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Center for Balkan Development
Tel: 978-461-0909
Fax: 978-461-2552
[email protected]

FOB Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 1, December, 2003

Women Waging Peace
FOB Leads Balkan Roundtable Discussion

Glenn Ruga, Ike Williams, and Vjosa Dobruna at the Balkan roundtable during the Women Waging Peace Policy Day in Cambridge.  

On Friday, November 7, 2003, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group of experts on the Balkans —including representatives from the United Nations, the United States, nongovernmental organizations, journalists, and foundations — gathered for a roundtable discussion at the Women Waging Peace Policy Day. Glenn Ruga, FOB’s director, facilitated the discussion.

Women Waging Peace (www.womenwaging peace.net) is a nonprofit organization promoting innovative and inclusive approaches to social change at local, national, and global levels. Its Annual Policy Day, the culmination of the annual Women Waging Peace colloquium, brings together participants in small roundtable discussions on a wide range of issues. Among those participating in the Balkans roundtable were Vjosa Dobruna, former minister of democratization and former head of the Department for Democratic Governance and Civil Society in Kosovo with the United Nations Joint
Interim Administrative Structure; Edmund Beard, dean of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Nerissa J. Cook, director of the Office of Policy and Global Issues in the US Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs; and Slavica Indzevksa-Stojanovic, deputy executive director for joint programs of the Open Society Institute in Skopje, Macedonia.

The discussion covered much ground, but the participants agreed on several points, one of the most important being that the region must embrace the concept of “Unity in Diversity,” as articulated by well-known Bosnian philosopher Rusmir Mahmutcehajic. Unfortunately, several barriers to this unity remain, including the realities that people in the Balkans continue to be locked in history, traditional roles, and hatred; and that distrust on all levels — among different ethnic groups and between citizens groups and the government, as well as distrust in the pillars of power — remains widespread.

Participants noted that one necessary step in addressing these problems is to provide a forum for discussion of the difficult and tragic periods in the region’s history, rather than avoiding them and acting as if they never happened. An honest, open, and equitable process for rebuilding civil society is imperative. Hopeful signs include growing cross-border cooperation, particularly among women’s groups, and the establishment of a Center for Women Leadership in Pristina, Kosovo.

Ultimately, the participants agreed, if one takes the long view, there is always hope. Progress is being made, and enough people care about and are engaged in creating change and waging peace that eventually —and maybe sooner rather than later — it will happen.