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Beyond Conflict (Archive)

CROATIA – post conflict community building forums

In post-war Croatia, the country has been faced with complex issues of return and reconciliation among Serbs, Croats, Muslims and other ethnic groups. The task of rebuilding the country, reconciliation and working through issues of justice and accountability are complicated and compounded by massive economic problems and personal and collective loss and trauma from the war.

The project, ‘Building Sustainable Community in the Aftermath of the War’, organized by Udruga Mi, (a non -governmental organization based in Split), and supported by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR, was for people working in the field with post-conflict issues and community building. The project involved four-day forums held two times a year, facilitated by Arlene Audergon and Lane Arye, and follow up contact in the field by Udruga Mi as well as a journal, written by participants. Audergon and Arye first went to Croatia, to Osijek in 1996.

A diverse group of key people who deal with issues of refugees, returnees and displaced people, gathered to work among themselves on the kinds of tensions and problems they were meeting in the field.

The premise of the forums is that although the group is committed to rebuilding community, the tensions and problems in the country are mirrored in the group, due to diversity of their war-related experiences. The group made up of Serbs, Croats and Muslims have the opportunity to work deeply on the issues together.

The feedback for these forums has been very strong. Participants state that forums impacted their work. Many have felt the forums to be transformative for their lives and work in the region and in regaining a belief in humanity that they had no longer felt possible. We often heard people ask “What might have happened if these forums had happened before the war?
The Forums

1996 Osijek, ‘ Reconciliation and Community Building’

Four day Seminar/Forum  made up of diverse participants working with reconciliation and return in Croatia and Bosnia, dealing with charged war-related situations. Organized and funded by IRC, International Rescue Committee, facilitated by Drs. Arlene Audergon and Lane Arye

1997 Split, ‘Social Turbulence, Minority Issues’ project,

designed and implemented by Udruga Mi, in collaboration with different NGOs from war-affected areas, Arlene Audergon and Lane Arye and the Global Process Institute (GPI). The Open Society Institute (OSI) was a partner with Udruga Mi, offering financial support of the project. Facilitated by Drs. Arlene Audergon and Lane Arye

1998-2002, Ethnic reconciliation project ‘Building Sustainable Community in the Aftermath of the War’

Designed and implemented by Udruga Mi, in collaboration with Arlene Audergon and Lane Arye. Project has been implemented with the support of United Nations High Commission for Refugees UNHCR, Office of Transition Initiatives OTI, USAID, The Threshold Foundation, and OSCE. There was also support from Embassies. Forums and training among a diverse group of Serbs, Croats, Muslims and people of other ethnic groups, dealing with complex issues of return and reconciliation among refugees, returnees and displaced people, in a country- wide project covering all areas affected by the war in Croatia. Project also fostered communication between governmental and non-governmental organizations. The project included large conflict resolution forums, regional meetings, a journal, and intensive training sessions for a selected group of facilitators. The project reached approximately 300 hundred professionals and paraprofessionals from more than 35 NGOs, (both local and international), 12 regional Red Cross branches, 27 governmental organizations, and representatives of 6 local governments. Facilitated by Drs. Arlene Audergon and Lane Arye

Forums took place in the following towns in Croatia

  • 1996 Osijek
  • 1997 Split
  • 1998 Split
  • 1998 Stupicke Toplice
  • 1999 Trogir
  • 1999 Topusko
  • 2000 Brac
  • 2000 Dubrovnik
  • 2001 Supetar
  • 2001 Nasice

October 8, 2001 Vukovar, Croatia

participants gathered representing NGOs and community projects in Vukovar dealing with post-war issues and community building. Cooperatively organized by Udruga Mi and Vukovar Institute for Peace Research and Education, VIMIO. The forum was held at VIMIO and facilitated by Drs. Arlene Audergon and Lane Arye. Intense forum discussion revealed the state of actual ‘apartheid’ still operating in the region in aftermath of atrocities and trauma. The forum led to insight about what was needed to support sub-community work, and to make it possible for groups to meet together. Participants and organizers asked to continue this work. Follow up is needed.

November 3-6 2006, Split,

Udruga MI and UNHCR created a new project to work with all regions in Croatia that were hit the hardest during the war and were continuing to experience great obstacles in rebuilding community. The three day forum was a part of a project that also included supporting people to develop specific projects within their home regions. The forum participants included people from NGOs, Governmental Organizations and International Organziations working in these regions. Intensive discussions included working relationships between NGOs and Governmental Organizations; how to move from the past to the future in view of community trauma and the need for accountability and closure; and relationships between ethnic, national groups. Forum facilitated by Arlene Audergon, Lane Arye and Jean-Claude Audergon.