Jul 2012

“It was fascinating to hear from our colleagues in Belgrade.  We can take a lot from their presentations and experiences.”

In June, Conciliation Resources’ Caucasus team and a number of Georgian and Abkhaz partners travelled to Serbia to find out more about the work going on in the Balkans, to deal with the legacy of violent conflict in the 1990s.

They met representatives from the Centre for Nonviolent Action (CNA), a local NGO based in both Belgrade and Sarajevo, which is involved in efforts to include people from divided communities in discussions about the past, to acknowledge each other’s experiences of war and by doing so begin the long and slow process of rebuilding trust.

The teams heard a moving account of CNA’s work with ex-combatants from Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia, which inspired many participants to talk openly, some for the first time, about their own deeply personal and very painful experiences of war.

The group was also joined for a session by the Humanitarian Law Centre, also based in Belgrade, who discussed their pioneering work documenting individual stories of people caught up in the conflict in the Balkans.

The teams shared ideas about a range of issues central to dealing with the past. From the question of displaced people, war veterans and missing persons, to the role of nationalism, the right to reparation and the impact of formal apologies. As one participant noted: “Back home you lose the energy to engage in such issues but these meetings help reinvigorate you and show that solidarity does in fact exist.”

Above all they agreed it was essential to work together to create a shared understanding of recent history, and only then would it be possible to begin to move on.

“I am very curious to see…whether people from the Caucasus will find an inspiration in this seminar.  Either way, I wish them much strength and happiness in their future work, and most importantly, not to surrender and give up under various pressures.”

Ivana Franovic, CNA

This project was made possible through the financial assistance of the UK Government's Conflict Pool and Confidence Building Early Response Mechanism (COBERM) which is funded by the European Union and administered by United Nations Development Programme.