Conflict resolution in Balkans: correct steps. Role of social democrats in the process

Конфлікт на Балканах

More than two and half decades since conflicts in Balkans started, and 15 years after last one ended, one thing is sure, there is no correct steps in conflict resolution applicable  to all conflicts. We can share experience with each others, from South Africa and Argentina to Balkan countries and these days Ukraine, but we cannot apply same solutions.

Resolving conflict is actually just first steps in something much more important, and that is establishing sustainable peace and facts about what happened. This is especially important if the conflict was marked by human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

So, what would be the role of social democrats? As social democrats in post conflict societies we deal with different problems, and some of those can actually generate new conflicts. If we are talking about conflicts that involved different nations, nationalism is one of those problems. First role of social democrats would be to fight nationalism and extreme right. These two are draining its legitimacy from the conflict and constantly trying to keep conflict alive in some form. 

Nationalism and extreme right will try to generate fear from “the other side”, people who are potentially our neighbors. Without establishing new connections among young people in first place it is lot easier to have this kind of fear. So, the second important role of social democrats is to create new ties. That was the key reason why nine youth branches of social democratic parties from all republics of former Yugoslavia created SD9 network. We understood that we need to cooperate regardless our parties, dominant public opinion, or state policies. No one taught that thing like that would be possible.

In post conflict period it is not unexpected that different sides that took part in it have different versions of stories about what actually happened. Depending out of the type of conflict, there would be different positions about number of victims, crimes committed, even existence of some crimes. Denial will be present. Social democrats in this case need to insist on establishing facts about conflict. Advocating for establishing truth commission in such situations is one of possible actions.

Conflicts ask for political leadership and we need to have in mind that high state and military officials are the ones who are making decisions. Those decisions can be wrong and against international law. In inner conflict those decisions can be violating human rights of citizens as well. It is important to establish responsibility for such things after the conflict. Social democrats should ask for that responsibility as well as for lustration. Those who ordered or took part in human rights violation must be held accountable for it. This means that they cannot hold public office or position any more.

Important thing to remember especially in conflicts that involved different states, nations, religious groups etc. is that we need to deal with our own responsibility before asking other side for theirs. Cleaning our own yard should be priority. For instance, main stream political parties in region of former Yugoslavia are constantly asking for responsibility of the other side, and forgetting about its own. That is not right way.

As social democrats, especially in time of crisis, and post conflict periods we need to keep up to our values. Solidarity, equality, freedom, respect for human rights, things we believe should be the base of any action of policy we advocate for or implement. Our values make a difference in post conflict period. If we have that in mind, and if we keep up the facts, we will make the correct steps and play our role in establishing sustainable peace.

Luka Božović,
Secretary General of Social Democratic Youth, Serbia