This document is a program platform for the work of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Croatia (YIHR Croatia) during the period of 2012 until 2015. It is a product of consultations with YIHR Croatia’s members, Board, staff, activists, volunteers, partners and other YIHR organizations in the region.
Croatia will become a member state of European Union in July 2013. With that fact socio-political context will be changed permanently. Today, after long accession negotiations human rights standards are much higher and protection is greatly better than it was in the nineties. Still, Croatia has many unresolved cases of war crimes, discrimination of national minorities and other problems emerging from the war period and epoch of authoritarianism of Tuđman regime. Since there was not any form of lustration or vetting in Croatia, critical approach to the recent violent past is more exemption than a rule. Several powerful politicians who assumed high-level posts in the nineties have created for themselves a de facto immunity of power from prosecutions for war crimes.
Formal education on human rights and civic participation is not sufficiently represented trough learning process. Critical approach to transitional justice and dealing with the past is sporadic. Ethnic paradigm is the main barrier in normalization and stabilization of the society. Reconciliation is not possible with youth raised in closed ethnic frame with strong sentiments for war criminals as heroes and without empathy for victims.
Negotiations of Croatia with the EU had a constructive effect on dealing with human rights violations. In the future this pressure will not be so strong and systematic. Because of traditionally unresponsive government who will stay without pressure of the EU, Croatian NGOs will need to find additional international human rights forums where they will raise issues of human rights violations in the county.
International relations in the region still suffer from nationalistic politics in post-Yugoslav countries. However, Croatia has the chance to transfer experience from the EU accession process to other countries of the region which can be very helpful to them because the similarities in political and social system. With constructive partnership, new, better relations can be formed to reach sustainable peace in the region.
In this new political context in the country, YIHR Croatia remains loyal to its values as well as basic work methodology and will continue to be an uncompromising critic of human rights violations.
ACTIVITIES 2012 – 2015
YIHR Croatia’s activities in the period 2012 – 2015 will be categorized in four groups:
(1) Transitional Justice Program
(2) Youth and Education Program
(3) Regional and EU Program
(4) Human Rights Advocacy Program
Transitional Justice Program
YIHR Croatia has been dealing with transitional justice issues since its establishment. Its first activities were related to promoting facts about war crimes among youth. Since then, YIHR Croatia has developed strong cooperation with other organizations (domestic and international), institutions and victims’ associations dealing with specific sections of transitional justice. It has become known in these areas as an organization very critical of anything other then the highest standards in prosecuting war crimes, paying respect to victims and informing the public about the war events.
YIHR Croatia’s Transitional Justice Program includes several main activities as follows: (a) documenting, researching and monitoring, (b) reporting, (c) memorialization efforts and (d) truth-telling and outreach.
Documenting, researching and monitoring
YIHR Croatia is not performing over-all documenting of war crimes. It is focused on specific cases that have not been dealt properly (or at all) by competent authorities. By documenting these cases, YIHR Croatia is able to advocate for prosecutions that would ordinarily not take place. The organization is conducting researches about transitional justice processes to encourage their improvement. In this regard, it is dealing with a wide range of transitional justice issues. YIHR Croatia monitors war crime trials related to cases it documented.
YIHR Croatia is publishing reports about variety of transitional justice issues. The volume and topics of these reports differ based on their focus. However, their purpose remains the same – to identify major problems as well as progress and to inform the public about them.
YIHR Croatia campaigns for building monuments and holding commemorative events for paying respect to victims of war crimes. YIHR Croatia advocates for memorialization especially in the cases that have not been accounted for and where victims do not have extensive support of the community.
Truth-telling and Outreach
YIHR Croatia is organizing round tables, media activities, public discussions and exhibitions with a goal of promoting facts about war crimes and giving victims a voice.
Youth and Education Program
Since YIHR Croatia is a youth organization, it is inherently directed towards young people. Therefore, one of its programs is the Youth and Education Program. Its target group is young people, with special focus on 4 groups: activists, prospective participants of YIHR-organized educational activities, youth in war-affected and ethnically divided communities and former refugees or (internationally) displaced youth.
Main activities of the Youth and Education Program are: (a) My Initiative network (moJA inIcijaTIva), (b) educations on transitional justice, (c) campaigning for integration and dealing with the past.
My Initiative is a regional activist network of young people that advocates respect for human rights, dealing with the past and the involvement of youth in socio-political life of the communities throughout the region. In Croatia, My Initiative was established soon after YIHR Croatia. My Initiative organizes public actions, activist initiatives and campaigns.
Educations on transitional justice
YIHR Croatia organizes various forms of educations on transitional justice; trainings, seminars, internship programs etc. They are directed towards youth interested in this topic and are organized differently, to meet the needs, interests and time availability of the participants. YIHR Croatia cooperates with various organizations, institutions, as well as with independent experts in these educations.
Besides educating young people on transitional justice issues, YIHR Croatia also supports civic education and other forms of educations that facilitate critical thinking among youth. It monitors civic education in the formal schooling system and gives suggestions for its improvement.
Campaigning for integration and dealing with the past
YIHR Croatia campaigns in local, war-affected and ethnically divided communities for integration and dealing with the past. YIHR Croatia involves local youth in its activities, especially youth that was set apart by the war.
Regional and EU Program
As a member organization of the YIHR Regional Network, YIHR Croatia has been working regionally since its establishment. Regional activities have always been a very important part of YIHR Croatia’s work. In the new political situation, YIHR Croatia’s Regional Program is being renamed into Regional and EU Program. It will no longer deal only with regional activities, but also with issues related to Croatia’s membership and integration into the EU. However, regional activities remain as important as they were before to the organization’s work.
YIHR Croatia’s regional and EU-related work in the period 2012-2015 will be organized through these basic activities: (a) the RECOM Initiative, (b) supporting regional cooperation of young politicians, (c) participation in the pre-accession monitoring of Croatia, (d) transfer of advocacy experience in the EU integration process.
The RECOM Initiative
YIHR Croatia participates in the work of Coalition for RECOM. This Coalition is a network of non-governmental organizations, associations, and individuals who represent and promote the Initiative for RECOM towards the establishment of a Regional Commission Tasked with Establishing Facts about All Victims of War Crimes and Other Serious Human Rights Violations Committed on the Territory of the Former SFRY in the period from 1991-2001 (RECOM).
Supporting regional cooperation of politically engaged youth
YIHR Croatia, as well as other member organizations of YIHR Regional Network, intends to support regional cooperation among politically engaged youth in the Western Balkans, with special focus on cooperation related to human rights issues, transitional justice and freedom of movement.
Participation in the pre-accession monitoring
The European Commission is conducting the pre-accession monitoring of Croatia. The monitoring will be going on until Croatia becomes a member state of the European Union. YIHR Croatia works on several issues that are incorporated in this monitoring and will systematically report to the EC monitors about war crimes prosecutions, regional cooperation and human rights policies.
Transfer of advocacy experience in the EU integration process
Through this set of activities, YIHR is trying to enhance the role of civil society in the context of EU integration process in the candidate and potential candidate countries of the Western Balkans by promoting and ensuring the transfer of experience and good practice of Croatian civil society to civil society in other countries of the region.
Human Rights Advocacy Program
As an organization dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights, YIHR Croatia cooperates with various domestic and international organizations, institutions and offices that have substantial influence on policy setting. It monitors the state of human rights, in cooperation with other organizations and reports about it to significant stakeholders.
Main activities of the Human Rights Advocacy Program are: (a) monitoring and reporting, (b) advocating through networks and (c) CSO capacity building.
Monitoring and reporting
In reporting cycles, YIHR Croatia reports to relevant bodies of the United Nations, Council on Europe, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe etc. in cooperation with other domestic organizations that monitor respective fields of human rights issues.
Advocating through networks
YIHR Croatia is a member of several international networks of organizations that promote democracy and human rights. Through participation in activities of these networks, YIHR Croatia is advocating, on international level, for greater respect for human rights.
CSO capacity building
In cooperation with well-experienced foreign and international organizations, YIHR Croatia organizes trainings and seminars as well as meetings for Croatian civil society organizations that lack experience and the knowhow on preparing reports for relevant stakeholders.
STRUCTURE OF THE ORGANIZATION
Decision-making structure of YIHR Croatia is derived from the organization’s Statutes adopted by the Assembly of all members. The Assembly is the highest decision-making body in YIHR Croatia. It meets at least twice a year. The Assembly elects the Director and other Board members for 2-year terms. The Board elects the Board President from its members. Director is a member of the Board, but cannot be its President. The Program Coordinators are chosen by the Director and approved by the Board. They are employees or volunteers in YIHR Croatia.
Being a relatively young organization, YIHR Croatia will focus significant effort during a period of this framework into the organizational development. YIHR Croatia underwent, just before the adoption of this document, a momentous organizational transformation, altering from an ad-hoc acting group to an organization established upon clear rules and procedures, with stronger membership and effective governing bodies. These features are a strong foundation upon which a well-functioning and stable operational part of the organization can be built.
The priority for the organizational development in the period 2012-2015 will be to develop an administrative-financial department that will further professionalize the organization’s work. This will allow dividing, more clearly, the program and the administrative segments of the organization. Likewise, further efforts will be made to secure the sustainability of the organization in the time when most of the donor community is pulling out of Croatia, and the international pressure in human rights matters is becoming ever weaker.
Finally, members and staff of YIHR Croatia will be committed to making the organization a relevant contributor to public discussions, and an advocator for legal and institutional change as well as a campaigning, swiftly responsive watchdog group.