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Positive scenarios:
Turn to the future, look at the
broader perspectives

 Kosovo Solution Series # 8


PressInfo # 216

 March 31, 2005


Aleksandar Mitic, TFF Associate & Jan Oberg, TFF director


Relevant background links for this series here.



Imagine we are in the year 2025. If all goes well - which admittedly it doesn't always - by that time Serbs and Albanians as well as other EU member citizens will have a hard time understanding why so much hurt and harm took place long ago, why there was a war and so much hate in Kosovo. Well, of course, the dissolution of old Yugoslavia was a much more difficult process than the Americans and the Europeans thought at the time. After all, throughout the 20th century, there had been only three cases of federations splitting without bloodshed, namely Norway from Sweden in 1905, Singapore from Malaysia in 1965 and the Slovak from the Czech Republic in 1993.

As we know, former enemies have learnt to live and work together. For example Americans and Russians after the Cold War, earlier the French and Germans, the Germans and the Danes, the British and the Indians, etc. Time - and some efforts too - heal. Anyone who has visited Vietnam have experienced how the people there hate neither the French nor the Americans. Japanese and Americans work together in a multitude of ways in spite of how the Japanese once upon a time were treated in the US and in spite of Pearl Harbour, Tennozan (Okinawa) and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, the Hutus and Tutsis of Burundi have agreed on a new power-sharing constitution after a genocide that devastated the country and killed about 300.000 Burundians. Reconciliation, peace, trust and co-operation after war, hurt and harm exist. And what exists must be possible!

Are we - really - to believe that Serbs and Albanians will never be able to do likewise and that they must live in separate states that will have nothing to do with each other? Those who think so belong to a world of the past, not to the modern world, not to the European cultural space. What a paradox that we hear Westerners arguing for separatism and exclusivity - but no peace - with some people and otherwise believe in Europeanisation, globalisation and the world coming together!

Well, let's use more imagination: By 2025 people virtually everywhere had come to realise that borders, exclusivity, nationalism as well as violent repression and weapons-based national territorial security were things belonging to the past. The 2025 world order was immensely more culturally mixed, full of multiethnic co-operation, citizens-oriented and many felt that the country of their own was less important than the world of everybody. The concept of identity did not relate only to "me being special and different from you", i.e. on contrast, but on a common us, a recognition of unity as one humanity in diversity. Fear as the main attitude to meeting the stranger had declined, curiosity and celebration of the rich possibilities within the world community had increased tremendously, not least thanks to a much more fair distribution of the world's socio-economic growth. In fact, by 2025 the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) had been met. Likewise, human and ecological security coupled with the UN norm of creating "peace by peaceful means" had been introduced in the majority of states and international organisations and, thus, all weapons of mass destruction and most of the other offensive military capabilities had been abolished.

In short, people had found out that they had so much to gain from being together in peace compared with being isolated in fear. Civilisation was, in other words, moving forward...

Dreaming? Futile, "unrealistic" wishful thinking? Perhaps, but there are at least four advantages in trying to imagine a better future for all:

a) It helps recognising how counterproductive it is for conflict-resolution to focus only on the past (which we can't change) and thereby forget about the potentials waiting to be realised in the future. After all, no one can drive a car safely by looking only into the rear mirror.

b) It tells that each actor, each single individual has a wider responsibility to the world, a duty to contribute with local solutions that are compatible with and promote a better world for all;

c) It illustrates how positive, larger visions can help us achieve reconciliation and forgiveness. When we see the possibility of a better future we "need" hate and revenge much less, if at all. We can then work for something rather than against somebody.

d) It emphasizes that what people can't imagine, they are not likely to work for. The more positive attitudes we can build into our image of the future, the better the chance of real conflict-resolution and, successively, true peace.

Being an analytical, mitigating and facilitation think tank, TFF never suggests what the solution should be. We believe that only the conflicting parties themselves can find the viable solution, but sometimes need a little help. They must be the stakeholders and they must feel ownership in order to implement the solution on the ground. Neither the conflict analysis nor the solution must be "stolen" and imposed by some third party, least of all the international community. The conflicting parties are to live with the solution when the internationals have left the region. (See more about this philosophy in PressInfo 209).

Thus, should the parties - all of them - be able to voluntarily agree on Kosovo becoming an independent state, fine with us. However, it does deserve a more or less philosophical consideration: Will the world be a better place for all if the 50-100 more or less secessionist movements are granted their own states? If Kosovo is, why not most of the rest where similar, sometimes much worse, repression and war has gone on for decades? Is it wise to promote particularistic solutions to humanity's problems or should we at least try to meet the general challenge of human civilisation with a somewhat larger and more generous vision than one based on exclusivity and nationalism, on ethnically cleaner rather than mixed societies?

We would argue, philosophically, that it is a defeat for humanism and for a global civilisation whenever some people slam the door and say that they can only live with similarity and want not to deal with difference.

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An independent Kosovo looks to us as such a defeat for both the Serbs (yesterday), the Albanians (today and tomorrow) and for the international community. Or to put it otherwise, there have been enough special splitting done in the former Yugoslav space. The agenda of today and tomorrow is integration into Europe and the global, diverse community; the agenda of yesterday was nationalism and parochialism with a veneer of human rights endorsed by Europe.

Of utmost importance in any conflict-resolution process is the change of vision. One of the most respected and experienced peacemakers, Adam Curle, wrote in 1986 that:

"In the slow move towards negotiation, settlement and the eventual restoration of fully peaceful relations, the significant stages are the changes of vision rather than the signing of agreements that result from them, the gradual erosion of fear, antipathy and suspicion, and the slow shift of public opinion."

When at negotiations representatives of the different parties change from being just that to becoming human beings in the eyes of each other, new possibilities emerge. The turning point at the Camp David talks is said to have happened when Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachim Begin of Israel exchanged photos of their grandchildren. Furthermore, it is well-known throughout the history of conflict-resolution that new visions and possibilities open up to the parties when they focus - together - on issues and not on each other - that is, when they get "soft" on people and "hard" on solving the problems that stand between them.

Finally, Buddhists tend to see suffering and violence as fundamentally rooted in compartmentalisation of reality. Liberation from the war-mentality becomes possible when we see each other and our problems as part of a much larger, common whole. Thus, the famous Buddhist monk, Nhat Hanh, is convinced that "the two sides in a conflict are not really opposing, but two aspects of the same reality."

In summary, the parties in the Kosovo conflict and the international community would do wise to reflect a little less on themselves and a little more on their common conflict as well as on the common European reality and larger world of which they are a part. With a movement away from the present history-based "only-one-solution" thinking by all sides - from which all will lose something - towards a future-based "many-possibilities" philosophy, everyone can win something.

Difference is not a threat. It's a strength.


Reduce fear and provide a future with socio-economic development

Most secessionist movements work for an independent state because they have a history filled with repression and humiliation; in many cases they have experienced economic deprivation too. It's humanly very understandable to want protection from that - "we are fearful and the only protection we see is a homeland where we are protected by borders, walls and weapons so we shall never again have to fear." So too the Kosovo Albanians up to 1999 and the Serbs, Roma and other minorities in Kosovo since 1999.

Thus, the question is: how do we reduce fear and increase mutual trust and reconciliation? The answers are: by changing structures that lead to fear and, equally important, help rebuild the soul, the mind and the human communities and promote peace education and non-violence for present and future generations - all to enable a new peace culture to take root.

Thus, status talks are necessary but by no means sufficient. No status decision for any place will work if, for any side, fear continues to dominate everyday life - and fear never comes alone, it thrives together with its partners: hate, wish for revenge, images of the neighbour as enemy and stockpiling of violent means for protection.

We believe that most people living in Kosovo and the wider region are trapped in the old thinking because of what they have experienced for decades. Undoubtedly, they would benefit - and peace be given a chance - by a positive vision that effectively combats fear. Unfortunately, the international community has very few professionally educated and trained conflict-managers and no organisations fully devoted to handling conflicts with professionalism and impartiality. Be this as it may, it must provide opportunities, models, meeting places and facilitation for a broad-based societal dialogue about possible futures for Kosovo and the region that increase hope and diminishes fear.


The economics of peace-making

As mentioned in PressInfo 214, it is very unlikely that any status decision will be a solution if the pervasive economic misery of both Kosovo and Serbia proper continues. It would be a gesture of quite some importance if the same international community that punished the ordinary citizens and rewarded the mafia with ten years of sanctions and then did a 78-day bombing that also hit the people but strengthened the Serb and Albanian extremist leaderships, decided to implement a kind of Marshall Plan for the region and thereby secured welfare and social security for all. It should encompass the neighbours such as Macedonia that had its identity and economy shaken from these thoughtless policies.

This would be important in and of itself, but it would also be psycho-politically important for the citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. They need recognition of the fact that they suffered from the consequences of international politics and the power games between their own leaders and the very same international community.

If something like this was done, people would likely put their grievances with each other and with the international community behind them. Will the international community that is now cutting down various types of assistance to the region change its policies and show a bit of generosity?

And there is one more fundamentally important aspect to be taken into account: a status decision for Kosovo must aim to - also - make it possible for the international community to withdraw, or heavily reduce, the presence of the UN, NATO, OSCE and the EU; many NGOs are likely to leave too. For six years the Kosovo province has benefited from thousands of foreigners with high salaries renting, spending, employing and consuming. Prices have skyrocketed, young locals gave up their education to be employed by international organisations, the social structure has changed and many depend on the internationals for their living. On the untold effects and local viability of this presence, see PressInfo 162 from 2002.

The problems facing Kosovo the day the international community departs should not be underestimated. It could well plunge the province into even deeper economic misery.

In summary, we are convinced that everything will depend on fear reduction and genuinely positive socio-economic prospects. Ignoring these two main aspects will doom any final settlement of this conflict.

The parties may, for understandable reasons, not be up to it yet. Is the international community?


The TFF Kosovo Solution Series

# 1
Why the solution in Kosovo matters to the world

# 2
The media - strategic considerations

# 3
The main preconditions for a sustainable solution to the Kosovo conflict

# 4
The situation as seen from Serbia

# 5
The arguments for quick and total independence are not credible

# 6
What must be Belgrade's minimum conditions and its media strategy

# 7
Nations and states, sovereignty and self-determination

# 8
Positive scenarios: Turn to the future, look at the broader perspectives

# 9
Many thinkable models for future Kosovo

# 10
Summary: From "Only one solution" towards democracy and peace


Relevant background links for this series.


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