@article and photos provided by Norwegian Helsinki Committee for human rights
Build Bridges not Walls – the role of universities in peacebuilding is a regional education project organised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in cooperation with Buskerud University College in Norway.
The idea of the project is to define the civic role of the universities in the region, and to improve the cooperation between the universities and civil sector in the fields of human rights, intercultural understanding and peacebuilding. Agreements on cooperation have already been signed with the Faculty of Humanities of the University „Dzemal Bijedic“ in Mostar (follow-up of a previous project pilot-phase), International University Novi Pazar and University of Tuzla.
Enver Djuliman, the leader of the programme and the head of the human rights education department at Norwegian Helsinki Committee emphasizes: “The children are not born as intolerant and with negative prejudices about the others. However, they are also not born tolerant with knowledge on human rights, dialogue and tolerance. It is only matter of our choice: what we want to teach our children? The blood in Western Balkans started to flow from the books, in the libraries, at the universities. And still today, 15 years after the wars were over, many universities are idelogical and ethnicized. Education presents the best way to build peace. Such education that does not build peace does not have much sense. The Helsinki committees of Norway, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and other non-governmental organisations together with selected universities in Western Balkans and through planned three years activities and collaboration would like to define the role of the university, teachers and students in peacebuilding. We would like universities to take their responsibility.“
By autumn/winter-semester a study program for full-time students at the University of Tuzla will start as well as a semester for “students at work” at all three partner universities. We also hope that meanwhile we will sign agreements with one more university in Serbia and as well as the University in Kosovo.
During the past six months a cooperation has also been developed between universities in Mostar and Novi Pazar and local non-governmental organisations – Nansen Dialogue Center Mostar and Sandzak NGO for Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms Novi Pazar. Students attending the study „Intercultural understanding and human rights“ got the opportunity to combine the theory with practice in human rights and intercultural dialogue through study visits to these NGOs and participation in educational workshops.
In the following, we would like to share some impressions from the students enrolled in the study „Intercultural understanding and human rights“ in previous year in Mostar:
At the lessons we had chances to find out completely new information and facts related to human rights. By choosing this subject, I realized that the knowledge I had before was not even merely enough to the knowledge I gained, regarding to my basic human rights. Also, by practical work in the primary school Zalik, we could see how much we learned during the lessons. We delivered the workshops with the pupils of primary school Zalik on different subjects related to human rights. That way, we gained practical experience and we were able to test our knowledge of human rights and to share it with the others. The lectures held as a part of the subject on „Intercultural understanding and human rights“ and practical work in the school with the pupils were accompanied well together and we gained precious knowledge and experience. – Amila Masleša, the student
I liked much both the subject and the lectures on „Intercultural understanding and human rights“. It is something new and not monotonous as other subjects. Every week we had different lecturers teaching us and that helped in preventing monotony in educational process. What we learned on human rights and international, intercultural understanding will help me and my colleagues in future profession, in public relations and everyday life.- Anisa Mičijević, the student
In June 2012, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee called on to non-governmental and international organisations in the region to donate books for the libraries of the partner universities with an aim to establish the Corner on human rights and intercultural understanding.
As part of the information strategy, the programme has been presented at a string of relevant events, and the project partners held meetings and consultations inside former Yugoslavia as well as abroad. The Facebook group „Uloga univerziteta u izgradnji mira“ was launched in order to facilitate the users on Facebook, primarily young people, to follow the activities of the programme „The Role of the Universities in Peacebuilding“, join a discussion forum, find useful links, video clips, recommended literature and other.