Open Hope For Recovery In The Western Balkans

The Youth Summit took place in the second half of October in Sarajevo. This year the Summit assembled in Sarajevo 150 social and political activists and fighters for Human Rights from the Western Balkans, the EU, and post-conflict states across the globe to disscus ways and means of continuing the fight for a global society.

“I am happy that I am here in Sarajevo, the heart of the Balkans and therefore a place that merits our respect. From here we start with the process of reconstruction,” noted Goran Svilanović of the Regional Council for Cooperation (Bosnia and Herzegovina).


There were three different panels:

1. Bosnia and Herzegovina – What Next?: This panel aimed at highlighting the problems that young people in the Western Balkans are facing twenty years after the Dayton Agreement.

2. Regional Youth Exchange Program: This panel emphasized the role of exchange programs for young people in the post-conflict regions and their importance in inspiring the reconciliation process.

3. Global Experience: This panel aimed to define civic activism in the 21st century. It compared citizens’ participation in the political sphere in the period before social networks with the current situation, a time when a great number of people have the feeling of contributing to the political process through the Internet.

Besides the main agenda items, the Summit was opened with three diverse and widely-followed problematics: Women’s Perspective on Activism, Freedom of Movement between Kosovo and B&H, and the Refugee Crisis.

All three were considered to be of great importance. However, Freedom of Movement between Kosovo and B&H generated the greatest interest among the participants since it is a topic that is not frequently discussed, and was therefore not familiar to many participants. Twenty-seven Kosovars, activists who have managed to enter Bosnia and Herzegovina, shared their stories of “torture” as they passed through the process of getting visas for B&H and the problems they faced as they arrived at the border, where Serbian officials didn’t let them leave Serbia with Kosovar documents. It was shocking to learn that B&H put them in that kind of humiliating position. It was said that even persons from Afghanistan can enter B&H more easily than citizens of Kosovo.

Observing a situation where Human Rights were violated, Alma Masic, director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in B&H, said: ”We will be persistent in demanding that governments engage in positive regional cooperation to solve this question, not as a political one, but as a question of basic human rights, freedom of movement.”

Even though the Summit covered international topics and was held at an international level, this Summit was of particular importance for the Balkan, ex-Yugoslavia region. Because these socieites have experienced twenty years of horrors and atrocities, twenty years that included the Srebrenica genocide, these societies have a particular need for events of this kind – assemblies where young people become conscious of their past so the region can go forward.

The words of Anita Mitić, YIHR (Serbia) made this more than clear: “Six years ago, when I was eighteen, I didn’t know that Sarajevo had been under occupation for four years; I didn’t know that around 11 000 people had been killed.”

This tell us a lot about active and agressive ignorance in this region, a place where history plays the most important role. As there is no instruction on how to use history, it is hard to manage subsequent behaviour. These problematics are the ones on which young activists have focused during the last two Summits, too; at the Belgrade Summit 2009 and the Pristina Summit 2012. At those occasions they assembled 400 participants from around the world – young political leaders and civil society activists from the Western Balkans, Eurasia and the EU, representatives of institutions, member states and the Presidency of the EU, USA officials, as well as human rights activists from around the world. The Summits aimed at establishing lasting dialogue and cooperation among young human rights activists and civil society representatives in the Western Balkan countries, as well as sustained communication between young, future leaders from this region and European Union officials. Young future leaders from the Western Balkans presented at the Summits key challenges in their respective countries and ideas for solving them. In a global context, the Summits provided a forum for information exchange respecting the work of young activists in post-conflict societies, societies in transition and those in which democracy is under threat, with a view to establishing sustainable dialogue and a global activist network – a global youth initiative for human rights.

Also there is the great example of France and Germany, two nations whose representatives sat at the same table and decided to make one, consistent history text book, to teach young people what really happened in the historical past that France and Germany share.

One of the most impressive panels was Activists in Danger – YOUTH HEROES, where activists from Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Colombia, and BH shared their stories and showed that it is worth fighting for our societies. Because without activists, and people who believe in a better tomorrow, the world would be sentenced to perennially dark ages. I believe that five hundred years of Dark Ages were more than enough, leaving a legacy of stagnation of the human mind. Therefore it is something that should not be allowed to happen again.

Addressing the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Serbia’s representatives stated that six years ago, a group of people who were leading participants, came out with a request to organize a Regional Exchange Program, which would help young people to build networks for the post-war period. Until now that was impossible, but this August, after meeting in Vienna, the prime ministers of the Western Balkans signed a declaration establishing a Regional Office for Cooperation.

This brings us to a total of three declarations: the Belgrade Declaration 2009, the Pristina Declaration 2012, and the Sarajevo declaration in the current year.

Some of the Sarajevo Youth Summit Declaration’s points are:

1. To take concrete steps to establish the Regional Office for Western Balkan youth cooperation and to create a new foundation for reconciliation between our peoples. The first step has to be the inclusion of Croatia as an equal partner in the process.

2. To support the RECOM initiative fully and, twenty years after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, sixteen years after the war in Kosovo, and fourteen years after the conflict in Macedonia, express respect for all the victims of the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

3. To cope immediately with the problems of freedom of movement, especially between Kosovo and Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

4. To focus on the resolution of all outstanding issues holding back the progress of our region, especially the issues of Bosnia and Herzegovina and relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

5. To focus attention on the adoption and full implementation of laws that guarantee the rights of all minority groups, in all countries of the region.

6. To encourage youth activism, and provide opportunities for the new generation to get involved in the reform process and to assume leadership roles in the future of the region.

7. To provide solidarity and to offer a solution in the coordination of the region in the context of the current humanitarian crisis that confronts the refugees currently passing through the region.

We are present and we are the future. This is youth’s mission. Because if we don’t engage actively in today’s politics or if we fail to support them, the future won’t seem bright.

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