NATO’s destruction of FRY NGOs


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,    April 16

Reflecting on the posting below, it seems clear that it is up to us,
citizens & NGOs of the "West", to work to redress the damage NATO is doing
to our colleagues in Yugoslavia. There is lots we can do, from sending moral
and monetary support to people and groups working for justice and peace, to
helping to get stories that need more coverage out, to promoting
non-military conflict resolution, etc.

all the best, Jan
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1999 23:22:11 +0000
From: Paul Swann <•••@••.•••>
Subject: How Nato destroyed the work of Yugoslav NGOs,3605,42137,00.html
Diary of an NGO activist

Hidden heroes

Jenny Hyatt and Miljenko Dereta on a peace network shattered by the
Kosovo war

The Guardian, London
Wednesday April 14, 1999

A short plane journey from here, a young girl is playing Monopoly in a
bomb shelter. A few weeks ago she hit her dad with a doll and laughed:
"You are Belgrade and I am the bombarders." Martina (not her real name)
is not laughing any more. She had believed that the West came as
friends, invited by her parents to aid their efforts to build democratic
practices. Now these "friends" seem to be angry with her mum and dad.
What went wrong?

Martina did not have a normal childhood. In her nine years she
experienced two wars and could not see her grandparents. Her only
contact with "normality" was through her parents and others who
struggled to provide an alternative to Milosevic through non-gov
ernmental organisations (NGOs).

In her lifetime, more than 700 NGOs developed in the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia (FRY), comprised of Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. They were,
to quote a recent paper by Belgrade-based Civic Initiatives,
"independent of state influence" and "are spreading throughout the
country with a new energy and creativity". Their methods were sometimes
ill-defined but their aim was clear - the creation of civil society in
FRY. They worked across borders, both geographical and national, with
the diverse mix of the 20-odd ethnic groups that make up the country.

The NGOs organised the monitoring of human rights abuses; they set up
income-generation projects with refugees; they held public meetings in
town halls across the country to address issues such as unemployment;
they were active in the civil protests of 1996/97; they ran non-violent
conflict- resolution classes with schoolteachers and they taught
children about tolerance and mutual respect. Moreover, they were the
last meeting point of Kosovo Albanians and Serbs.

These NGOs have carried out hundreds of such democratising activities
with very limited material resources and with the ever-present danger of
retribution from the prevailing regime which, rightly, perceived them as
a danger to itself. These are the only people who can bring about the
much-needed changes in FRY - its citizens. Their vision and hard-won
achievements were destroyed with the first bomb. Before that the
potential for using a combination of internal dissent, international law
and economic stringency was not fully exploited.

Did anyone actually listen to NGO leaders who predicted the consequences
of air strikes? Did anyone note the damage that NGOs had already
inflicted on Milosevic's position? Did anyone think of a long-term
strategy - which could have begun five years ago - of wide-ranging
support for NGOs that were building democratic practices?

So what impact has Nato's (illegal) action had? Well, there is Milosevic
riding high on a sea of nationalism. Then there are thousands of
Kosovars fleeing actions that have dramatically escalated under Nato
fire. And then there is an NGO community that will find it difficult to
rebuild trust with the West. One NGO activist comments: "The problem is
that if we ever have the chance to continue our work, who will believe
us that in the West there is democracy, respect of human rights,
participation of citizens and justice? What will we give as an example
of a democratic open civil society? We were already called the
mercenaries of the West - what will they call us tomorrow?"

The actions in the past weeks have destroyed years of courage and hard
work. They have seriously undermined those who could have made a
difference to Serbia. These are the hidden refugees of this conflict -
hostages of Milosevic's regime - forced to plan in bomb shelters and on
street corners. They should be at the forefront of politicians' minds,
as they will be the ones to pick up the pieces when the destruction is
over. And when they speak again, it will require the finest language of
diplomacy to disguise the word "betrayal".

* Jenny Hyatt is an NGO development specialist who has worked with the
NGO community in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) since 1994.
This article was written with Miljenko Dereta and other colleagues in
the NGO sector in FRY, most of whom must remain anonymous.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 1999

Creo que el mundo es bello, 
que la poesía es como el pan, 
de todos. 

(I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone)

Roque Dalton

Jan Slakov, Box 35, Weymouth, NS, Canada B0W 3T0  (902) 837-4980
 CDR (Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance) home page ->


        To subscribe to the cyberjournal simply send an empty message to:

         To keep posted on the democratic renaissance send an empty message to: 
Note: Besides the renaissance network list, I also moderate a peace and
human rights list called "Bruna's list", a Canadian oceans protection list
and a list for Nuclear Abolition activists. 
                Green Web Home Page