08 Feb 2019 by Ludwig Boltzmann

Conference: retro- / intro- / per-SPECTION 2014-2018-2022 – Activism and social engagement in the Western Balkans

The past years have seen both, old and new challenges for human rights in the Western Balkan region. The rise of politicians who are focussing on polarizing and radicalizing social and political views, thus putting consensus, community ties and social justice in jeopardy, have led to an increase of civic protest movements in different countries of the region.

After four years of excellent cooperation with informal civic movements and grassroots initiatives in Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (BIM) decided to hold the regional conference “retro- / intro- / perSPECTION 2014-2018-2022 – Activism and social engagement in the Western Balkans” from 6th to 8th February 2019 in Sarajevo. The BIM invited experts, activists, intellectuals and representatives of the civil society from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the whole Western Balkan region as well as the EU, aiming at reflecting on past experience and perspectives for the future as well as creating a platform for regional networking.

The initiative to support informal civic groups and grass-root movements in Bosnia and Herzegovina began with the conference “Civil Society as a Factor for Change in BiH” held in 2014 in Vienna. Since 2015, several follow-up activities have taken place in order to provide continuous support to informal civic groups, the plena and grass-root movements, from all over the country. The BIM acted as bridge and coordinator between the informal civic groups and international project partners. The main priority of this initiative was to strengthen the citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina to become proactive agents of change, to support civil society in a sustainable way, to guarantee better access to human rights and to foster democracy and the rule of law.

Formally concluding the initiative, the Sarajevo regional conference was opened by H.E. Ulrike Hartmann, Austrian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The BIM was represented by Susanne Fraczek (Head of Department for European Neighbourhood and Integration Policy) and Nina Radović (Coordinator of the Initiative to support informal and grass-root movements in Bosnia and Herzegovina). Vedran Džihić, Scientific Researcher at the Austrian Institute for International Politics (OIIP) and project expert during the four-year initiative, set the frame for and moderated the inputs and reflection rounds.

On the evening of 7th February, a public panel discussion titled “Towards an active utopia? Protest movements and activism in SEE” complemented the conference programme. Co- organised by the BIM and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Dialogue Southeast Europe, the event gave the opportunity to widely discuss new forms of civic engagement in the region. The panellists were Igor Štiks (University of Belgrade), Aleksandar Trifunović (BUKA, Banja Luka), Lura Pollozhani (University of Prishtina), Blazhen Maleski (Think Tank Reactor – Research in Action, Macedonia), Besjan Pesha (Hashtag Initiative Albania), and Larisa Šuša (Movement of the Citizens of Graćanića, PGG).

The complete conference agenda and the final report on the conference can be accessed in the download section of this article.

Further information on the 2015-2018 activities under the initiative to support informal civic groups and grass-root movements in Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found here.

The BIM would like to express its gratitude to the Erste Stiftung, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Dialogue Southeast Europe and Austrian Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina for their financial support in organising the conference.

a. Nina Radović (BIM), Ambassador Ulrike Hartmann, Vedran Džihić (OIIP) & Susanne Fraczek (BIM) © Dajana Bjelovuk
b. Plenary session © Dajana Bjelovuk
c. Discussion in agora format © Dajana Bjelovuk
d. Discussion in agora format © Dajana Bjelovuk