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

CBD Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 1, December, 2005
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Lessons Learned from the Balkan Conflicts
Centercelebrates tenth anniversary with two-day conference

Jakob Finci, Mirsada Colakovic, and Ambassador Mirza Kusljugic  

What has been learned from military and diplomatic action or inaction in the Balkan wars and genocide and what can work to secure peace, security, and prosperity in the new Iraq and Afghanistan? Distinguished speakers including policy experts and five current and former U.S. Ambassadors addressed these questions at Lessons Learned from the Balkan Conflicts, a conference held by the Center for Balkan Development (CBD) in Boston October 16 & 17, 2004. The conference was attended by nearly 200 people from the US and Europe including policy makers, government officials, scholars, students, media, and human rights activists.

In collaboration with Boston College and the Tufts University-based Dayton Peace Accords Project, the two-day conference examined what the international community learned from the wars in the Balkans and looked forward to viable solutions for reconstruction, reconciliation, and lasting security�both from the perspective of the former Yugoslavia and also as a laboratory for those doing similar work in other parts of the world, specifically Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

�The international community, with the support and cooperation of local efforts, has achieved remarkable success in creating a secure and prosperous future for millions of people in the former Yugoslavia,� said Glenn Ruga, CBD Executive Director. �But there have also been notable failures along the way that can serve as important lessons� both for the future of reconstruction in the Balkans and for other post-conflict and nation-building situations worldwide.�

�Rehabilitating a country of four million people amid an atmosphere of deeply-rooted postwar mistrust is not something that can be accomplished at the drop of a hat � but it is something that can be done...�  
Donald Hays,
Former Principal Deputy
High Representative

Conference speakers explored the effects of the war, peacekeeping, economic and physical reconstruction and reconciliation efforts in the former Yugoslavia nine years after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords. The conference also discussed how the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 changed the focus of the international community from a decade of conflict in the Balkans to ongoing war, peacekeeping, reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq, and recognition that failed states and humanitarian disasters anywhere are a threat to security.

Judith Armata from the Coalition for International Justice and Natasa Kadic from the Humanitarian Law Center, Belgrade.  

Conference Highlights
In his opening remarks, Bruce Hitchner, Chairman of the Dayton Peace Accords Project, said: �It is time for the international community to create more effective mechanisms and institutions and commit the resources necessary to address the emergencies that have become the daily reality of the late 20th and early 21st century world. To do otherwise is to ensure that we will only have more Balkans and more Darfurs to deal with in the years ahead.�

The keynote address was delivered by Ambassador Donald Hays, former Principal Deputy High Representative, Office of the High Representative (OHR), Bosnia. �Rehabilitating a country of four million people amid an atmosphere of deeply-rooted postwar mistrust is not something that can be accomplished at the drop of a hat � but it is something that can be done and it is something that will have direct positive dividends not only for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina but for their neighbors in Europe and for their partners across the Atlantic,� he said.

Other speakers included:

Jakob Finci: President, La Benevolencjia, a Jewish cultural, educational and humanitarian relief group in Sarajevo; Chairman of the Association of Citizens �Truth and Reconciliation.�

Natasa Kandic: Director, Humanitarian Law Center, Belgrade, Serbia.

Sasha Toperic: World-renowned Bosnian pianist and Special Envoy for Culture of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United States

Ambassador Clifford Bond, Former US Ambassador to Bosnia, 2001-2004

Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Former US Ambassador to Austria, directs the Woman and Public Policy program at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard.

Morton Abramowitz, Former Ambassador to Turkey; Former Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research. Mirza Kusljugic, former Bosnian Ambassador to the UN.

The conference included screenings of two films:

Ambassador Donald Hays, former Principal Deputy High Representative, Office of the High Representative, and conference keynote speaker.  

Back to Bosnia, by Sabina Vajraca. This film explores Vajraca�s family, who returns to post-war Bosnia in order to reclaim their stolen property. While there, the family is confronted with the destruction of their city and forced to examine the community they left behind. They seek out the remnants of a city they once called their own.

Crucible of War: A Journey Back to the Balkans, by Leon Gerskovic. In 1999, Gerskovic was watching TV news reports of thousands of refugees fleeing Kosovo and NATO planes bombing Serbia. Gerskovic knew firsthand what was transpiring, as the reports brought back his own memories of the war in his native Croatia only eight years earlier

Additional information on the conference and speakers, see www.balkandevelopment.org/LessonsLearned.

Photography: Bradley Olson (Boston College).