PAX has been active in the Western Balkans since the mid-1980’s, when peace and human rights activists from Yugoslavia reached out with alarming reports about the rise of ethnic nationalism. Even though the wars of the 90s now lie more than 20 years behind us, in most countries the dominant ethno-nationalist narratives of the parties in power have not fundamentally changed.
Nowadays we are still witnessing disturbing trends, including processes of state capture, glorification of war criminals, shrinking public space, lack of independence of judiciary, a very polarized media sector, segregation through the school systems, widespread corruption, and an ongoing brain-drain. There are no quick fixes for the Western Balkans, the region is in need of a sustained commitment to support citizens and civil society, who work for change from within, inspired by the European and universal values of human dignity, human rights, democracy and solidarity.
From 1998-1999 an armed conflict was fought between the Serb army and the Kosovo Liberation Army. Kosovo then came under UN administration but declared independence in 2008, which is disputed by Serbia. In the absence of a peace agreement and non-recognition of Serbia, there are many outstanding issues between the Serb and Kosovo governments. This impacts the relations between the different ethnic communities in Kosovo. The EU-led Dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo got a push in 2020, but citizens on both sides feel left out of this process. PAX advocates for the role of the EU as a peacemaker, which needs to include transparency and citizens’ involvement in these talks.
The divided city of Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, PAX supports the efforts of local civil society to improve relations between population groups and encourage responsible and good governance at the local level.
PAX and partners also work on strengthening citizens’ voices in the national debate on transitional justice. After the violent war in Kosovo, several initiatives have been undertaken to deal with the wartime past. However, these have been fragmented and mostly unsuccessful to have a positive societal impact. This fragmented nature and disappointment with previous transitional justice efforts have contributed to massive distrust within society. PAX also supports partners with their work on Dealing with the Past.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (Srebrenica)
PAX supports the survivors of the Srebrenica massacre and the next of kin of those who perished. It supports their campaigns for truth and justice, and organizes commemorations and stimulates dialogue between Dutch battalion members and Srebrenica widows, to increase feelings of recognition, foster mutual understanding and to help to deal with traumas on all sides. The Potocari Memorial Center is an important partner in all this work.
During the last few years, PAX has more and more focused on inclusive memorialization and shared narratives in the Western Balkans. Inclusive Memory Initiatives are increasingly important for the Western Balkans, as they directly challenge the dominant ethno-nationalist narratives that the political elites continue to support.
PAX works with local civil society to bring citizens together to address challenges of common interest such as poor governance, a weak rule of law and the unresolved legacy of violent conflict.
PAX supports the survivors of the Srebrenica massacre and the next of kin of those who perished. It supports their campaigns for truth and justice, joins in the annual commemoration in Srebrenica and supports were useful dialogue between former Dutch battalion members and Srebrenica survivors and widows, to increase feelings of recognition, foster mutual understanding and to help to deal with traumas on all sides. The Srebrenica Memorial Center is an important partner in all this work.
During the last few years PAX has focused on memorialization and shared narratives in the Western Balkans (Kosovo, Serbia, BiH and Croatia). Inclusive Memory Initiatives are increasingly important for the Western Balkans, as they directly challenge the dominant ethno-nationalist narratives that the political elites continue to promote.