This blog describes in broad outline the process used in mediating an agreement between Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs for the Memorial to be created at the Omarska Mine.
The process took 9 months.
The process noted the particular situation in Bosnia, but could be tailor made for other situations.
The Soul of Europe brought one essential requirement to the project: to create a web of social relationships which included the enemy.
The Soul of Europe was ‘impartial’ and ‘neutral’. We made this clear in our rare public appearances: attending a funeral of Bosniaks found in mass graves, and also being present at the consecration of a new Orthodox church at Omarska.
- The Soul of Europe ensured the invitation for mediation was acceptable to all parties.
- We established a reference group from the international community for advice and reflection. The group consisted of the UK ambassador, and representatives from OSCE and OHR.
- A Bosniak and Serb were appointed as local managers.
- Agreement with Mittal Steel, who commissioned the process, was secured for the timescale of the project and reporting procedures agreed.
The Soul of Europe undertook a thorough analysis of the issues surrounding the Memorial project.
We aimed to discover allies for the project from all the ethnic groups and to note the spoilers.
The Soul of Europe held meetings with politicians and leaders of influence at the international, national, regional and local levels, including young people as well as with the management and workers at the Omarska mine.
Having completed the analysis we brought together Serbs and Bosniaks and a token representation of Croats. Each person was visited, each asked: ‘Would you be prepared to meet a Serb or Bosniak?’ The meeting took place. After the meeting we visited each person again and asked: ‘What did you make of the meeting?’ These meetings took place in pairs, then in fours, then in small groups, then eventually in plenary sessions, sometimes 50 people were present. The meetings then split into sub groups of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs working together on the proposal for the memorial.
In December 2005 a conference was held in Banja Luka where the agreed proposals, agreed by all the ethnic groups working together, were presented to local, national and international media.
Before the conference, the participants agreed on the ‘ground rules’ for the conference.
Following the conference the Soul of Europe and participants undertook an evaluation and, as agreed, passed the project on to Mittal Steel for implementation.
1. Media. During the process we had a media black-out, because the delicacy of the process could have been manipulated and harmed by media involvement. In Bosnia politics = media, and media = politics.
2. Women and young people. The interaction of Serb, Croat and Bosniak women and young people was a significant part of the process.
3. Spoilers. Spoilers emerged among the Serbs and Bosniaks, who were divided about the project. The next stage of the project is dealing with this issue, in order to include the spoilers, not isolate them.
4. Equity. We ensured that all the parties were ‘at home’ with the process, particularly the small Croat representation.
Donald Reeves and Peter Pelz