In the midst of ongoing ethnic tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, National Endowment for Democracy (NED) partners are using innovative methods to bridge ethnic divides, promote reconciliation, and encourage civic activism among youth.
A leading example of this work is the Post-Conflict Research Center, a local nonprofit organization “dedicated to restoring a culture of peace.” The Center’s “Ordinary Heroes” project brings young people together to gather and record stories of rescues undertaken at great personal risk during conflict. The Center produces documentaries which depict the real-life stories of Bosnian citizens who, by choosing to rescue the ‘other,’ became heroes in a time when some in their country were committing acts of genocide. Each 30-minute episode documents the stories of rescuers and those they saved. The series provides insight into the impact of rescuer behavior on the processes of reconciliation, peacebuilding, and intercultural understanding. The Center’s innovative use of story-telling has been recognized internationally. The “Ordinary Heroes” project won 1st place in the Intercultural Innovation Award competition organized by UN Alliance of Civilizations and the BMW Group.
Over the past five years, the Center’s activities have reached thousands of Bosnian youth, including over 100,000 readers viewing storytelling pieces following their publication on a multimedia platform. This year, five participants, along with 160 other young people throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, created multimedia campaigns to counter violent extremism. The campaigns – which included stories about religious and ethnic diversity, post-conflict reconstruction, and war veterans’ peacebuilding initiatives, reached an audience of over 180,000 citizens.