More than 170 university academics, European policy-makers, ERMA students and alumni, and civil society activists gathered in Sarajevo on the 29th and 30th April 2011 in the premises of the Center for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies of the University of Sarajevo (CIPS) to discuss the challenges of accepting diversities and of recognizing them as a wealth for the development of societies. The conference, entitled “Accepting Diversities: Human Rights and the Challenges of Reconciliation” was organized by the University of Bologna and IECOB, the University of Sarajevo and its CIPS, the CEI Network of civil society organizations on the occasion of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the European Regional Master Degree Programme in Democracy and Human Rights in South East Europe (ERMA). The conference also saw the establishment of the CEI Network of Civil Society Organizations, which aims to link civil society organizations in SEE, particularly those active in the field of human rights defense and promotion, reconciliation, and new development strategies.
The conference was initiated with an address by the Vice-Rector of the University of Sarajevo Prof. Hazim Basic, HE Raimondo de Cardona, Ambassador of the Republic of Italy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Mr Boris Iarochevitch, Head of Operations at the EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the presentation of the conference rationale by Prof. Stefano Bianchini from the University of Bologna the audience was addressed by the key note speakers: Mr. Leonidas Donskis, from the European Parliament and Prof. Zoran Pajic, from King’s College, London.
The thematic discussion was organized in six panels, which approached the topic from different points of view. In panel 1 (ICTY Decisions and National Narratives: Facts vs. Myths) Professor Vjeran Pavlaković, from the University of Rijeka, underlined that the recent case of the Gotovina verdict is emblematic in showing the difficulties faced by the Croatian society in challenging the dominant narrative about the war and the new Croatian identity. The point is that different groups perceive justice in a different way, as highlighted by Goran Bozicević, Director of the Miramida Centar – Regional Peacebuilding Exchange, Groznjan-Grisignana, Croatia. In such a framework, reconciliation becomes a challenging task and the only way out becomes that of apology, as proposed by Prof. Nenad Dimitrijević, CEU, Budapest.
In panel 2 (Accepting the “Otherness”: Challenges for Education and Civil Society) Professor Bianchini, from the University of Bologna, stressed that the rationale behind the wars in Former Yugoslavia (wars that were waged against and about otherness) is part of the European culture. The nation state has emerged as a vehicle of democracy, but has become over the time a system to promote homogenization and exclusiveness in terms of language, identity, economic interests, etc. within very well defined borders. This is why all societies in Europe today face multiple difficulties in managing diversities. There is a need to rethink first of all the educational system and to offer a different vision of the European culture through syncretism and métissage. Diversities can be accommodated in different ways: through inclusion, through an opinion-blind approach or simply by a simple behavioral change rooted in 'being interested' in the other (instead of ‘being interesting’), as proposed by David Solomons, from the Creative Learning Consultants, London, England.
In panel 3 (“Ethnizenship” and the Right of Non-belonging) Prof. Jo Shaw from the University of Edinburgh described the concept of ethnic citizenship while Prof. Ger Duijzings from the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies claimed that the cities represent an anonymous environment full of strangers, and that difference is a prerequisite for urban identity and something considered completely normal.
In panel 4 (Gender and Transitional Justice in SEE) Prof. Vlasta Jalušič, from the Peace Institute, Slovenia focused on the hegemonic and yet unchallenged position of masculinities and femininities before, during and after a conflict, as well as on the fact that these are being constantly reinforced. Professor Duhaček from the University of Belgrade introduced the concept of women’s courts as an alternative mechanism in the field of transitional justice processes, offering a different perspective on notions such as victim, survivor and witness in a court-like arena.
In panel 5 (Rethinking journalism: The role of media in post conflict societies) Žarka Radoja, from E-novine and Eldin Hadzović from BIRN BiH underlined the crucial role played by media in democratic societies and emphasized the fact that today’s media is a consumers’ product packaged in sensationalism. In panel 6 (Challenging Homogeneity within Ethnic Communities: a room for dialogue), Prof. Mitja Žagar, from the Institute for Ethnic Studies and Universities of Ljubljana and Primorska underlined that the fact that ethnic groups, even though portrayed as homogeneous, are in fact internally plural and diverse from a cultural point of view. It is on the agenda of political leaders to advocate homogeneity; however it is extremely difficult to realize it in practice.
The conference represented a unique opportunity to encourage the discussion between university academics and members of the civil society sector about issues such as diversity management and reconciliation. Moreover, it represented an uncommon opportunity to gather members of civil society organizations from SEE together. This effort culminated in the establishment of the CEI Network of Civil Society Organizations, which is still open to new members.
Aleksandra Nedzi, Cinzia Tarletti, Davor Marko, Mariana Hadzijusufovic (Conference organizing committee)
|Agenda, Sarajevo 29-30 April 2011.doc||125 KB|