Center for Peace, Nonviolence, and Human Rights

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Center for Peace, Nonviolence, and Human Rights

According to Marina Skrabalo, an Open Society Institute International Policy Fellow and External Evaluator: "For five years, the Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights in Osijek, Croatia, has worked effectively to support capacity development in eight communities in Eastern and Western Slavonia through a project called "Building a Democratic Society Based on the Culture of Nonviolence." The project promotes partnerships among a wide array of local state and non-state actors, mobilizes local peace constituents, and integrates "participatory action research" into each stage of its work from needs assessment to evaluation. The project is unique in the post-Yugoslav context as one of the most ambitiously envisioned community-based peacebuilding endeavours, undertaken by an indigenous peace organization and enriched by international, national, and local partnerships.

"The Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights was conceived in 1991 in a basement during the shelling of Osijek when the people seeking shelter there began to discuss peacemaking civic action. The Center has grown into a network with more than 150 members, 30 full-time activists, a budget of more than $2 million, and three basic programs-education, human rights, and peacebuilding. In 1998, it partnered with the Life and Peace Institute from Sweden to obtain funds from the European Union and other private funders for the "Building a Democratic Society Based on the Culture of Nonviolence" project.

"The project followed on the efforts of the Erdut Peace negotiations on the status of Eastern Slavonia (autumn 1995) and the United Nations Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES, January 1996 - January 1998). With a budget of $1 million, the project's first phase (1998-2000) had the overall goal of "contributing to a new, nonviolent security structure in Eastern Croatia through the promotion of people's skills and inner capacities to restore broken relationships and build a democratic society." ...

"The second phase of the program began in September 2001. Current funding comes from a variety of sources including the Croatian Government, Evangelic Development Service Germany, Presbyterian Church USA, Mercy Corps/USAID, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Ecumenical Women's Fund. The project management team is made up of former Peace Team members as well as local residents who have become resourceful peace workers themselves. In the second phase, the project is building on its earlier work by helping these local residents establish and maintain community-based organizations and initiatives (primarily war veterans' associations, inter-religious groups, Roma associations, youth clubs, a school mediation project, peace councils).

"Thus, the responsibility for community mobilization has shifted from partial outsiders (Peace Teams) to insiders (local institutions, organizations, and individuals). Capacity-building support over a two-year period will help these organizations achieve sustainability. Necessary support entails the direct provision of mentoring and training, combined with advocacy for broader institutional and donor support for the still-fragile community-based peacebuilding structure. The Peace Team in Okucani, for example, is negotiating full institutional support from the Croatian Ministry and County Office of Education for an emerging school mediation project run by local students and teachers.

"In contrast to many peacebuilding programs conducted by international agencies that are subject to shifting mandates, this project achieved its original objective of capacity building via its Peace Teams-with the promise of long-term, local sustainability for many of its associated peacebuilding initiatives." [1]

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