Exploring Ethnic Conflict and Reconciliation: Highlights from ECMI's 13th Annual Summer School

Summer School participants at the Provincial Government and Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina.

The European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) is proud to reflect on the success of the 13th Annual Summer School on National Minorities in Border Regions, held from August 27 to September 3, 2023, in the vibrant cities of Belgrade and Novi Sad, Serbia. This year's summer school, in cooperation with the Coppieters Foundation and with the gracious support of the Institute of Social Sciences in Belgrade, delved into the pressing theme of "Ethnic Conflict & Reconciliation."

A Diverse Gathering

With a roster of 21 participants hailing from 14 countries and a distinguished panel of 23 lecturers and speakers representing 8 nations, the 2023 ECMI Summer School was a melting pot of perspectives and experiences. Participants came from Egypt, Germany, Syria, Romania, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, the Netherlands, China, Norway, France, Georgia, Italy, and Latvia, creating a rich tapestry of cultures and insights.

Tackling Ethnic Conflict and Reconciliation

Ethnic conflict, which has reemerged as a threat to peace in Europe, took center stage during this year's summer school. The backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, linked to ethnopolitics and the protection of ethnic minorities, underscored the urgency of addressing this complex issue. Ethnic conflicts, with their diverse causes, involved actors, and varying intensities, exact a heavy toll on human lives, economies, and social cohesion.

The 2023 Summer School was divided into two thematic parts. In the first segment, participants delved into the causes of ethnic conflict, ranging from micro-level triggers to long-term structural factors like poverty, discrimination, and exclusion. The program also featured a quantitative component, with scholars from the Ethnic Power Relations project introducing comparative datasets to systematically examine conflicts.

In the second part, the focus shifted to conflict resolution mechanisms, including institutional arrangements and grassroots initiatives. Discussions revolved around topics like power-sharing and transitional justice.

The Program in Action

Here's a glimpse of the engaging and enlightening sessions that took place during the summer school:

Day 1 - Orientation

The journey began with a warm welcome and icebreaker activities to foster a sense of camaraderie among participants. Felix Schulte from ECMI delivered an engaging input session, introducing the basics of ethnic conflict studies. The day culminated in an International Food Evening, where participants shared delectable dishes from their homelands, creating a multicultural feast that celebrated diversity.

Day 2 - Conceptual Foundations

Day two opened with an official opening ceremony featuring Vello Pettai (ECMI), Inaki Irazabalbeitia (Coppieters Foundation), and Goran Bašić (Institute of Social Sciences). Corinne Bara from ETH Zürich delivered a thought-provoking keynote lecture on "Why do we study ethnic conflicts?" and later explored different approaches to solving ethnic conflicts. Felix Schulte continued by delving into the causes of ethnic conflict, emphasizing the Grievance-Conflict Model. The day concluded with a seminar activity on ethnic conflict scenarios, setting the stage for deeper discussions.

Day 3 - The Agony of Ethnic Conflict

This day began with a panel discussion and World Café on "Gender & ethnic conflict," exploring the roles of women in conflicts and post-conflict settings. Later, H. Zeynep Bulutgil from University College London presented "The roots of ethnic cleansing in Europe: Bosnia and beyond," shedding light on the factors that trigger ethnic cleansing.

Day 4 - Measuring Ethnic Conflict

Andreas Juon guided participants through the intricacies of measuring ethnic identity and conflict. This session delved into quantitative approaches, opportunities, and challenges in studying ethnic conflict. Participants also engaged in exercises using the Ethnic Power Relations Dataset. The day ended with a captivating Science Slam moderating by the ECMI Summer School coordinators Aziz Berdiqulov and Stanislav Černega. The participants then participated in the Council of Europe's event on discussing minority protection and kin states engagement in Serbia.

Day 5 - Trip to Novi Sad

Participants embarked on a captivating journey to Novi Sad, where they explored the Provincial Government and Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. Adrian Borka and Bojan Greguric from the Provincial Secretariat for Education, Administration, Regulations, and National Minorities provided insights into official language use and multiculturalism. Dušanka Petráková, Chair of the National Council of the Slovak Minority in Serbia, shared her experiences, followed by a tour and discussion on multiculturalism in Vojvodina led by Milena Sekulić from the University of Novi Sad.

Day 6 - Post-Conflict Reality

A panel discussion on "International organizations and ethnic conflict" featured River Hustad (HCNM/OSCE), Milica Rodić (OSCE Mission to Serbia), and Nadia Ćuk (Council of Europe), highlighting their roles in navigating peace in a diverse world. Ljubica Djordjević from ECMI then delved deeper into the subject with a lecture on "International organizations and ethnic conflict - promoting lasting peace." Later, a panel discussion on "Challenges and trends of power-sharing" took place, moderated by Daniel Bochsler.

Day 7 - Reconciliation

Day seven began with a learning circle on "Bottom-up peace building," featuring Sead Turčalo and Marijana Toma. Denisa Kostovicova also delivered a lecture on "Transitional justice and mass atrocity crimes: elusive reconciliation?" The day concluded with group work on ethnic conflict scenarios and final presentations by participants.

Day 8 - Reflections & Departures

The final day provided an opportunity for reflection, feedback, and evaluation. Participants received certificates, marking the culmination of their enriching journey.

In conclusion

In the spirit of the ECMI Annual Summer School, this year's event fostered cooperation, networking, and knowledge-sharing among participants and experts. With a diverse range of topics, interactive sessions, and cultural experiences, it offered a comprehensive exploration of ethnic conflict and reconciliation. The ECMI Summer School continues to play a vital role in advancing knowledge on diversity management, border region challenges, and human and minority rights, ensuring that scholars and practitioners are well-equipped to address the pressing issues of our time. We look forward to the continued impact of this essential initiative in the years to come.


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