“Building bridges not walls” in Mostar and Novi Pazar

The role of universities in peacebuilding has been dicussed in the Western Balkans as part of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee program “Building bridges not walls – The role of universities in peacebuilding”.

A conference held in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina on December 11, 2012 focused on how universities can contribute to building and promoting peace and intercultural understanding in the region. Damir Masic, Minister of Education of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, opened the conference. Enver Djuliman, head of the department of human rights education in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and director of the program “Build bridges not walls”, gave lectures. A conference was also held on December 14-15 in Novi Pazar, Serbia.

The goal of the program is to challenge educational institutions to play a role in building peace and the erasing of stereotypes in an area marked by political and ethnic tension and where even university curricula are often given an ethnic slant.

Mr Djuliman describes the program so far a success. – It is in its first year, and we are still working to promote and establish its ideals with educational authorities Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo as well as among those directly involved – university leadership, professors and students. The conference was a starting point where we have been debating the potential role of universities. Our goal is a document to recommend to state authorities as basis for a long-term strategy for peacebuilding in the region.

On December 14-16 students from Novi Pazar, Novi Sad and Tuzla gathered in Novi Pazar, Serbia to learn more about the role of universities, students and academics in peacebuilding processes.

The program also arranged an internet ‘Webinar’ on the abuse of history and literature for nationalistic purposes on December 7-9.

As part of the program, NHC has collected and donated 800 books and documentary films which will form part of the new Human Rights and intercultural understanding Corners in the university libraries of Mostar and Novi Pazar. The new library corners, which opened in both universities in December, are the result of an NHC initiative where 26 NGOs from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia have been participating in gathering material.