More than 20 years after the Dayton Peace Accords, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still challenged by ethnic tensions. But NED partners are using innovative methods to bridge ethnic divides, promote reconciliation, and encourage civic activism among youth.
A leading example of this work is the Post-Conflict Research Center, a local nonprofit organization “dedicated to restoring a culture of peace.” The Center’s “Ordinary Heroes” project brings citizens together to gather and record stories of rescues during conflict undertaken at great personal risk. The Center produces documentaries which depict the real-life stories of Bosnian citizens who, by choosing to rescue the ‘other,’ became heroes in a time when some in their country were committing acts of genocide. Each 30-minute episode documents the stories of rescuers and those they saved. The series provides insight into the impact of rescuer behavior on the processes of reconciliation, peacebuilding, and intercultural understanding.
The Center is also helping young people to learn from this older generation of heroes. Through a training and mentorship program, young people develop their skills as multimedia content producers so they can directly contribute to the dialogue on transitional justice. The young storytellers produce pieces about individuals who are currently involved in transitional justice, peacebuilding, or interethnic cooperation initiatives in their communities; stories about rescuers who risked their lives to help members of another ethnic group during the war; and stories about a person who exemplifies moral courage today, either by helping members of another ethnic group or by standing up for the rights of minorities.
Over the past five years, Center’s activities have reached thousands of Bosnian youth. Over 100,000 readers have viewed the storytelling pieces following their publication on a multimedia platform. This year, five participants, along with 160 other young people throughout BiH, created multimedia campaigns to counter violent extremism. The campaigns – which included stories about religious and ethnic diversity, post-conflict reconstruction, and war veterans’ peacebuilding initiatives – reached an audience of over 180,000 citizens.
The Center’s innovative use of documentaries and story-telling has been recognized internationally. Its “Ordinary Heroes” project won 1st place in the Intercultural Innovation Award competition organized by United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the BMW Group. The project was also a finalist for the Diversity Advantage Challenge Award given by the Council of Europe. The program’s quality is also evident through the republication of its work by major international organizations like Global Voices, Index on Censorship, Warscapes, and Insight on Conflict, and its partnerships with five regional journalists’ associations.
The Center’s innovative use of story-telling has been recognized internationally. Its “Ordinary Heroes” project won 1st place in the Intercultural Innovation Award competition organized by UN Alliance of Civilizations and the BMW Group. The project was also a finalist for the Diversity Advantage Challenge Award given by the Council of Europe.
The National Endowment for Democracy is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, NED makes more than 1,600 grants to non-governmental initiatives – like the Post-Conflict Research Center – that promote free societies and democratic participation.