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Liquid Reconciliation: Global Perspectives, Glocal Realities

Global Campus of Human Rights International Conference 2017

4–6 April Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The conference ''Liquid Reconciliation: Global Perspectives, Glocal Realities'', focusing on the nexus between human rights protection and the perspective of reconciliation in deeply divided societies, was held in Sarajevo from the 4th to the 6th of April 2017. The event was jointly coordinated by the University of Sarajevo, with the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and the University of Bologna, with the Institute for Central Eastern and Balkan Europe. It was organized within the unique framework of the ''Global Campus of Regional Masters in Human Rights and Democratization'' and the European Regional Master's Programme in Democracy and Human Rights in South-East Europe (ERMA) . The Global Campus conference constituted one of the most important international events during the academic year in Sarajevo, and was attended by the rector of Sarajevo University, European Commission delegates, representatives of local and foreign governments, members of the Global Campus’ partner universities, as well as by some of the most prominent experts and intellectuals in the fields of regional studies and human rights. The conference was realized under the auspices of the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony was held on the 4th of April 2017 in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a total of 130 participants including academics, experts, representatives of major international and regional organizations, students, alumni, and other stakeholders. The conference was opened by the organizer and ERMA coordinator, Adriano Remiddi (University of Bologna, Italy), who presented the programme of the upcoming three days, introduced the Global Campus and its partner institutions, and shared some experiences from the previous edition of the Global Campus Conference organized by LATMA (Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Latin America and the Caribbean).
Subsequently, Stefano Bianchini, ERMA Co-director (University of Bologna, Italy), the conference convener and chair of the opening session, examined the theme of the symposium, "liquid reconciliation", inspired by the famous sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. This is a somewhat new term that expresses the fluidity of the reconciliation process, as a common characteristic of a great number of states, particularly those which are the subject of interest of the Global Campus of Human Rights, jointly supported by the European Commission and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The reference to the term "liquidity" is of crucial importance for emphasizing a transitional process, in which the previous social and cultural links melt due to a variety of factors - in the relevant contexts, because of violence in particular.
He furthermore emphasized that the process of dissolution of the old solid forms had not yet led to the establishment of new ones, leaving the respect of human rights, the perspective of macroregional integration, individual and political communications, as well as the construction of a peaceful shared future vague and undetermined. Liquidity, therefore, suggests that the past is gone, but future tracks have yet to be delineated. Reconciliation, as the key lever for new solid forms of relationships and cooperation, trust and good neighborly relations, remains affected by this uncertainty, where a variety of global and glocal factors interact, often in mutual conflict. Liquidity is therefore a process that could open new opportunities for building peace, but also be a vehicle of new tensions.
The introductory speech by Stefano Bianchini was followed by an institutional opening note by Predrag Jović, Deputy-Minister for Human Rights and Refugees (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Deputy-Minister Jović expressed gratitude to the organizers and the Global Campus of Human Rights, stressing the importance of the topic for the society of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the SEE region, in particular the role of the young generations burdened with the legacies of past atrocities, as the main challenge to deal with. In this process, he also acknowledged the particularly important role of public officials, who are rightly expected to base their political activities on building and preserving peace. On the other hand, he noted the great potential in the academic community that should act as a link for strengthening cooperation between all levels of government with civil society, in order to change the social consciousness in the direction of mutual understanding, inter-ethnic trust, and diminishing ethnic-based difference and prejudice toward others. Finally, he expressed his support for future events of the sort, identifying them as a valuable contribution to building a healthier society and brighter future, which could help tackle reconciliation in a more serious and reasonable manner.
After the note by Deputy-Minister Jović, the opening ceremony continued with three welcoming addresses. Rifat Škrijelj, Rector of the University of Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) spoke on behalf of his institution emphasizing the importance of its participation in the Global Campus and the impact of generations of graduates on the local and regional context. The Rector also stressed the relevance of the topic at the heart of the conference as absolutely crucial for democratic development, both in South-East Europe and worldwide.
The second address was held by a representative of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jan Snaidauf, Head of the Political Section. Mr. Snaidauf looked upon the 20-year-long positive experience regarding the cooperation with the master programmes in human rights and democratization, recognizing that the participating institutions are united by the values and standards of human rights, which the EU also considers its own, while at the same time keeping their regional specificities and relevance when it comes to local/regional issues. He pointed out that the goal of the EU, while ambitious, is achievable with the help of well-educated human rights advocates in all the partner countries, be it in governments, CSOs or the private sector. He reiterated the relevance of the topic for Bosnia and Herzegovina and expressed his concerns regarding the latest developments of divisive rhetoric creating tensions and ethno-nationalist politicking. He concluded that this was where the importance of the Global Campus lies: to have well-informed youth and strong advocates of human rights in the region, as potential leaders who would try to resolve the challenges of reconciliation.
The last welcome speech was held by H.E. Nicola Minasi, the Ambassador of the Republic of Italy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. H.E. Minasi focused on the ongoing difficulties Bosnia-Herzegovina is facing in the process of reconciliation and the importance of the international cooperation in this sector. In this regard, he expressed his appreciation for the Global Campus endeavor and the service performed by the ERMA programme, implemented also thanks to the commitment of the Italian government, who has believed in this project from its very beginning and continues to support it.
Nataša Kandić, founder of the Humanitarian Law Center Belgrade (Serbia), addressed the audience with a speech entitled “The post-Trump global context: is liquid reconciliation possible?” on the achievements and limitations of the Rights to Truth in the South-East European region. Given her first-hand experience in the field spanning 25 years, Ms. Kandić, as a human rights advocate and avid proponent of the reconciliation process in the Balkans, was particularly equipped to contextualize the current challenges in an increasingly uncertain global context, characterized by divisive, incendiary rhetoric.
The first keynote speech was followed by the address of Manfred Nowak, Secretary General of the EIUC - European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (Italy). In his speech entitled “Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Post-Conflict Societies”, Manfred Nowak focused on the relationship of the three concepts, and examined the modalities in which justice can be reached. These encompass justice commissions and/or reparations as the second step in the reconciliation process which is multidimensional and depends on the willingness of different actors to forgive.
Visit to the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina After the opening ceremony, the guests and participants were invited to a special guided visit to the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, led by Ines Tanović-Sijerčić, ERMA alumna and member of the civic action Ja sam Muzej/I am the Museum. The visit shed a light on the story of civic courage and engagement which eventually led to the National Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina being re-opened to the public after three years. The background story is rather indicative of the negative trends in the country, but also of the immense potential of civic action. Due to a lack of funding caused by an enduring legal vacuum (caused by the inability of the various relevant administrative levels to agree upon the issue), the National Museum, home to a priceless collection of artifacts, closed its doors to the public in 2012. Despite that, its employees had been volunteering for three years to take care of its heritage. Their dedication, mostly invisible to the general public, was recognized by the civic initiative I am the Museum, which managed to generate support for the workers’ plight and generate public pressure, which led to the museum re-opening in 2015.


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