This is a continuation of a project that has been initiated by the Youth Center – Brežice in September 2002 in Brežice, Slovenia and intended to confront representatives of youth organizations from former Yugoslavia republics to prejudices emerged in post-conflict region of Southeast Europe.
The project demonstrated the ability of young people to overcome the prejudices inherited from the older generations as well as their ability to communicate on completely new and healthy bases.
The project was organized in Zrenjanin and represented the beginning of a new cooperation and the establishment of a regional network for communication under the name of GROUP X.
The fact that the seminar was to be held in Zrenjanin have been announced at a meeting in Zenica to all activists of NGOs from ex-Yu region who were involved in the activities of the project “Peace Building”. NGO members who formed the two specialized teams (Peace Building Team and Cultural Exchange Team) were invited to participate in continual education on issues of human rights and in further promotion of the project by defining and developing future programs of actions of Group X. A circular e-mail message has been sent to NGOs who have already been engaged in the project presented in Brežice with detailed information, time and location of the venue as well as the content of the seminar.
The method of participant selection was defined by the organizational board of the seminar in Brežice. Same criteria have been applied to organization of the seminar in Zrenjanin. It is also important to notice that the participation was open for all types of activities and all interested NGO activists from local and other communities.
Total number of 24 activists from the region has applied for participation in the seminar.
BALKAN YOUTH UNION and THE EUROPEAN MOVEMENT IN SERBIA conducted the organization of the seminar in Zrenjanin including organization of technical support and human resources recruitment. Representatives of BUM and EMS that have been coordinating all activities were Vladimir Đumić (BUM), Nebojša Pažun (BUM) and Aleksandar Piperski (EPS).
Organizational costs have been born by the Fund for Open Society from Belgrade.
A Multiethnic Society – development of multiethnic community in Vojvodina, Dr Nikola Šlajh, University of Novi Sad
– Dr Šlajh’s lecture was focused on historical aspects of multiethnic community development in Zrenjanin i.e. on socio-economical and cultural specificities of this region that had been developed due to settlement, migration and assimilation of various ethnic minorities. Due to his focus on the historical approach to the issue, the lecture have not demonstrated more detailed insights in existence and functioning of contemporary political, socio-economical and cultural institutions that keep the interethnic tolerance alive.
The Concept of Ethnic Minorities – review of the international law regulations regarding minority rights and possibilities of their implementation, Biljana Stanojević – activist of Anti-war Action Centre and the NGO founder: Office for Legal Documentation
– The lecture was focused on the issue of minority rights. In the introduction part of the lecture Ms. Stanojević addressed the participants and referred to the concept and nature of ethnic minority rights, issues of internationalisation, the gap between a declarative and the actual condition regarding implementation of minority rights. Participants were introduced to the existing local and international regulation i.e. legal documennts on minority rights, realistic conditions for their implementation and discrimination that is very common in the ex-Yu region when it comes to preservation of ethnic minority rights. She brought up some of the basic aspects of collective and individual rights as well as the shortcomings of international legal documents that do not define ethnic minority rights clear enough. The lecture that had been ambitiously announced (the lecturer had announced a discussion and clarification of issues that are commonly used in debates regarding ethnic minorities: “discrimination”, “antidiscrimination”, “prejudice”, “migrations”, “assimilation”, “manipulation with ethnic minorities”, “right of choice”, “hate speech”) developed into a very dynamic debate among participants provoked by an exclusive, unfounded and controversial attitude of Mrs Stanojević. Interpretation of a personal opinion and attitude with openly expressed intolerance and rejection of dissent had provoked strong reactions in the majority of participants. Without denying the professional competence of Mrs Stanojevic, most participants agreed with the negative assessment of this lecturer related to her ability to participate in the dialogue. Also, they all agreed that in terms of experience and knowledge it would be useful to hear some different attitudes and opinions.
State of Law and Lustration, Prof. Jovica Trkulja, University of Belgrade
– The lecture of Prof. Trkulja demonstrated a theoretical approach to definition of terms “state of law” and “rule of law”, evaluation of the state of law concept from its origins to the modern interpretation including different forms of abusing the term throughout history. The lecturer pointed out the formalization of the state of law that induced the interpretation completely opposite from the initial concept. He brought up and explained the difference between terms “state of law” and “rule of law” in theory. Explaining the term of lustration, the lecturer pointed out its ethic, political and normative aspect as well as interpretation of lustration in most of ex-YU republics. The discussion included experiences from neighboring countries (mainly countries in transition process) with the interpretation of lustration.
A Right to a Conscientious Objection, Žarko Petrović, Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights – YUKOM
– The lecture of Mr. Petrović was focused on basic specificities of right to conscientious objection as one of the basic human rights, philosophical aspects of conscientious objection and legal documents that this right is regulated by. The lecturer pointed out the very common issue of discrimination of the person who refers to the conscientious objection. He showed a parallel view of legal regulation of military obligation in all the neighboring ex-YU countries, where the right to a conscientious objection exists to a greater or lesser extent, as well as the discrimination of the person who refers to it and chooses a civil conscription instead of military service. The lecture was considered very interesting and educative by participants.
Presentation of the Group X Project
At the end of the afternoon session of the first day of the seminar the Group X Project was shortly presented and results of previous seminars in Brežice and Zenica were evaluated. Participants were introduced to the initial ideas of seminar in Zrenjanin, the main topics (human rights and freedom), seminar program and subsequent changes in the program. The participants exchanged remarks and suggestions and defined basic concepts of work and cooperation regarding the planned activities. The meeting and the presentation was coordinated by Sandra Benčic (Centre for Peace Studies).
Prejudice as a source of human rights violations, Sandra Bencic, Centre for Peace Studies (Workshop)
– A creatively developed workshop and active participation of all attendees stimulated the thinking of prejudice as a cause of human rights violation. Participants were introduced to a concept of prejudice and stereotype. An exceptionally designed game of associations provoked expression of personal prejudice of all participants and encouraged a review of personal attitudes. The workshop also led to development of discussion about discrimination as a consequence of prejudices, through which the participants pointed out some specificities related to the issue of respecting of human rights and their regulation as well as the issue of local and international regulation of this topic.
Ability of Empathy, Aleksandra Pinterič, Youth Centre (workshop)
– A thoroughly designed and very creative game of role play provoked the ability of empathy, encouraged creative thinking and discussion regarding the issue of personal sensibility in relations with other people and their rights.
National and Personal Safety, Sandra Benčić, Centre for Peace Studies, Zagreb
“Feedback” Round Table
– A round table was held at the end of the educational part of the seminar. Although it had not been envisaged by the program, all participants have gathered at the initiative of Sandra Benčić in order to summarize their impressions and evaluate topics, lecturers and organisation of the seminar. The most of the remarks have been made about the method of presentation of some lecturers which was evaluated as too passive. Remarks were also made about a highly-specialised presentation of some concepts, which should have been predicted taking into account different professional background of participants.