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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SUN, 16 APR 2000 21:51:34 GMT

    Change of Power and NGOs in B&H

    (Un)Founded Optimism or Petritsch For King

    AIM SARAJEVO, March 24, 2000

    Civil Alternative Parliament (GAP of B&H), a network of over 30 most important NGOs of liberal-civil orientation, has failed to achieve some of its basic targets set out in its programme, which is in line with the overall stagnation in all essential changes of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian society and state.

    However, it cannot be denied that after the last three round tables, even despite fatal incapability of the representatives of opposition parties to engage in an open creative dialogue with NGO activists and among themselves, some positive changes have occurred in the impertinent rhetoric prevailing within the party, in parliaments at all levels, which is particularly evident in the media, in spite of all "sanitary" measures of the Media Commission.

    For example, it has become commonplace for everyone to talk about the B&H state as "democratically centralised state" as opposed to the existing "ethnically cleansed decentralised state". However, we are still miles away from the most basic real prerequisites for true democratic changes in the B&H authorities. That goes both for the opposition strategies and activities, as well as for NGOs.

    We are all - more or less - still in a whirl of already unbearable endless ethno-show, which, as it seems, would exist even without local and international invisible directors.

    We should no longer care "who" are these invisible directors of a sorrowful and tragic ruin of an exceptional chance to create a normal democratic B&H. We should be more interested in ways of personally becoming better and genuine authors and creators of a different and bearable everyday life; of an open civil society, which would be as "flexible" and open towards values of social justice, as it has uncritically "pounced on" the liberal principle of "free market"; of a inexpensive democratically decentralised legal and social state; of gradual but visible economic prosperity, but also positive stable peace which none other than we - free and independent individuals - are trying to establish.

    - More radical democratic and civil activity of individual citizens of B&H:

    - The outlines of a new, more radical, strategy of GAP and NGO circles in B&H, could be expressed with relative precision by a formula on the need for democratically twice as strong cooperative pressure from grassroots upwards - towards local authorities at all levels, but also towards the international community, as well as for even more important horizontal democratic intensified pressure on the entire NGO and opposition scene in B&H and region, at large.

    - The remarkable password, which has originated in the ecological movements "Think globally-act locally", should be reactivated so that members of GAP and the entire NGO block could resolutely refuse to devote most of their attention to world issues instead of being a part of the process of positive change in our own local environs.

    - Benefits and adverse effects of hyper- institutionalisation caused by the so called networking of B&H NGOs at the local, entity, state and regional levels, should be urgently determined with precision. In that same context, there is a question whether the existing forms enable good cooperation and efficiency. Actually, at least two questions demand to be answered. First: what is the relationship between GAP and NGO Forum (regional and the "top" one with the "Secretary - General" at its head). Second: If we can be satisfied with years of cooperation between GAP members from the entire B&H territory, can we be satisfied with the fact that we are very inadequately informed about the activity of individual members, as well as the fact that the inclusion of a larger number of NGO as GAP members has been unnecessarily delayed for too long.

    At the leadership level, members of the GAP and NGO circle either belittle or neutralise the results of their activity for one of the following reasons: conceitedness, inclination to glorify only one's "own" non-governmental organisation, non-transparency of decision-making about essential issues, underestimating members and founders, as well as very unpleasant inclination towards unsolidary and authoritarian practice of slighting and hurting the identity of those "down", despite the fact that they communicate with them daily.

    - These are not only remnants of the old system, but also the newly created characteristics of alternative-individuals who either do not work enough or do not work at all on their own self-development, which is not possible without absolute respect for other persons as one's equals. In addition, there is also some kind of awkward unfair competition between individual NGOs which is harmful to the entire democratically inspired social movement of non-governmental organisation of various profiles (human rights, minority rights, intellectuals' organisations, etc,).

    - New issues should be opened concerning a more precise diagnosis of the current situation and realistic prospects for the establishment of a normal Bosnian-Herzegovinian state and open civil society.

    - GAP must change its relation towards the media. Along with a large number of non-governmental organisations, it is perhaps the least visible NGO association at the state level. There are many reasons for this. The most important is that not a single medium of any kind follows the work of non-governmental organisations in B&H in a systematic and reliable manner. It is done sporadically and very selectively. The independent media occasionally say something about the work of Krug 99 (Circle 99) or VKBI, etc., but that is far from enough. The Bosnian & Herzegovinian non-governmental organisations which have a markedly democratic political profile do not have a reliable, and even less individual, media coverage. In the course of this electoral year, GAP for its part, should hold, at least biweekly, well prepared thematic press conferences. Special attention would be devoted to the analysis of the work of parliaments at all levels, state authorities (governments at all levels and the Presidency), up to the directed and strictly controlled judiciary at all levels.

    - There is a great need for the most definite possible elimination of unconscious, but also the fully conscious, indecent intimacy with the ruling ethno-national parties among the greater part of NGOs in B&H.

    The most pressing task in this respect would be argumented assessment of benefits and losses caused by the cooperation of NGOs with "supra-ethno-national" parties and associations (e.g. Party for B&H, the Croatian National Council, the Serbian Civil Council, VKBI, etc.) since, despite "civil" rhetoric they remain within the ethno-national mystified circus. The new rhetoric of these protagonists is undoubtedly useful, but one should never lose sight of the dangers the second or third echelons of ethno-nationalism present. The example of the fights for the constitutional recognition of the "constitutiveness of the three nations" without others, best shows how hard it is to strike a balance between sovereignty of citizen-individual and the collective sovereignty of the "nation", which has even more heartlessly historically replaced the collective sovereignty of the "class".

    - "Supra-ethno-national" advocacy for B&H is also visible in some national and foreign "expert groups" of intellectuals or politicians in a special intellectual role, who, mostly under the guise of scientific thoughtfulness and deeply motivated patriotic moralistic pathetic, come up with unusual, dull and weary versatile brilliant "ideas" such as the "idea" on the absolute inability of B&H citizens to assume the "role" of politically mature citizens (The International Crisis Group with the proposal of "three-headed" voters in B&H as an "innovation" for the Electoral Law of B&H, which drastically denies the basic liberal-democratic principle "one citizen - one vote"); or the increasingly hysteric idea on the protectorate over B&H which in some alternatives is close to proposing the proclamation of Mr. Wolfgang Petritsch for king of B&H because of historically specific ethnic link with Austria-Hungary, which is quite independent of him, as an individual.

    Despite all this, I believe that we are capable of solving our problems on our own. That is why I am more than amazed with public proposals for the revision of the Dayton Accords forwarded by citizen Haris Silajdzic, who very actively participated in all historic stages of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian tragedy and even the drafting of the mentioned agreement. First, account should be given of what was supposed to be done until now, but wasn't and only then new "normative-paper" solutions proposed, which bring no practical strategy for changing the reality. This type of politician should first work on the far-reaching change of his own political identity so as to rid himself of the comic narcissist illusion about one's own infallibility, and only then embark on some public justified or unjustified visionary adventure.

    - The most important activities of GAP and NGOs: The most important activity of GAP and NGOs in general, consists of systematic and continuous work on the establishment of a favourable electoral atmosphere in B&H for the possible electoral change in the existing ten-year rule of the three national parties.

    In that respect, it is necessary to increase organised and systematic influence on voters to turn out at the local and general elections in 2000 and autonomously elect candidates from whom they expect the most.

    It is also necessary to urgently eliminate the superfluous blocking of the adoption of the Electoral Law. I am personally only in favour of amendments to the existing draft Electoral Law proposed by the Electoral Commission of the Organisation for Human Rights (OHR) with a view to specifying and legally regulating far greater authority of the Standing Electoral Commission, Constitutional Court of B&H and High Representative himself, so that even after the election they would be able to sanction individual delegates, parties and coalitions in parliament, but also at all levels of executive authority. For example, they would be able to reduce the number of delegate places in Assemblies at all levels and fill in vacancies with delegates from opposition parties according to the priority of won votes, if the mentioned officials continue to steal, refuse to prosecute war criminals and prevent the return of refugees to their homes.

    Unfortunately, the NGOs have been infected by an unfounded optimism after the opposition's victory in neighbouring Croatia. More careful analysis of these elections will show that the voters have voted rather against the disastrous HDZ politics than in favour of SDP, i.e. the "foursome" or "the group of six". Elections in the neighbourhood are not an unstoppable flood which still lasts, as the local opposition sees it. Quite contrary, it should be realised that these results have rather destabilised and homogenised the population of B&H according to the ethnic criterion. This was particularly evident after the Hague Tribunal pronounced a verdict to Tihomil Blaskic - which was manifested in rather controversial reactions. Even in Croatia there was practically no difference in reactions between the defeated HDZ and the victorious SDP, not to mention the reaction of the Liberals.

    This "story" should be used for opening new questions. For example, a clear stand towards the character of war in B&H and SFRY should be taken. Even before the war I thought that if the war was not avoided it would be a total war. And that is precisely what happened: the war in B&H and former Yugoslavia, as a total war was also an aggression as well as a pure fratricidal civil war with religious elements.

    The most apparent proof for this claim can be deduced from the analysis of reasons why there are two opposed streams regarding this issue in B&H, FRY and Croatia (but also in Slovenia): that it is either a civil war or just an aggression.

    Those who advocate a theory about a civil war (Milosevic, Tudjman, Karadzic, etc.) reject the opinion that this war was an act of aggression because if they accepted it that would mean that they would assume political, moral and military responsibility for participating in the aggression and crime. Advocates of the theory on aggression, as the only correct characteristic of the war in B&H and broader, would be caught in an embarrassing situation if they accepted the thesis that, in addition to aggression, it was also a civil war, because that would make them guilty politically, militarily and otherwise for that war.

    In that sense, there cannot be any postponement of the 2000 elections. This shouldn't even be argumented. Finally, in association with NGO Forums, and possibly Alternative Council of Ministers, it is necessary to form civil associations of NGO members which would supervise the elections. It is the duty of GAP of B&H and NGOs to establish more efficient cooperation with institutions of the international community: the Stability Pact, European Union, OHR and OSCE, etc.

    More and well-argumented demands should be made from the institutions of the international community with a view to securing greater support for the non-governmental organisations. It is enough to remind that in B&H there is no public international or local (why not!) foundation for NGO support at the level of the state or entity, as its integral part.

    I also think that it would be useful for all institutions of the international community present in B&H to recognise capabilities of local experts as much as possible, in rather indispensable Standing Councils of the OHR and OSCE, in which national alternative activists and experts could work.

    Dr. Gajo SEKULIC

    (AIM, Sarajevo)