Around 90 university professors, students, representatives of authorities and representatives of civil society attended the conference. The aim of the conference was to let participants from different parts of society discuss ideas on how universities can play a more important role in peacebuilding. The interplay between universities, civil society and local communities was also an item for discussion, and how universities can contribute to in the development of locally. At the end of the conference, the participants adopted the Sarajevo Declaration on the Role of Higher Education and Civil Society in Education for Peace.
The conference is a part of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s project Build Bridges not Walls – The Role of universities in Peacebuilding, that has been going on for 2,5 years together with non-governmental sector in the region and in cooperation with the universities in Mostar, Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Novi Sad and Novi Pazar (Serbia) and Pristhina (Kosovo). The project is led by NHC’s Enver Djuliman.
We have wanted to use the experience from cilvil society to develop curricula that can be used by University education. Our curriculum has already been taught to law students at a private University with excellent results, but in order to reach further it will require continued efforts at each of the Universities. Thanks to the project, work can start from a higher level. Now there are lectures, text-book articles, tested curricula, resource-persons within Universities and a cadre of trained students to build on.
Excerpts from The Declaration:
Higher education institutions in the region are encouraged to:
– Determine Education for Peace and Civic Mission as the mainstay of academic profession and to undertake actions needed to integrate it into academic work. Thus, the market oriented approach of the higher education institutions must not be to the detriment of education for peace and their civic mission.
– Provide education and knowledge that is depoliticised, de-ideologised, and de-ethnicised, and the culture of reflection and engagement of both teachers and students at their university.
We invite higher education institutions and civil society sector to:
– Take responsibility and actively participate in democratic processes in order to develop citizenry at local, national and global level, to contribute to the social transformation, the building of trust, transitional justice, and reconciliation.
– Build institutional frameworks to support students, teachers, and the non-governmental sector to encourage, recognise and value good examples of cooperation between civil society and higher education institutions.
The conference was moderated by Mr. Bjorn Engesland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Assistant Prof. Amela Lukač-Zoranić, Rector for Academic Affairs of the International University of Novi Pazar and academic project coordinator.
The conference was opened by Mr. Damir Mašić, the FBiH Minister for Education and Science, prof. dr. Ugo Vlaisavljević, the Vice Rector for International Cooperation of the University of Sarajevo, and Ms. Mariam Naqvi, Deputy Head of Mission of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The project has received considerable attention in the press in Bosnia.