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October 7, 2004 • Volume 13 Number 3

Conference Will Explore Balkan Conflict

A major conference to be held Oct. 16-17 at Boston College will examine the international community's response to conflicts in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

"Lessons Learned from the Balkan Conflicts" will feature appearances by diplomats, scholars, international law experts, humanitarian organization representatives and others who will share their experiences and insights concerning the troubled region.

The conference will include panel discussions, lectures and multimedia presentations that will detail the international community's successes and failures in dealing with the ethnic conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and elsewhere in the Balkans.

In addition, an Oct. 16 evening banquet in the Heights Room of Corcoran Commons (Lower Campus Dining Hall) will feature the Stari Most Awards. The awards, named for a recently restored bridge in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, symbolizing the union of different cultures, are given by the Center for Balkan Development to acknowledge efforts to promote peace, reconciliation, economic development, and establishing long-term security in the former Yugoslavia. Those chosen for awards this year are US Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del.), writer-activist Ylber Hasa, who has worked to help establish a multi-ethnic, democratic and independent Kosovo, and Amir Pasic, who led the reconstruction of Mostar.

Scheduled speakers during the conference include: Donald Hays, principal deputy high representative to the chief civilian peace implementation agency in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Clifford Bond, former US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina; former US Ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt, who has been active in peace efforts in the Balkans and other areas of conflict; and Bosnian Ambassador to the United Nations Mirza Kusljugic.

Also slated to appear are Bruce Hitchner, chairman of the Dayton Peace Accords Project; Ilir Dugolli, principal political advisor to the prime minister of Kosovo; Jakob Finci, chairman of a Sarajevo citizens' "Truth and Reconciliation" committee; and Sheri Fink, MD, who chronicled the lives of doctors and nurses in the besieged city of Srebrenica.

Conference co-organizer Prof. Cynthia Simmons, chairwoman of the Slavic and Eastern Languages Department, says the international response to the Balkan conflicts included some notable failures, such as the Srebrenica massacre, but also achieved some positive outcomes that offer the promise of a secure and prosperous future. She cited the reconstruction of Mostar and in particular the Stari Most Bridge, which links the city's Muslim and Croat communities, as an important symbol of progress.

"Bosnia, Kosovo and the rest of the Balkans have largely moved off the screen, what with 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq," said Simmons. "Most US forces have begun withdrawing from Bosnia, with European Union troops taking over responsibility.

"While there are still areas of concern about the former Yugoslavia, it is possible to look at the strategies, policies and programs that have been successful. In many respects, the intervention can be touted as an example of peace-keeping at its best."

Co-sponsoring the conference with BC is Tufts University, the Dayton Peace Accords Project, the Center for Balkan Development and Friends of Bosnia. More information is available online.

As a companion to the conference, Bapst Art Library is hosting the exhibition, "Aftermath: Bosnia's Long Road to Peace," featuring photos by Sara Terry that explore the human cost and consequences of the war.

-Sean Smith

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