicians do not see themselves as having an obligation to take an active role in this field. It is noteworthy (and contradictory) that, although representatives of the political parties in all countries see a need for dealing with the past (and many of them even claim a leading role for state institutions in a REKOM), none of the parties has outlined explicit measures, aims or policies in their programmes, according to the analyses presented by Katarina Milićević, Ismet Seijfija and Srđan Dvornik.

For civil society to form a realm for top-down and bottom-up initiatives (White 1996, 186;

White 2004), it is important that CSO activists acknowledge that networking across levels and establishing close working relations with alliance partners in parliaments, governments and local authorities are as important as horizontal networking on the grassroots level. At the same time, policy-makers need to learn that efforts for trust-building in the region cannot simply be delegated to civil society initiatives but that they need to take measures that link up with these efforts and provide the framework for advancing peacebuilding and reconciliation at the grassroots level. The field research reveals that most of the interviewed politicians acknowledge that there is a need for reconciliation between nations and societies in the region. At the same time, they continue to see trust-building and relationship-building mainly as a challenge for civil society actors rather than a task for themselves. It is therefore important to raise awareness that restoring trust and relationships must be an explicit item on their own agenda and programmes. It is important to sensitise politicians to the fact that reconciliation needs both cultural and political approaches and cooperation across levels. Although it is not very likely that ethnonationalists can be won over to such an endeavour, there are moderate and open-minded actors in many political parties who offer the potential for cooperation. Both civil society actors and politicians operating in governments, parliaments and local authorities need to create opportunities for exchange in order to overcome mutual mistrust and advance joint learning.

Continuing but re-focusing international support • As earlier policy evaluations have outlined, in many areas where progress has been achieved, this was only as a result of international pressure, and such pressure will be necessary in order to transform the country into a self-sustaining state: “It goes without saying that the political elites of the three constituent peoples in that country would be even less willing to accept Bosnia and Herzegovina as their common state if there was no prospect of EU membership” (Calic 2005, 12).

In order to advance Bosnia with regard to the establishment of the rule of law, the European Commission established a “Structured Dialogue on Justice” in June 2011 within the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with BiH, aiming at a participatory process to enhance reforms of the justice sector and develop and consolidate an “independent, credible, effective, efficient, impartial and accountable judiciary”.58 With regard to the National War Crimes Strategy, the Commission expresses “concern about the lack of proper implementation of most strategic objectives”, recommends that sufficient funds and human resources be allocated to the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH to properly perform its task related to exhumations, and urges the Court of BiH and Prosecutor to address problems related to delays of proceedings.

Finally, assisting the antagonistic political actors to establish a process that enables them to find a way for modifications of the constitutional framework remains a crucial challenge for international actors in Bosnia-Herzegovina. International support is needed to facilitate a process that enables the Dayton constitution to be brought into line with the standards required by the Council of Europe in a way that can be accepted by all constituencies.

Such dialogue must include all relevant political parties and as many actors from society as possible (i.e. peace practitioners and human rights activists, women’s groups, victims’ organisations, veterans’ associations, labour unions, media organisations and faith communities). Such a process should aim to increase the efficiency of state institutions in serving the needs of the citizens, no matter of their “ethnic”, or cultural, or religious affiliation. Movement in this sector is crucial for a constructive process of dealing with the past in this country. As the field research revealed, setting up legitimate and functioning state institutions that guarantee the rule of law and advancing economic development is a must and forms the basis for restoring trust and relationships, given that interviewees from all samples have stressed that a lack of security and economic perspectives forms an important obstacle to reconciliation.

However, apart from this, Bosnia’s crucial problem remains that relevant parts of the population and policy-makers who define themselves as Croat and Serb do not – or do not fully – identify with Bosnia-Herzegovina as a nation-state. It has to be taken into account that people continue to insist on separated political or educational institutions due to deep rooted fears related to the war and memories of violent events. Nevertheless, some normalisation and cooperation or even gestures of rapprochement take place on a daily life level in local communities, and there is a chance for building on such steps in order to bridge the existing borderlines. The task of trust- and relationship-building in divided local communities and contested political structures requires specific approaches. Given that different constituencies construct separate identities, lacking knowledge of and cultivating many stereotypes about each other, learning about the “others” is definitely important.

However, in order to foster this kind of learning, opportunities for cooperation in normal life situations (school, workplaces and cultural events) are needed, rather than additional dialogue projects that aim to facilitate personal encounters between individuals from 58 See Report from the Second Meeting on 10-11 November 2011 and Recommendations from the European Commission at http://www.delbih.ec.europa.eu/documents/delegacijaEU_2012022712224213eng.pdf.

different “ethnic” or “religious” constituencies in seminars. However, training sessions on conflict transformation and dealing with the past can make an important contribution to sensitising multipliers to appropriate ways of addressing different views on the past and war experiences, and help them to actively counter ethno-nationalist stereotypes and exclusive policies of remembrance in educational institutions and media.

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