September 11, 2009
Promoting a culture of coexistence, a multi-ethnic society or at least ethnic tolerance is not an easy task, not even in Europe, not even with help of billions of aid or with “best” western practice. This can be seen especially in Balkans where regions supervised by foreign “expertise” have worst record while regions without these outside high-flown ideas perform relatively better.
My examples for “worst practice” are Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, where international community has implemented its huge missions over ten years. Both cases have had modest development of civil society but in reality the progress of some original multi-ethnic ideas is going backwards.
Bosnia-Herzegovina is an international creature established by Dayton Agreement on 1995 which split Bosnia into two semi-independent entities – the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation. Three ethnic groups – Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks – are trying to lead state together and separately. Entities are united by weak central institutions, while at same time administration is quite heavy loaded with some 170 ministers and whole system is still supervised by international presence.
While earlier dispute was between Serbs and Bosniaks, last year showed serious dissension between Bosniaks and Croats and ethnic divisions are deepening at time when Bosnia-Herzegovina is on the stage of transition from an international protectorate to one responsible for its own reform dynamics. Instead of developing its “European perspective”, Bosnia-Herzegovina going backwards remaining an unwelcome, dysfunctional and divided country, with an aggrieved Bosniak (Muslim) plurality, a frustrated, increasingly defensive Serb entity, and an anxious, existentially threatened Croat population. (More about Dayton and situation in BiH e.g. in my article “Bosnia Collapsing” )
In Kosovo multi-ethnic idea is far away despite EU’s billions. After bombing almost all Albanian refugees have returned while only tiny fraction of Serb refugees – or officially internally displaced persons – have returned to Kosovo. The remaining Serbs in Kosovo are barricaded into enclaves keeping their lives mainly with help of international KFOR troops or in de facto separated Serb majority region in North Kosovo. This has changed former multi-ethnic province more mono-ethnic one.
According the new report – -made by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) gives a bare picture about worsening situation of minority rights in today’s Kosovo. Instead to return to their homes after ethnic cleansing implemented by Kosovo Albanians after Nato intervention 1999 and again 2004 minorities are beginning to leave Kosovo, because they face exclusion and discrimination. More about this in my article “...Pogrom with Prize”.
After nearly ten years of international administration – the longest and most expensive since the creation of the UN – Kosovo remains one of the most segregated places in Europe, with thousands of displaced persons still in camps, and many ‘ethnically pure’ towns and villages. The great failing of international rule in Kosovo over the last eight years has been that instead of breaking down segregation it has made it worse. Kosovo has become ever more divided into Albanian and Serb areas, with all other groups – Bosniaks,Croats, Gorani, Roma, Ashkali, Egyptians and Turks – being marginalized.
One of the most tragic example is the situation of Roma children living in North Mitrovica, Kosovo. So far 81 has already dead after ten years suffering in United Nations Camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), living in place which is described the most toxic site in Eastern Europe. Their story gives another perspective related to “humanitarian intervention” implemented by Nato and to international administration implemented afterwards. The headline of my article “UN death Camps, EU money, local negligence” tells a lot about this case which shouldn’t had been happen – not during and after “humanitarian intervention”, not during post-conflict capacity building and after billions of EU taxpayers money put to development projects, not in Europe 200 km from EU border, not in international protectorate with “European perspective” or anywhere else.
The core question
When a development program is made like desk plan in Washington or Brussels with some cooperation with state’s central government there always is a risk of more or less big gap between beneficiary needs and centralized aims. Some of these failures I have earlier described in my writings “World Bank destroyed Albanian village in joint operation with corrupted Government…” and “Squandering Kosovo’s Aid Funds”. The key element is the local participation, without it the results can be like in Afghanistan which is going opposite direction than originally intended (more e.g. in my article “Karzai’s administration worse than Taliban”).
Opposite approach is possible. For exampleSerbia could manage the ethnic conflict in Presevo valley quite good without foreign “assistance”. Also in Bosnia-Herzegovina leaders of the three strongest national – Serb, Croat, Bosnian Muslim – parties, met on late 2008, after alarming negative EU reports, with the aim of reaching an agreement over several highly disputed issues that are crucial for country’s EU membership, as well as the closure of the Office of the High Representative, OHR. In only two hours, they reached a general agreement on a process of future constitutional changes, questions that would be covered in 2011 census, as well as regulation of the status of the Brcko district and state property. Deepening talks have continued after this sc Prud Agreement, which will strengthen federation elements while weakening central state power.
It’s said that The Balkans are a graveyard for foreign ambitions. This could be the “lessons learned” to both USA and EU. Some more sustainable solutions could be implemented in Western Balkans. The key question from my point of view is whether western Balkans really needs outside advice or not. The other option could be that instead to be the mastermind of Balkan policy the EU and USA should be facilitators for regional initiatives.
Both in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo many local stakeholders see implemented rules illegitimate and foreign-imposed – and they are right. Internationally imposed solutions are not sustainable, to get real progress the inter-ethnic agreements must be made at local level.
Note – Background of this article
This article is my contribution to Restore Trust – Rebuild Bridges Campaign implemented online on 9/11 2009. Campaign is a call for civil society action in favor of dialogue launched by the Anna Lindh Foundation and the UN Alliance of Civilizations. Initiatives are aimed at promoting a culture of coexistence and peace in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Last July a Euromed Bloggers Training on Intercultural dialogue was held in Luxembourg, and the 18 bloggers agreed to launch a one shot online campaign for restoring trust and rebuilding bridges on 9/11 as to counter the hatred discourse generated on this date associated with the assassination of Anna Lindh, the formal minister of foreign affairs of Sweden and with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Author : Ari Rusila