Inter-ethnic Relations and Interculturalism

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Centre for Peace Studies is a direct descendant of the Pakrac Volunteering Project, a grassroot civil initiative active during the war in western Slavonia (Croatia 1991-1995).  Although created and still based in Zagreb, we still believe it is important to work in areas that suffered during the war, whose population of all ethnic backgrounds and identities endured hardships and some keep on enduring them due to being unable to become reintegrated into Croatian society. The Inter-ethnic Relations and Interculturalism program is a product of those efforts. In addition to direct action and providing aid in securing rights, legal counsel and psycho-social aid, research and publishing, the program also has a cultural agenda through which events such as the ‘Artists in Exile’ (2012) summer school and the ‘Zimsko Ljetovanje’ (2013) art and movie festival were organized. We also promote agriculture through activism, and have found ourselves involved with the permaculture movement in the last few years.

We have expanded our area of work to the Zadar hinterlands and Lika since 2009. We participated in campaigns with organizations from the region with the aim of discussing subjects important to all our (post-war) societies, such as facing the past (video exhibition on Josip Reihl Kir) andminority rights practices and legal frameworks.  In 2010, we published a study on minority legal frameworks in the countries created by the break-up of Yugoslavia, and described examples of good practices in inter-ethnic cooperation, such as the efforts of Franjo Starčević from the Gorski kotar region and the Mrkopalj Peace School; in 2013 we released a study on the position of displaced persons from Croatia which provided a number of suggestions for improving the quality of life of vulnerable groups.

Although CPS is not a humanitarian organization, we often find ourselves in situations when aid is needed on short notice and, if it is within our capabilities, we seek to provide it. This is not limited to the inter-ethnic relations program only; the entire organization works this way, and in a majority of cases it reflects the failure of relevant legal and social services in Croatia, as well as the reluctance of institutions to help someone claim their rights, or go the extra mile if a person from an especially vulnerable group is in question.

It is within this context that we see that our presence outside the office is of extreme importance when deciding what we want to do in the future, and how to influence the improvement of minority and social rights in Croatia through public advocacy, recommendations and education programs.  Although the system of door-to-door provision of psycho-social aid may seem like but a drop in the ocean, we see this direct approach as an important element of peace building, especially in the communities where we will remain present for the foreseeable future.

We also continually work on articulating intercultural policies and raising awareness on intercultural dialogue. We hope to achieve that through field work and cultural events and production. Research on the perspective of return of all of Croatia's displaced people, after the country's accession to EU, and creating a policy framework for an intercultural concept of society and constant development of integration policy suggestions are also an important aspect of our work.

 

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