Peace education on location
As a part of the Norwegian Helsinki Committees efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are implementing the project “Peace Education on Location”, in cooperation with the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Srpska. The project is supported by USAID.
Almost twenty years after the Dayton Peace Agreement put an end to four years of war; Bosnia and Herzegovina is still struggling with the aftermath: ethnic tension, denial of war crimes and political stagnation.
In the midst of this, a new generation of young people grow up, living their lives surrounded by sites were severe war crimes took place; not even knowing about it; not learning anything about it at school; basing their understanding of the conflict on rumors and political propaganda; effectively preparing the ground for conflict entrepreneurs who have personal interest in maintaining the current situation.
However; at the same time as reproduction of conflict patterns, hatred, suspicion and fear has the potential for instigating new conflict – we see that the presence of remnants of recent past can be used to promote peace and stability.
At places where the atrocities took place, you will today find a kindergarden, a spa hotel, factories, plaques hailing soldiers from the perpetrators side – or nothing at all. An important part of this project is therefore to reveal what really happened, and to question the presence – or absence of memorials or other object for commemoration.
120 high school students and 60 teachers from Bosnia and Herzegovina will participate in human rights trainings which will address the particular situation in their local communities. They will meet time witnesses, get first-hand information from multiple sources and learn how to obtain- and disseminate information to their peers.
As part of the schools they will be making an exhibition on the topic, multi-media produce and interactive resources. Involving the young people themselves, we will create an education package that will be easy to use by teachers, local community leaders, representatives from centers and networks dealing with the war crime sites, war victims and those working with the aftermath of the conflict.
The package will be constantly revised, and new objects made by the young participants will be included.
As a part of the project “Peace Education on Location”; a delegation from Bosnia and Herzegovina visited Norway 27 - 30 October 2013 to get input for the implementation of the project. The delegation had representatives from civil society organizations, human rights trainers and activists from the projects local communities.
As part of the visit we spent two days at the memorial center Falstad outside of Trondheim, and met with the Holocaust Center and representatives of the White Busses to Auschwitz in Oslo. The aim of the visit was to see examples of how the process of dealing with the past has been dealt with in Norway. At issue were not only how the events from the Second World War are presented, but also the terror and massacre of 22 July 2011.
How do we use memories from the past to teach about human rights; both when it comes to methodology, and how the topic is integrated in the formal education system? And how come that still, almost seventy years after the war ended, dealing with the stories of the collaborators, the treatment of German war prisoners and the Norwegian girls who had love-affairs with German soldiers provokes so much resistance and ambivalence in the public?
All though the participants go back with several concrete ideas on how to proceed with their work, one of the participants rightfully commented: “We do not have seventy years to do this in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.