Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2019 awarded to YIHR!

The Regional Network of Youth Initiative for Human Rights has the great honor to announce that we have received the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize for our work on peacebuilding and reconciliation in the Balkans. The prize was presented at a special on 30th September at the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg, on the opening day of the autumn plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

This honor is even greater considering that we were awarded and nominated alongside two exceptional and important human rights defenders – Ilham Tohti, a prominent advocate of Uyghur rights in China, and co-founder of the website Uyghur Online, which aimed to promote understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese; and Buzurgmehr Yorov, a Tajik human rights lawyer, who has represented and defended many political prisoners in Tajikistan, and for which he had suffered severe state oppression.

The Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize is a prestigious prize awarded to individuals and non-governmental organizations  for outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights in Europe and beyond. It is of immense importance to us that the values of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights have been recognized as crucial for a democratic Balkans, but also, for the strengthening of democracy in Europe.

The Prize is awarded in memory of Václav Havel, playwright, opponent of totalitarianism, architect of the Velvet Revolution of 1989, President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic and an enduring symbol of opposition to despotism. The first-ever Václav Havel Prize for Human Rights was awarded in 2013 to Ales Bialiatski (Belarus), followed by Anar Mammadli (Azerbaijan) in 2014, Ludmilla Alexeeva (Russian Federation) in 2015, Nadia Murad (Iraq) in 2016, and Murat Arslan (Turkey) in 2017 and Oyub Titiev in 2018 (Russian Federation).

As Ivan Đurić, who accepted the prize on behalf of Regional Network of  Youth Initiative for Human Rights offices, stated in his speech:

The future we hope for and work towards is one where opinions of others will not be formed through prejudice and lies, but through personal, authentic experiences and knowledge. We want to make it possible, normal, natural for young people to meet, travel, work together, create, make exchanges and fall in love across the countries in the Balkans; just as they do across Europe.”

With this prize, this is something the Youth Initiative for Human Rights will strive to achieve – we will continue to create opportunities for regional exchanges and dialogue through strengthening our regional network as the main platform for youth reconciliation processes in the Balkans. We will continue to build peace and fight any attempts at renewed warfare and hatred.

In this moment in history, when state actors and nationalist rhetoric threatens to destroy our peace, we are immensely grateful that our work is recognized as important and necessary for a peaceful, European Balkans.

We thank those who have supported us and nominated us for this award.

We dedicate this award to the hundreds of Youth Initiative for Human Rights’ present and former activists, volunteers, exchange participants and leaders.


Working together to inform about progress in combatting youth unemployment

The official launch of the Youth Employment Magazine is announced on the UN International Day of Friendship. Nearly 200 institutions from 26 European countries implementing projects financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway unite to share results of their initiatives aimed at combating youth unemployment in Europe.

Launched on July 30, the Youth Employment Magazine (https://youthemploymentmag.net/) will function as a content resource for all projects implemented under the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment. Its editorial team consists of experts implementing the projects themselves, who are regularly developing materials about the progress and results of each project. The platform is established by the Fund Operator,a consortium of JCP Italy and Ecorys Polska.

The burning question for Europe

According to recent data shown in the Eurostat database1, approximately 15 million young people aged 20-34 were neither in employment, nor in education and training (NEET) in the EU-28 in 2018. In Italy and Greece, with the highest youth unemployment rate, more than a quarter of young people were out of the labour market. To promote sustainable and quality youth employment in Europe, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway launched in 2017 the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment amounting to 60 million euros. The 26 large-scale projects selected to receive funding are now implementing their initiatives that aim to help around 25 000 young people find a job or create new ones.

Vulnerable youth often fall outside the formal education and training systems as well as the ordinary labour market, and there is a great need for innovative solutions, transfer of good practice and impact studies on which interventions work and which do not. The 26 projects will develop, pilot or adopt almost 100 new approaches, methods and practices, underlining the innovative nature of the Fund for Youth Employment,” quoting Mrs Grethe Haugøy, Senior Sector Officer for Regional Funds and Global Fund for Social Dialogue and Decent Work at the Financial Mechanism Office, the Secretariat of the EEA and Norway Grants.

One platform beyond borders

Compared to other initiatives of the EEA and Norway Grants, the added value of the Fund for Youth Employment is its transnational focus. This is in line with the Europe 2020 strategy and the EU cohesion policy that takes account of the crucial role regions and cross-border cooperation play for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Although the range of the Fund is enormous (project consortia bring together 195 entities from various sectors covering their activities
in 26 countries), disseminating results at the level of countries where projects are implemented and the flow of information beyond borders faces significant challenges. This is the main reason why a common communication platform in the form of an online magazine is created. It is not accidental that the official launch of the “Youth Employment Magazine” falls on the UN International Day of Friendship, since consortia implementing projects remain in harmonised, constant relations with each other, sharing good practices and exchanging experiences.

Local activities, global information

The newly created magazine will aggregate content prepared by all projects: not only news about current achievements and information on their progress, but also longer substantive articles and various multimedia. Furthermore, the constantly updated calendar will allow the audience to follow all events organised by projects across Europe and the Donor States.

The online magazine will serve as a platform to inspire, connect and raise awareness among young people in Europe and will become an online hub for all the entities involved in the Fund,” said Raquel Torres Prol, Communication Officer for the Fund for Youth Employment at the Financial Mechanism Office, the Secretariat of the EEA and Norway Grants.

About the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment

  • 60.6 million in funding.

  • 3 donor countries – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway.

  • Supporting 26 transnational projects that promote quality youth employment.

  • Intends in particular to reach the long-term unemployed in the age group 25-29, to be complementary to existing EU funding.

  • More information: http://eeagrants.org/fundforyouthemployment.

“The Sarajevo Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide 1992-1995” Learning from the past through emotional overwhelm

Actually we came to Sarajevo for the Sarajevo Film Festival to watch movies and experience the vivid and open atmosphere of the town. We realized quickly that Sarajevo can´t be experienced without the memory of the war and the siege from 1992-1996. The town is telling its story to anyone who wants to see and wants to listen to.

In an article on Balkan Insight we read about the opening of the Sarajevo Museum of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide 1991-1995 and we decided to visit it.

In an old house in the very city center of Sarajevo there is a small Ferhadija side street where the museum is located. The door was closed so we had to rang – the door opened immediately. The entrance area was very small and narrow. Right on the opposite side of the entrance door there was a checkout point where we paid the entrance fee, then we started our tour through the museum. The first things we saw were photographs of dead bodies and skeletons. Even the skeleton of a pregnant women and her unborn child was depicted. This was the first but not the last shocking moment in the museum.

The Museum of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide 1992-1995 depicts the crimes during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the members of the organizational team of the museum say that it represents all relevant facts and information about genocide and other crimes on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The museum actually focuses only on crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Crimes in Kosovo or Croatia are mentioned only on the official infographics made by ICTY. The material which is produced by ICTY shows the basic information about the work of this institution, criminal justice proceedings before the court, indictments, witnesses and other information regarding conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia. This information is graphically very well presented and gives the visitor crucial information about the war in Yugoslavia and international criminal justice methods implemented in this region. Alongside the ICTY material, visitors can watch films about the war, including ‘City under Siege’, ‘The End of Impunity – Sexual Violence before the Tribunal’ and ‘Through Their Eyes’.

In one room, the museum presents a collection of photographs depicting concentration camps in Bosnia. In the same room visitors can watch ICTY outreach video materials which includes testimonies, excerpts from trials and investigation videos.

In the next room many photographs can be seen which depict victims, usually bloody mutilated dead bodies even the ones of small children. From this point to the end of the exhibition, the museum is giving emphasis on the photographic presentation of explicit violence that occurred during the war in B&H. This presentation is accompanied with personal belongings of victims and perpetrators.

The relation between victims and perpetrators are pretty obvious in the exhibition. Victims are portrayed as totally deformed dead bodies covered in blood. The museum does not hesitate to show the explicit violence including the exact acts of killing. Symbolic representations of national symbols like a flag or a coat of arms used by the Serbian army are usually presented alongside knives, bats, wire and other torture weapons which clearly states the intention of how the perpetrator wanted to be represented. This approach is strengthened by the depiction of relentless violence. At the very end of the exhibition,we entered a replica of a Serbian prison cell. Two mannequins symbolized prisoners with lacerated clothes and trails of blood on their heads. All in all, they looked like people who were recently tortured. On the other side of the room there was a bucket with strange liquids in it, which looked like excrements. The whole room smelled like vomit. We were very irritated by this and weren´t sure if this smell is there on purpose.

“There is no such museum in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a museum that includes all the facts from the period 1992-1995 in one place,” said Alija Gluhovic, Museum organizer. But, the museum does not represent all the established facts and all crimes that were committed in B&H. Crimes committed by Croatian or Bosnian forces are not visible in the exhibition. There are only one or two exhibits depicting war crimes committed by the Croatian Defense Council on the Bosniak civilians, and the museum is giving the over simplified version of the conflict between only two national groups: Serbs and Bosniaks. Because many components of the complex conflict that produced genocide are not visible through the photographs of mutilated bodies, it is difficulty to critically examine the crimes, reasons why it happened and different sides of it through this museum.

The Museum presents criminal justice proceedings very well by emphasizing graphic and visual presentation. It gives a good informational background about certain crimes and places of mass violence, like concentration, camps trough video material. It also has a big collection of items which belonged to victims or perpetrators of genocide and other crimes.

For the visitors without previous knowledge it is really difficult to understand the vicious cycle of violence depicted in this museum. Although important documents and information dealing with the historical context of the war are exhibited, it is still not easy to understand the different perspectives of conflicted sides and to critically examine the genocide and crimes against humanity that occurred in B&H.

Authors of the Museum of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide have a literal and direct approach towards the crimes that happened, and they decided to face visitors with explicit content of mass violence and brutal reality of suffering and pain of tortured human bodies.It seems that the showing of these photographs serves only one purpose – to shock; learning from the past through emotional overwhelm. The question that should be asked in every museum depicting mass violence of 20th century is what is the purpose of showing this violence, how to present it and confront the visitor with incomprehensible experiences and emotions produced by these crimes. To find a suitable way to deal with the crimes during the National Socialism in the field of political education the so called “Beutelsbacher Konsens” was implemented in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1976. One of the contents was the “overwhelmed forbade” which should avoid the manipulation of the education process in a certain direction through provoking of emotions.

But this is what the Museum of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide is doing. Through the depiction of horror, which provokes fear and disgust among the visitors a learning from the past process is initiated, which strengthens a clear picture of the enemy.This museum is definitely not a suitable place for education. In this museum the visitors don´t get the chance to develop a critical and reflexive view on the past events while dealing with different perspectives.It is more a place of “war tourism” which represents the picture of the war in Sarajevo which represents the picture of the war in Sarajevo which is expected by the tourists.

Blog by Katja Lorenz & Nikola Puharić