This is a conference report. In May 2000, 25 representatives of Southeast European non-governmental organizations met in Romania to discuss the impact the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe has on the region’s civil society and the potential for cross-border activities. This four-day meeting was organized by the Foundation for Democratic Change (Bucharest), and the Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management (Berlin) and took place in the picturesque mountains of Sinaia (Carpathian Mountains). During several working sessions held in a creative atmosphere the participants developed a list of recommendations concerning the support of civil society in the region.
In particular, this article focuses on the potential contributions of civil society actors for peacebuilding and conflict transformation.1 Some of the central questions addressed in this text are: What types of activities do international and transnational NGOs undertake in order to influence international politics in a way that contributes to stable peace and coping with global challenges? What potential do actors from civil society offer for war-to-peace transitions? What problems and dilemmas are faced in the development of civil society in war-torn societies? What are the limitations of civil society’s contributions and how does it relate to state-building? Finally, how does any of this impact on theoretical conceptualisations of the term “civil society”? By way of elaborating these questions, the second section of this article discusses various terms and definitions linked to debates about civil society. The third section gives a general overview of NGO activities at the international and regional level. The fourth section presents a critical assessment of their roles and the fifth section deals with their impact and legitimacy. The sixth section addresses the potential contributions of civil society in war-torn societies and post-conflict peacebuilding, with specific reference to the last 10 years of experience in the Balkans. The seventh section contextualises the development of civil society in relation to the challenges of state-building and investigates the theoretical implications of this relationship for conceptualising the term “civil society”. The eighth section draws some central conclusions, makes policy recommendations and identifies the needs for further research.
In the last decade of the 20th century 43 countries have been considered as countries emerging from violent conflicts. Most of them were affected by intra-state wars and civil wars, and most of these belong to the category of the poorest (“less developed countries” according to criteria of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). An extraordinary high percentage was located in the African continent. The international community pledged more than one hundred billion dollars in aid to war-torn societies. These were designed to build up infrastructure, to persuade formerly warring parties to resolve conflict in a non-violent way and to contribute to economic development and participatory governance. Experts and political actors have stated that international agencies often used too narrowminded a concept in the past, reducing their activities to technical reconstruction after the end of violent conflict. A broader conceptualisation is needed to support the difficult long-term process of transformation from war to peace. This chapter gives an overview of the variety of tasks required to make post-conflict recovery successful in the sense of preventing further conflict and some tensions and dilemmas are identified and discussed.
The Centre for Non-violent Action was set up in autumn 1997 as the Sarajevo project office of the North German Bildungs- und Begegnungsstätte – KURVE Wustrow (Centre for Education and Networking in Nonviolent Action – KURVE Wustrow). Since then, CNA has conducted more than 30 training sessions, bringing together young people from different parts of the former Yugoslavia to study practical approaches to non-violent conflict transformation. CNA also aims to support local NGOs’ networking activities and advise them on general issues concerning NGO development. From the beginning the Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management has supported CNA’s work with supervision and advice. In January 1999, the CNA team also asked for Berghof’s support with the self-evaluation of its work. The purpose of this study is to take stock and clarify CNA’s approach. Within this framework, the obstacles and unresolved issues confronting peace work in Bosnia-Herzegovina – and, indeed, the Balkans in general – will be also outlined. The study is based on two sources: firstly on oral and written questions addressed to the CNA staff members and an evaluation of its Annual and Quarterly Reports; and secondly, structured interviews, carried out with graduates of the training programmes.