The Partners in Peacebuilding in the Balkans Project is a joint initiative of the Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS) in Sofia, Bulgaria, the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM) at the University of Maryland, and the University of Sofia, Bulgaria. The project aims to promote:
1. Understanding and research on issues of communal tension, violence and complex societal conflict in the Balkans;
2. Capacity building for risk assessment and crisis early warning; and
3. Capacity building for conflict prevention and transformation through multi-track diplomacy.
This long-term collaborative project includes activities such as:
- Conflict research and analysis leading to joint and/or reciprocal publications in Bulgaria and the US;
- Pariticipation in efforts to develop and apply crisis early warning and early response programs for the Balkans; and
- Training programs and applied multi-track diplomacy for conflict prevention and transformation in the Balkans.
Achievements and planned initiatives of the Partners in Peacebuilding in the Balkans Project include:
"Peoples versus States" Conference, 2002: Distinguished University of Maryland Professor Ted Robert Gurr, an internationally renowned expert in ethnic conflict theory and Founding Director of the Minorities at Risk Project at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management, visited Bulgaria from 4 to 15 October 2002 at the invitation of the Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS) and with support provided from the United States Department of State.
At a conference entitled: Peoples versus States: Ethnic and Civil Conflicts Resolution and Prevention, organized by the Institute for Regional and International Studies and the Political Science Department of the University of Sofia, and sponsored by the Opens Society Fund in Sofia, Professor Gurr presented on the themes of his book, Peoples versus States, newly published by the Bulgarian Military Publishing House with United States Embassy assistance. The conference addressed issues of ethnic conflict and post-conflict development in multi-ethnic societies. It was attended by scholars, government and NGO representatives, as well as by journalists. For his publication in Bulgarian language, as well as for his scholarly contributions in the field of ethnic conflict Sofia University conferred on Professor Gurr the title Doctor honoris causa.
Professor Gurr delivered lectures at Sofia University, the American University in Bulgaria and Southwest University in Blagoevgrad, the European Center at Veliko Tarnovo, and at the Military College in Shoumen. He also gave interviews to the Bulgarian media on issues of Balkan ethnic conflicts.
Seminar/Workshop on Multi-Track Diplomacy, 2003: The Partners in Peacebuilding in the Balkans Project, in cooperation with the National Center for the Study of Public Opinion in Bulgaria, organized a 3-day Seminar-Workshop on Multi-Track Diplomacy, led by University of Maryland Prof. John Davies, Co-Director of CIDCM′s Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects. Dr. Davies introduced participants to concepts and techniques for conflict transformation, using a ′learning by doing′ approach through which participants addressed ongoing conflicts between Roma and Bulgarian populations in Bulgaria, as well as between the Albanian and Macedonian populations in Macedonia. A set of consensus recommendations were developed on how to address tensions over management of Roma communities′ access to power utilities.
Role of Islam in Bulgarian and Balkan Politics, 2004: The Partners in peacebuilding in the Balkans Project, in cooperation with the National Center for the Study of Public Opinion in Bulgaria, plans to launch a project on the role of Islam in Bulgarian/Balkan politics. The Project will seek funding both from foundations and relevant US government programs.
- 2001: Lyubov Mincheva, Senior Research Associate with IRIS and graduate from the University of Maryland: Profile and risk assessments for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, included in the Minorities at Risk Project (www.cidcm.umd.edu);
- 2002: Ted Robert Gurr, Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland: Peoples versus States: Minorities at Risk in the New Century (in Bulgarian), Bulgarian Military Publishing House;
- 2004 (anticipated): Ted Robert Gurr and Barbara Harff (Prof. Harff is with the US Naval Academy′s Department of political Science): Ethnic Conflict in World Politics (in Bulgarian), Bulgarian Military Publishing House.
Co-Directors of the Partners in Peacebuilding in the Balkans Project are:
- Dr. Lyubov Mincheva, Senior Research Associate with the Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS), Lecturer at the University of Sofia and affiliated researcher with the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), University of Maryland.
- Dr. John Davies, Senior Faculty Associate with the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), University of Maryland.
Citizens′ Network for Peace, Inter-communal Reconciliation & Human Security (CN4HS) is cross-border project supported by the European Commission and launched in November 2012 by six non-governmental organisations and research institutes from the Balkans and Turkey: the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Turkey; the Institute for Regional and International Studies – Bulgaria; SeCons – Serbia; the Youth Resource Centre Tuzla – Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Association for Democratic Prosperity Zid – Montenegro; and the Centre for Research, Documentation and Publication – Kosovo.
The project aimed to support the already gained momentum in the reform processes in the Balkans and affirm their irreversibility via analysis, publication, advocacy and networking aiming at accelerated European integration in times when the economic crisis and the return to power of nationalist/populist factors in the region jeopardise the progress achieved and cause disaffection among the populace.
The project is part of the European Commission’s support to regional thematic networks within the framework of the Civil Society Facility Partnership Programmes for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
The project aimed to support new, effective public policy strategies for regional development in the Balkan societies and a better understanding of and ways to overcome the failures of post-communist Balkan states to provide quality public services to their citizens in their embrace of liberal democracy and the free market since the 1990s and in light of the ongoing economic and Eurozone crises via research, analysis, policy products and advocacy.
The overall goal of this project is to devise a framework for a new, flexible strategy for an accelerated European integration of the Western Balkans based on research, analysis and interaction among leading think tank and civil society activists and policy-makers from Bulgaria and the countries of the region. Bulgaria’s accession experience should play a key a role in devising such a strategy – some aspects of Bulgaria’s integration proved not so smooth, while others proved effective, and the new framework should dwell on that.
The goal of the project was to help devise and implement common strategies for minimising the effects of the global economic crisis on the political, institutional and social development of the Western Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
In April 2006 IRIS started the implementation of a 12-month project entitled The Mid-Term Policy Agenda of the Balkans. The objective of the project is to develop and advocate regional policy solutions with EU perspective to remedy the Balkans’ problems.
There are two important issues, dominating the agenda of the Balkans in 2007. The first one is the blockade of the Kosovo status promotion, with its local, regional and international implications. The second one is the silent postponing of EU accession process for the Western Balkans, which is widely considered as a condition sine qua non to cope with regional maladies.
The major goal of the proposed project was to strengthen the process of democratic reconstruction of local decentralized government through establishing and supporting working models for public and private partnerships in Macedonia and BiH.
IRIS advocacy program envisages facilitating the process of forming active groups at local governmental level that will involve the representatives of business communities, civic activists and decision makers in community development planning.
Between July 2005 and December 2005 IRIS International Security and Democratization Program implemented the project on The Process of Decentralization in Macedonia: Prospects for Ethnic Conflict Mitigation, Enhanced Representation, Institutional Efficiency and Accountability, supported by the Freedom House – Regional Networking Project.
On December 1, 2004 IRIS International Security and Democratization Program started the implementation of the one-year project entitled Transborder Exchange of Reform Practices: Decentralization and Citizens’ Inclusion. The program is aimed at elaborating a strategy for applying an integrated system of cross-border transfer of Bulgarian experience and good practices to Macedonia in overcoming deficiencies of the decentralization process and sustaining the citizens’ support for necessary reforms within the context of the European integration.
This six-month pilot project was aimed at increasing the capacity of civil society organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia to effectively represent civic interests through transferring advocacy know how from Bulgaria.
This one year project developed by the Institute for Regional and International Studies – Sofia, united the efforts of local government officials in transborder areas of Bulgaria and Serbia, as well as local NGO activists from the respective communities.
IRIS International Security and Democratization Program implemented the project entitled The Balkans and The New Global Agenda started on May 1, 2002. Project aimed primarily at contributing to a systemic reassessment of the policy agenda of Balkan security in the new international context and defining the basic priorities of cooperation between the Balkan policy community and the policy institutions of the transatlantic community.
The project addressed the following issues: National NATO Accession Strategies and Armed Forces Reforms, Security Priorities of Prospective Members, and NATO Transformation and Strategic Environment.
IRIS International Security and Democratization Program staff initiated the implementation of Civic Strategy for Promoting Bilateral Relations between Bulgaria and Serbia Project on October 1, 2001. The project objective is to establish and promote a civic strategy for development of the relations between Bulgaria and Serbia identifying major interests, social groups, communities and institutions that have potential for intensifying bilateral relations.
The project addressed a number of pressing issues arising from the institutional collapse and series of security crises in this part of the Balkans. The main goal of the project was to involve outstanding think tanks from Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia in active networking for promotion of common measures to sustain security within this strategic tier.
The International Fact Finding Mission has been an extension of the Project on Security Challenges and Development of the Southern Balkans, implemented by IRIS in cooperation with the Euro-Balkan Institute, Skopje and the Institute for Contemporary Studies, Tirana, also supported by the Regional Networking Project, sponsored by Freedom House, with funding provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The European Integration and Regional Stability Program of the Open Society Foundation-Sofia, provides support to follow-up activities of the International Fact-finding Mission.
The project gave IRIS a new perspective and approach for both addressing current and emerging policy challenges and offering practical policy recommendations. The project included the initiation of unique monthly analyses on regional issues in the area of transatlantic cooperation, integration strategies, and foreign policy making in regard to regional security and cooperation.
This project united the efforts of Bulgarian and Macedonian NGOs in the hopes of overcoming the political difficulties in bilateral relations of the two states. The project set up a free forum of NGOs from the two countries searching and formulating points of common interest for Bulgaria and Macedonia, and on this basis, developed and institutionalized legitimate mechanisms of advocacy for achieving a positive public policy impact.
The aim of the project was, through direct observation and analysis of the situation in FR Yugoslavia, to assess the impact of the Yugoslav crisis on Bulgarian foreign policy priorities and the global community’s perception of the Balkans.
This project analyzed the potential factors working as catalysts or barriers to the successful integration of Bulgaria into the South East European Cooperative Initiative (SECI).
The project′s main goal was to lay down the foundations of a public policy strategy for efficient long term South Balkan integration and regional cooperation initiatives.
The aim of the project was to establish and develop an international network of experts, corporate executives and policy makers who could promote regional cooperation in the Southern Balkans in the fields of commerce, infrastructure, telecommunications and energy.