Ever since the first exciting Youth Forum (Belgrade, 2013) highlighting Balkan peace, reconciliation and tolerance, the European Center for Peace and Development ECPD, Belgrade, has welcomed young people from the region and from around the world. Each year the event has a specific subject focus. The most recent one (Pula, Istria, 2016) appropriately, highlighted Youth and the migrant crisis. it was opened by the Deputy Mayor, Pula (Elena Puh Belci) in the presence of representatives of the Pula Office of Ivan Jakovcic, Member of the European Parliament and former Governor of Istria and Kristina Tolic, Regional Youth Information Center Rijeka - UMKI, PGZ.
The suggested theme for the 5th upcoming Youth Forum will be Youth: Citizens Of Their Worlds; Citizen Of Europe. It will provide an empowering fulcrum and a firm spot to stand from where Youth can move their worlds in new directions. It is being undertaken with a growing sense of urgency and mounting concern that little time is left to look back and great effort is needed to stall the future consequences of man’s impact today on the future of young people.
In the heart of the Balkans the European Center for Peace and Development promotes youth and peace. Established by the United Nations (Belgrade, 1983) as a University for Peace and positioned as an educational and research organisation, it acts at the forefront of peace innovation through the application of the principles of human security and the processes of reconciliation. It served as a useful bridge spanning east and west during the cold war. What would soon happen to this region circa 1990: ethnic cleansing, war, NATO bombing, break-up of the former Yugoslavia was unpredictable. What actually happened underscored more than ever, the necessity for the ECPD as a significant regional and global actor in the Balkans.
The European Center for Peace and Development (ECPD) provides a range of educational opportunities commensurate with the principles implicit in its mandate and is dedicated to evaluating events in its still fragile home region. It enjoys full autonomy and academic freedom to choose its educational programmes and to select research activities targeting peace and the diffusion of knowledge. With its research it gains insight into the region’s unfolding geopolitical trajectory within a global context.
To achieve this high blown aim, it cooperates with political, diplomatic, international, socio-economic and scientific structures coming from numerous governmental and non-governmental, national and international organizations, scientists and public figures from a great number of European as well as other countries, including the United States, Japan, China, and India. Newer partnerships include one developing with Long Island University, Brooklyn and one recently signed with Ramon Llull University, Barcelona.
Intelligence gained from contacts, research activities and external sources is used to guide and plan events to come. One such source is The Road to Dignity by 2030 proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General. The report lays out a road map to dignity for any and all countries by setting forth an inspirational agenda for relevant institutional players. It is a transformational compass, pointing to the end of poverty and global protection of our planet.
The ECPD contributes to the alleviation of threats to peace and supports both the process of reconciliation and the strengthening of the irreplaceable role of the United Nations. It has studied problems relating to reintegration, employment of refugees and the impact of sanctions on society. Over the past decade it has promoted implementation of human security as a contemporary version of “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want”. It believes that such goals necessitate the engagement of more young people. This was facilitated by a decision of the Academic Council of the ECPD enabling - encouraging activities in border regions with initiatives to assure more positive prospects for young people. This is now policy, which is being accomplished by the annual transaction of a Youth Forum whose pathway is peace, regionally and globally. The first one took place within the 9th ECPD International Conference marking the 30th Anniversary of the institution.
Circa 2012, the ECPD, considered it imperative to provide young people in the Balkans with a deeper understanding of the status and circumstances of their region, of Europe their continent and the workings of the European Union.
Subsequently, 4 events (Youth Forums, 2013-2016) have been transacted under one banner of Youth for Maintaining Peace in the Balkan Region. A 5th is now being planned (2017). The 2nd and 3rd covered the topics New Generations for EU Enlargement and Cultures of Peace: Youth as Peace-Builders. Number 2 and 3 provided young people with a deeper understanding of the circumstances in which they live either at the center, or in the periphery, or straddling countries (cross border). The goal of all events is to equip young people with new knowledge, information and skills required for peace-building, conflict prevention, and to improve each individual’s ability to resolve conflict and interact peacefully with others.
The Youth Forum was launched in close cooperation with the Association of European Border Regions, Finland, the Youth Association of Serbia and the International Center for Local Regional Development, which operates within the framework of the ECPD. It is now an established annual venue where students and young professionals, representatives of organisations and participants from different cultures can gather, share their ideas, listen and learn, teach and be taught, inspire and be inspired. Each event is interactive, uplifting and challenging and transacted within a framework of fun. The ECPD has already published the Proceedings covering the first two events in Youth for maintaining peace: the role of knowledge (ECPD, 2015). Additional Proceedings are planned to publish a volume on the 3rd, 4th and 5th soon after the latter’s transaction.
As tomorrow’s inheritors of the earth either as beneficiaries or as debtors, Youth should be included in all correctional activities. Beyond youth, they will have to carry on their shoulders a colossal weight left by past generations. Consequently, here and now, they must be given room and right to contribute to the region’s future by deployment of its still untapped competences.
The Youth Forum is one of ECPD’s recent endeavours and a most promising product (2011-2016). It arrived after long gestation having first emerged within the framework of a regional educational and research project set forward in the late nineteen nineties, the Balkans in the 21st Century – ways leading to peace and stability.
Balkans 21 remains a faithful driving force for most of ECPD’s activities today. The other engine of development is the ECPD’s Annual International Conference (2005-2017) with the first held in Montenegro (2005), the third in Kosovo (2007), the fifth and sixth in Croatia. The rest were transacted in the Municipal Canter of the City of Belgrade. The two most recent ones have been noted by the Wall Street Journal. They attract a wide variety of participants, distinguished scientists, many working at the heart of social innovation who have brought change to their respective communities. They congregate to share experience, exchange ideas and present their thoughts, formally and informally on the status and future of our world with an express desire and ambition to transform lives and change society for the better. Three such late personalities; Belgium Ambassador Albert Maas proponent of cross border functions and the rule of law, Japanese Ambassador Takehiro Togo supporter of health diplomacy and human security and Sir James Mancham, Founding and First President of the Republic of the Seychelles. All three had worldwide recognition and were relentlesslycommitted to advocate for peace, tolerance and international cooperation.
In Prizren, 2007, Kosovo was placed in sharp focus within a context of regional human security, It was undertaken in both a spirit of understanding and shared responsibility. The atmosphere was fraught with political tensions and heightened by emotional overtones. It was attended by distinguished international scientists, representatives of the Provisional Government of Kosovo and members of academia, high officials from the United Nations and the European Union, former national political leaders, and the Rector, UN University for Peace, Costa Rica. It was presided over by Takehiro Togo, President, ECPD Academic Council, fluent in English, Russian and Turkish, and was assisted by Jeffrey Levett (the writer).
The main agenda item was National Reconciliation and Human Security and focused on human security of Kosovars. It included, needs to strengthen health, education and economic development. It discussed environmental destruction, growing poverty, terrorism and disease. Participants called for the adoption of a declaration that would reaffirm the principles of human security for the Balkan region. One unexpected outcome was the transaction of seminars on human security to deal with direct threat to peoples in conflict and contagious diseases covering both protection and empowerment of individuals. It was directed by a Permanent International Study Group.
In the same year (2007), the Ministry of Culture and Education, Republic of Srpska, sponsored a set of meetings on the protection of culture and natural heritage and organised through the Republican Institute, Banja Luka. The contribution of the writer was the Argos Inscription relating the first ever attempt to manage cultural heritage.
In 2011, a declaration on the Implementation of the Human Security Concept in the Balkan Region (2010 Brijuni Island, Croatia) became a reality. It stressed common interests, mutual trust, and the need to improve the quality of ordinary life. The declaration was first drafted in collaboration with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and finalised by the writer. Youth was acknowledged as an aid to conflict reduction and resolution, to the processes of reconciliation and for the reinforcement of conditions for peace, and the role of the irreplaceable United Nations.
According to its current thinking ECPD believes that youth must be given a role to deal with bidirectional synergies and dark spaces between European and Euro-Atlantic integration and relevant relations with Russia. This relates also to a planned event during 2017, on American-Russian rapprochement in conjunction with the American University of Paris for which Belgrade is suitably positioned to undertake. One suggestion of content already tabled is a focus on the rich historical research relationship between the two countries in the neuro-sciences. It notes that our greatest asset is our human brain. Let it not be forgotten that artificial intelligence, bionics and robotics are outcomes of a neuro-physiological analogy. Its aim is to contribute to the easing of global tensions by probing for a better understanding of how large numbers of basic units, individual neurons in the brain and individuals in society are activated-behave to produce cognition and societal governance. The question is how can this help the process of rapprochement and the cause of peace.
To recall just one item from Youth Forum activities is difficult but it would have to be a discourse on the ethics of hope by Professor Arthur Dahl (a third age participant as is this writer). He described the past failings of society’s alarm system consisting of philosophers, scientists, prophets with vast knowledge, expertise and insight to catastrophic danger. He bewails the meagre availability of just one single option for today’s youth, that of materialism. He calls on Youth to better mobilise and become empowered with knowledge, with values and vision as the answer to the current world predicament. From the many youth participants I would choose the exemplary report by Kristina Tolic (4th YF, Pula) and through my personal stream of consciousness partially playback some of their contributions (James Joyce after eloping with his lover, angry and censored, taught English in Pula, failing to have found employment in Switzerland and Trieste).
The participants stressed that the Balkans must find a stable political solution and have good and friendly cooperation with other countries… who cares asks one about the name of one state… or if another should have the right to have a name? …what really matters?... only people… all the people… I have met wonderful folks in the Balkans, another says, positive, open (and yes, a bit stubborn) but still amazing… they noted that the forms of inter-participation created in another era, widely ignore newer ways of communication …new information was given…: the AEBR Youth Forum originated in a Summer Camp… brainstorming lead to a learning platform for Cross-Border Cooperation… Seminars were hosted in and around Trieste, in Italy, Finland and in Northern Greece… interesting articles and talks were given… Producing Lost Generations… New Generation in Politics and Diplomacy… Digital Science… Social Trauma… Mental Health… Morality… Critical thinking… Culture… Peace and Conflict Resolution… Emphatic statements were made… we cannot implement a European project in our Century using thinking from past centuries, 19th and even the 18th… we still try to develop supranational constructs with tools and thinking of old fashioned nation states…
Important quotes… “Around the world, there is growing recognition of the need to strengthen policies and investments involving young people.” (Ban Ki-Moon)… “History we should learn from, but without it ruling our lives”… “When will we be better? When we become better” (Patriarch Pavle) …and some absorbing dialogue…Let’s start out with the clichés… well there is a saying: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks and there is a point in that… When you are young you have a more open mind, crucial when aiming for peace, because you are still searching for identity… Young people are born into a different world… globalization gets faster and faster… my father got his first mobile phone at 35, my grandfather at 85, my great grandfather didn’t have one,… well you get the point… changing lives at breakneck speed… trucks driving themselves, computers translating sentences with almost human-like accuracy (but not yet, this my stream)… life expectancy growing and older persons acting ‘youngish’ (the writer dwells on this) … and some dire warnings… that when active young persons fail to find available channels useful, influential, they may find other channels, more radical… We faces blogs, INTERNET info, graffiti paintings and see eco-terrorism unfold… Some disenfranchised, disenchanted young persons may join radical organisations... Patience is needed to act in politics and diplomatic circles… it requires time, to gain understanding and trust… it is not easy to sympathize with faceless counterparts... Solidarity not nationalism and much more are necessary… such as Salsa Festivals, fair-play on and off the court, sports tourism and art as a force in rebuilding good Balkan relationships… This kind of Youth Forum is just one step on a staircase towards a better Europe… Instead of following, we strive to initiate.
If I were to select a couple of books from numerous ECPD publications, descriptive and expressive of its behaviour they would be Sufferings of a people who have always said: "NO", P. M. Gallois, (2001), and Messengers and carriers of new changes in the world, L. Mojsov, L. (2007). To qualify this statement I characterize the ECPD as possessing institutional courage. Evidence is found in the deployment of a Center in Prizren Kosovo, and the transaction of a doctoral programme in biomedical engineering in the General Hospital, Pula, Croatia. Both are excellent examples of class room stimulated reconciliation and co-mingling of cultures. Many Kosovar students have graduated the last one being Lulzim Cela who is now involved in tuberculosis control. One Croat Dragan Belci has already received his doctorate in Pula. Cela’s dissertation assessed maternal and newborn services; Belci’s thesis relates to the chronic dependence on the Caesarean Section. Both have significance for the Balkans.
One unexpected outcome is a demonstrated interest to host a Youth Forum in several locations in the Balkans, Japan, Spain and USA. Croatia Once again, bids to host the 5th Youth Forum, 2017 again in Pula or in Labin, a small historical town on Lagoon Tunelica on the Adriatic Sea. Another and second outcome much appreciated by this writer is the level of inter-generational solidarity expressed by youth participants in their acceptance and warmth towards older contributors. Here it is worth noting that Pasquale Baldocci, senior diplomat, poet and humanitarian was present in Rome, 1957. In Pula  he took youth on a fascinating journey from the Ventotone Manifesto, through Coal and Steel, Treaties of Rome (Common Market, EURATOM) and on to BREXIT. His talk The European project as a paradox discussed the urgent need to reform European institutions.
In addition to the 5th Youth Forum (YF) other upcoming activities include a management summer school on competence development in the health sector, a project on regional population health suggested to the South East Europe Health Network of which ECPD is a partner and a prototype international event US/NATO-European-Russian Reconciliation of Peace with the American University of Paris. To some, this Youth Forum (2013-17) might be considered superfluous, serving only to support the efforts of a member institution in the same UN family. Nothing could be further from the truth! Since World War II, 7 decades ago, certainly, a host of well meaning movements for world peace have emerged that have spanned the globe. There have been many variants, multiple actors with different motivations and some linked to youth. Youth was to answer through the mechanism of the Youth Forum and special platforms. Peace building institutes relating to peace evolved, films were turned, use of dance, music, theatre, art etc., would frame messages and declarations supporting meaningful youth involvement at all levels. More recently and over the past decade, UNESCO, has consistently acknowledged youth as a key partner in actions for peace and now sponsors an open platform to tune in to Youth’s global voices.
I would argue that the Balkans and cradle of European civilisation have certain special dimensions. An examination of overall indicators for population health remain outside of western norms. Youth in the Balkans with technology can facilitate change, Balkan youth in its diverse cultures can help preserve values. The support of Youth must become an evolving force. In Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe, understanding is imparted with rich insights, for both Balkan and European civilizations. Its subtitle, carries with it an unsettling if not ominous message. It is a region, which has witnessed the harm of ethnic cleansing, civil war, NATO bombing and now is submerged in the rough seas of migration, staggering as a result of austerity and threatened by terrorism. Surely, youth’s greater socio-political engagement and strengthened skills must be better dovetailed into their worlds. Youth is a priority! Together with its needs it should be pushed even higher up the socio-economic agenda.
Within a world caught between globalization and regionalization, and in the Balkans the ECPD represents a special force; neutralizing, synthesising and unifying in the face of division and fragmentation. It is finding legitimate expressions in diversity, strengthening regional solidarity and calls for better global governance. in recent International Conferences an attempt was made to tease out and separate problems that can be treated regionally or must be tackled at a global level but always with an input from youth. It was supported by a concept note.
The upcoming 5th Youth Forum will focus on citizenship and true belonging, civic and civil practices within an equal and inclusive democratic future. The ECPD awaits young people; students, activists, workers dedicated to their worlds and who demand a democratic equal and inclusive future to participate, to come forward with their forward looking mindset on what citizenship means or should mean for youth. Alexander the Great in the then region was a great promoter of religious tolerance in Egypt and cultural fusion, globally. As a youth he was inspired by Aristotle, his philosopher teacher and by his boyhood hero Hercules-Heracles killed the Lernean Hydra to rid the marshes of malaria. On first setting eyes on the powerful, majestic and untameable Bucephalos, youthful Alexander asked to ride him. Intuition told him that Bucephalos was afraid of its own shadow! Using hands as blinkers, he directed it towards the sun when warmth on its large face becalmed him. Quickly Alexander mounted and broke him. Legend has it that Philip then said, find other kingdoms my son, Macedonia will never hold you! Life means pushing back dreaded shadows, ridding our space of ghosts and taking chances!
- General Assembly Resolution 64/134, “Proclamation of the Year 2010 as the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and mutual understanding”, A/RES/64/134
- Youth for maintaining peace: the role of knowledge [ECPD, 2015].
- General Assembly Resolution 64/134, “Proclamation of the Year 2010 as the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and mutual understanding”, A/RES/64/134
- Declaration on Implementation of the Human Security Concept in the Balkan Region
- M.E. Sharpe, Balkan Worlds: The First and Last Europe. Armonk, New York, and London, England, 1994
- Leften Stavros Stavrianos: The Balkans since 1453, New York: New York University Press, 2009
- Levett Jeffrey: Cold comfort in Kosovo
- Roberto Savio: European Security without Russia? 2017
Jeffrey Levett, John Kyriopoulos: Public health in the Balkan region: one school's experience
- http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckl045 234-236
- Levett Jeffrey: Albanian castles in defence of Balkan public health (Public Health .... of Schools of Public Health in the European Region; Contributing to Balkan Public Health: a School for Skopje
- Levett Jeffrey, John Kyriopoulos, http://neuron.mefst.hr/docs/CMJ/issues/2002/43/2/11885035
- Skopje Declaration on Public Health, Peace and Human Rights 2001 Croatian MJ
- Jeffrey Levett The Argos Inscription, Banja Luka
- Wilhelm Vollgraff: Inscription d’Argos (Traite entre Knossos et Tylissos), Bulletin de correspondance hellenique, Annee 1913, Volume 37, Numero 1, p. 279–308
- Wilhelm Vollgraff: Inscriptions d’Argos, Bulletin de correspondance hellenique, Annee 1910, Volume 34, Numero 1, p. 330 – 354
- Roberto Savio: Inequality, one Dangerous Gap, Master lecture, Diplomatic Academy, Chile
- Jeffrey Levett, Takehiro Togo: Health Diplomacy WFPHA
- Dragan Belci: Comparison between long post-operative morbidity and chronic dependence on the Caesarean section, Doctoral Thesis University K