On 16 May the world celebrates the International Day of Living Together in Peace. More than 25 years has passed since the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina ended and much has been achieved. However, more can be done to strengthen trust, enable constructive dialogue, and enhance mutual understanding and respect in order to ensure a durable peace and sustainable development for all the people in BiH.
On this important day, the Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo, the European Union in BiH, the OSCE Mission to BiH and the United Nations in BiH call attention to the numerous provocative memorials, murals, symbols, plaques, monuments, street names, and commemorations that glorify convicted war criminals, divisive historical figures or controversial events at the expense of the dignity of victims, survivors and those whose lives were lost.
These actions, in tandem with a widespread divisive rhetoric represent a clear regression from efforts to rebuild good neighborly relations, trust and constructive engagement between communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They undermine many post war achievements by inflaming tensions and perpetuating fears and divisions. In this regard, we recall that six months ago this week the members of the Presidency of BiH released a joint statement on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement, in which all three members highlighted:
- “the duty of all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina to step up efforts to ensure that peoples and citizens can live with dignity, with mutual respect and understanding,” and
- “the obligation to sympathise with the pain and suffering of members of all peoples and citizens, and the obligation to show respect to all innocent war victims.”
In the joint statement, the Presidency members confirmed their “commitment to create a society tailored to all its peoples and citizens, especially young people whom we want to enable to stay and build [a] future in their homeland.”
In line with the BiH Presidency’s call, we urge all relevant stakeholders to make positive moves and amendments in a timely manner with actions that reflect compassion and empathy toward the pain and suffering of others as well as for their own communities. Now is the time for BiH’s leaders and communities to create an environment in which future generations can begin leading more secure, peaceful and hopeful lives.
The need to “promote an environment conducive to reconciliation” is one of the 14 key priorities for EU integration. It is a central component of the EU concept for which there is no more important beneficiary than the people of BiH themselves.
The BiH Presidency’s own words sum up exactly what is envisaged through the International Day of Living Together in Peace. It is time to turn constructive statements and promises into action. It is time to build upon, and support, the work of those already taking such steps. The people of BiH deserve no less.