The Youth Initiative for Human Rights Croatia was founded in 2008 as a non-governmental, youth-led human rights organization based in Zagreb, with the mission to contribute to the realization of justice for war crimes, reconciliation within Croatia and with the region, and strengthening of democracy.
Society in Croatia has learnt lessons of the past and strives towards a positive future based on the respect of human rights, civic values and the rule of law.
Our work addresses the legacy of the 1990s, aims to prevent the recurrence of conflict, and build a society based on the respect human rights. We do so by enabling young people to become tolerant citizens who think critically about the past and who actively hold institutions accountable through effective advocacy and activism.
We aim to:
- Encourage and enable youth to shift attitudes and combat rising nationalism stemming from the 1990s and its consequences
- Ensure that key institutions take steps to responsibly deal with the past, including through the effective implementation of transitional justice mechanisms
- Empower youth in developing critical thinking, self organising and enacting positive social change with a special focus on youth in risk of marginalisation and youth from war-affected communities
We practice internally what we advocate for externally. Our approach is focused on the following key values and ideas:
- Responsibility: We hold the institutions accountable and societies responsible to uphold the right to the truth
- Antinationalism and antifascism: We stand against oppression and reduction of human beings based on their characteristics.
- Inclusion: We practice inclusive dialogue and cooperation by creating points of connection across divides on the local, national and regional level. We consider young people as active agents and co-creators of the future, which is why we also consistently practice horizontal inclusion against strict hierarchies both within our organisation and towards society.
- Courage: We continue to challenge mainstream revisionist narratives and will stay true to our activist identity.
- Solidarity: We believe in society based on the sense of community, cooperation and reciprocity in supporting the common goal: respect of human rights and the rule of law
We are proud with results accomplished since our foundation.
We monitored key war crimes trials and promoted court-established facts, making sure to hear and bring forward the voices of victims– to the public and to the institutions. We understand that without a truly regional perspective, reconciliation cannot take place. We’ve ensured that youth from the region meet and are given opportunities to take action towards building a truly peaceful future. To that end, we have undertaken major regional efforts: over the years: we’ve played a key role in advocating for the institutionalisation of regional youth exchanges, which culminated in the ground-breaking establishment of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office.
We also coordinated the regional signature collection campaign in support of the establishment of a regional truth commission. We’ve provided thousands of young people with the opportunity to learn about the region’s past and engage in much needed human rights activism.
Within Croatia, we’ve been consistently fighting against corrosive nationalist narratives which teach young people to glorify war criminals, stay in ethnic-based bubbles and exclude those who are different instead of inspiring to them to think critically and to build a truly democratic society based on human rights values.
In swimming against the tide, we’ve managed to break taboos. For the first time in 2020, the government paid its respect to all civilian victims fallen during Operation Storm. In 2021, we saw our long-term advocacy bear fruit with the Zagreb authorities finally taking steps to honor the memory of the Zec family, who was brutally killed in 1991 by Croatian forces.
In recognition of our efforts and our ability to inspire human rights activism across the Western Balkans, the YIHR Network was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize in 2019, the first non-governmental initiative to receive this prestigious distinction. In the same year, YIHR Croatia received the “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” medal from the French Republic, as a result of our work which enables young to build shared narratives about the recent past.