Balkan Peace Team - International e.V.

en

Balkan Peace Team - International e.V.

Nonviolent Intervention in the Conflicts of Former Yugoslavia: Sending Teams of International Volunteers

A Final Internal Assessment of Its Functioning and Activities

By Christine Schweitzer and Howard Clark

Hintergrund- und Diskussionspapier Nr. 11 des Bund für Soziale Verteidigung

Publisher: Balkan Peace Team-International e.V., in co-operation with the Federation for Social Defence (Bund für Soziale Verteidigung - BSV).


It is published in the series "Hintergrund- und Diskussionspapier" of the BSV as No. 11.

ISSN 1439-2011

Balkan Peace Team has been dissolved, and therefore there is no current post address. Please direct any inquiries to one of the former member organisations of BPT, for example to the BSV, or by e-mail to CSchweitzerIFGK@aol.com.

V.i.S.d.P.: C. Schweitzer, c/o BSV, Schwarzer Weg 8, 32423 Minden

This booklet can be ordered from the Federation for Social Defence (Bund für Soziale Verteidigung), Schwarzer Weg 8, 32423 Minden, soziale_verteidigung@t-online.de

€ 5 plus mailing cost

Contents


1. Introduction

Balkan Peace Team was a project of nonviolent intervention which between 1994 and 2001 placed international volunteer teams in two of the successor states of what until 1991 had been the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: in Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY, consisting of Serbia, Montenegro, including Kosovo/a).When it decided to end BPT's work in the field in early 2001, the Coordinating Committee of BPT felt a need to look back over the last seven or eight years, to evaluate what had been achieved, and to try to formulate lessons in the hope that these may be useful for other present or future peace team projects.

This paper combines documentation and evaluative elements. Putting it together, the two guiding questions have been: What in regard to the structure and the work of BPT may be interesting for others? And secondly, what may be interesting for ourselves who have been part of BPT to look at again and to reflect on?

Balkan Peace Team has certainly made many mistakes, and some of its activists have asked rather fundamental questions like: "Did we follow the right approach? Shouldn't we have done things differently altogether?" Also the way it ended was not in a planned fashion but in a crisis caused by the simultaneous resignation of all the volunteers of the team. Still, in some regards BPT has been a unique project:

  • From beginning to end it was managed on a very practical level by an international coalition of grassroots NGOs.
  • It has practised at least three different approaches to nonviolent intervention work: Support of local human rights and peace organisations through presence, accompaniment and reporting; grassroots dialogue; and multi-communal social work by establishing a Youth Centre.
  • It was active in a pre-war situation (Serbia/Kosovo/a before 1998), during surges of violence and war (Croatia 1995, Serbia/Kosovo/a 1998/9), and in post-war situations (Croatia; Kosovo/a after 1999).


When BPT was started - the planning phase took the whole year of 1993, the first team was trained and fielded in spring 1994 - there was far less experience with nonviolent intervention than there is now. The model of which the BPT founders were most aware was Peace Brigades International. (Other forms of volunteering were familiar to founders such as Eirene and BVS.) Today the picture has changed. In many European countries - including Croatia - there are Civil Peace Services or peace teams, and many development organisations have added a peacebuilding component to their work. The knowledge on strategies and tactics, on approaches and limitations of peace teams has grown consequently, and it can be assumed that if BPT was founded today, many things would be done differently.

Several sources have been used in putting this paper together:

  • An unpublished study done by two German researchers - Dr. Barbara Müller and Dipl.Pol Christian Büttner under the supervision of Prof. Gleichmann (University of Hannover) on the time between the founding of BPT up to 1998. This study is in the process of being revised by one of the researchers and will be published as a book by Barbara Müller probably in late 2002. (Source referred to in the text as MüBü99)
  • A document responding to an evaluation Peace Brigades International (PB), one of the members of BPT, did on BPT's work in 1998. That document both quotes parts of the internal PBI report and answers to them from the point of view of the BPT Coordinating Committee. (Referred to in the text as PBI98)
  • An internal evaluation done by BPT's members in 1999. A questionnaire had been going out and answers collected from present and former volunteers, CC members and member organisations. (Referred to in the text as EV99)
  • Answers to a questionnaire Eric Bachman, one of the last co-Coordinators of BPT, sent out to members and former volunteers in summer 2001, in preparation of an evaluation meeting taking place in October 2001. (Referred to as Q2001)
  • The minutes of this evaluation meeting produced by the meeting facilitator Barbara Müller (Referred to as M2001).
  • Information Donna Howard, a volunteer with Nonviolent Peaceforce (a developing project of large-scale nonviolent intervention), collected in her chapters on Peace Teams in a Feasibility Study published by Nonviolent Peaceforce in 2001. (Referred to as NP01)
  • Comments to the draft from several persons. Those from Eric Bachman who commented extensively on a later draft of this paper, are marked separately as EB0402.


There are clear limitations to these sources, and, in consequence, limitations to the validity of this evaluation. The most serious is that there is very little information on impact in the field, and little reflection of the perspective of BPT's partners in the field. Basically, from the sources used only the study by Müller, Büttner and Gleichmann and the PBI evaluation had systematically interviewed these local partners.[1]

Another limitation is that it has been with a few exceptions the same people, mostly members of the Coordinating Committee - probably about a dozen - who participated in all the evaluations. It is their view that is reflected here, not the view of the majority of the volunteers (though they in all evaluations received the questionnaires, only six or seven found the time to answer them), nor the view of other, not-so-involved members of BPT's supporting organisations, nor the view of the funders.

And last but not least, both authors, Christine Schweitzer and Howard Clark, have been intimately involved with BPT from its very beginnings (the draft of the first proposal) to its very end, and do not lay claim to any objectivity. Christine Schweitzer was the first Coordinator, later represented one of the member organisations in the Coordinating Committee, and as a member of the BPT executive has now been responsible for the work that needs doing when an association is dissolved. Howard Clark (co-) represented War Resisters' International in the Coordinating Committee all the time of BPT's existence. The value of this paper is therefore mainly as a documentation of what the activists of BPT themselves think they have learned, and what may be of interest to others. This assumption is also founded in the experience one author of this paper, Christine Schweitzer, has made in directing - and partly writing herself - the abovementioned Feasibility Study for Nonviolent Peaceforce[2], where the research team desperately was looking for information on what peace team work looks like in practice, how things are organised, what worked and what did not work, and what lessons others learned. Although in recent years the interest in evaluation of conflict transformation work has grown, and certain instruments have been developed, there is still a blatant gap in publications looking at the work of grassroots organisations. Perhaps our paper can be a small contribution to filling this gap, and by talking not only about what we did well but what mistakes we made, and which problems we ran into, provide some guidance for others setting out to plan and run comparable projects of grassroots nonviolent intervention in violent conflicts.

This paper is the result of a co-operative effort. Christine Schweitzer made the first draft, and Howard Clark made extensive additions and revisions as well as polishing up the language. We have to give special thanks to Barbara Müller who facilitated and documented the final evaluation meeting in October 2001, to Eric Bachman who sent out the questionnaire preparing the meeting, as well as made extensive corrections to the several versions of the draft, and to Joke Reijntjes, Sandra van den Bosse and others who commented on the draft. Of course we also thank all those who participated in the evaluations by taking the time to give their insights.

2. About the Balkan Peace Team

The Balkan Peace Team was a peace team organisation which between 1994 and 2001 placed international volunteer teams in Croatia and FR Yugoslavia. It was founded and run by a mainly European-based international coalition of peace organisations.

The project began as the Kosovo Peace Team but, responding to the situation of activists in peace and human rights groups in Croatia, especially the Anti-War Campaign, it expanded its focus to include Croatia and indeed this is where the first team was established in 1994. Usually BPT had two sub-teams in Croatia, one based in Northern Croatia (in either Zagreb or Karlovac), the other in Split. These sub-teams were closed in 1998 and 1999. Another team was working in Serbia and Kosovo/a until the NATO bombing began in 1999. After a short-lived attempt in 1995 to install BPT in Prishtina itself, this team was normally based in Belgrade, Serbia, but concentrated its work on the situation in Kosovo/a. After 1999, there was only one team in Kosovo/a, a team that in 2000 expanded to five people, mainly working on the establishment of a Youth Centre in a bi-ethnic community in Southeast Kosovo/a. Normally it was intended that each team or sub-team should consist of three members, each serving at least one year: in practice, there were rarely moments when all three teams had three volunteers.

2.1 The work of the teams

The teams in Croatia and the team in Serbia/Kosovo/a had different approaches and activities, but they shared a set of important principles.

2.1.1 Balkan Peace Team in Croatia: Otvorene Oci

The two teams in Croatia called themselves Otvorene Oci which means "Open Eyes" in Croatian.

First the Slovenian and then the Croatian unilateral declarations of independence (1991) from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia triggered war, the Yugoslav Army trying to prevent the breaking up of Yugoslavia. The war in Croatia in autumn and winter 1991 was ended by a UN-negotiated and monitored ceasefire agreement. Croatia's independence was recognised, but parts of the country remained under the control of a coalition of local Serbs and Serbian nationalists who had migrated to Croatia from Bosnia, from Serbia itself or from other parts of Croatia. Their "Republic Krajina" won no international recognition, but the territories were designated "UN Protected Areas". In spring and summer 1995, the Croatian army brushed past the UN "protective" forces and retook most of the Krajina forcefully. Only Eastern Slavonia remained under UN control: it was handed back in a negotiated process culminating in 1998. Human rights abuses were quite common in Croatia, particularly against those citizens who were not ethnic Croatians. Minorities, especially Serbs, often lost their housing rights and so either faced eviction or could not get housing. They were discriminated against in employment, and suffered harassment and intimidation from various Croatian groups, including sometimes the local police.[3]

Many ethnic Serbs, attempting to return to homes in Croatia after 1995, found themselves homeless and facing physical attacks that seem to be condoned by the local police and the state authorities.

The other set of people likely to be harassed were groups trying to make Croatia a democratic society, such as independent journalists, peace groups, women's groups, and human rights workers themselves.

Otvorene Oci teams worked in Croatia from 1994 to 1998/1999 to support the work of local peace and human rights groups. This included attending trials in court, being present at evictions, and accompanying local human rights observers to visit villagers facing intimidation. Team members provided occasional trainings in organising skills, and helped to link local groups with international journalists and other international NGOs who could offer further support. Otvorene Oci also produced a variety of reports about the situation in Croatia: some were confidential and were sent only to key contacts, while public reports were sent to journalists and NGOs all over the world. This provided people with a picture of democratic action in Croatian communities that is not covered by the official Croatian press nor by the international media.

The first four-person team arrived in Zagreb at the end of February 1994. All but one of them had significant experience of the region (and that one had made a two-year commitment to BPT). They had the brief to explore and recommend options for a long-term presence and, after meetings with many local activists and in discussion with the CC, drew up a plan to have two offices in Croatia, one in Split and the other in Zagreb. These were later referred to as the South Croatia and North Croatia offices. Originally when Croatian activists had looked for an international peace movement presence, the area suggested had been Osijek, in the east of the country, bordering East Slavonia. However, by 1994, the Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights in Osijek had already attracted more international interest than other parts of the Croatian movement.

In the first half of 1996, there was a complete turnover in the Zagreb sub-team - including the departure of the final member of the original OtOc team. Until that point it had worked very effectively in harness with local activists and was held in very high regard. Afterwards, the sub-team rather lost its way. The new volunteers no longer had the knowledge of the peace and human rights network built up by their forerunners, nor were they as known and trusted within that network.. For a time the team relocated from Zagreb to Karlovac, where they identified issues that were being neglected by other international bodies. However, after a year or so, they returned to Zagreb, finally closing down in 1998 after a survey of local groups showed that the needs of local activists in regard to foreign support had changed, and BPT's services were not necessary any more.

When the sub-team arrived in Split, there was already a significant international presence there because of Split's logistic importance for humanitarian operations in Bosnia. These international agencies therefore were more focused on Bosnia and had little relation with the local human rights activists. At first some local groups welcomed OtOc, hoping that they would take on some of their work. However, gradually, they began to understand the kind of role that OtOc could play. One local activist commented to the 1996 evaluation that "it has taken us two years to understand how to make use of OtOc". As the groups in Split gained in experience and solidity, OtOc increasingly shifted its attention further south, and in particular to the area of Knin and the issue of the return of Serbs who had fled the "Krajina".

The end of the Split sub-team came in 1998. After a difficult handover, the team was beset with personality clashes and collapsed. With the team's programme of work interrupted - in particular a dialogue project with Serbian refugees in Bosnia - the CC took the view that the situation did not warrant the effort to re-start, a view confirmed by a final visit to the field by CC representatives.

2.1.2 Balkan Peace Team in Serbia and Kosovo/a until 1999

The war in Kosovo/a in 1998-99 was often referred to as the "war most warned about" of all the wars of Yugoslav succession. An area to the south of Serbia, Kosovo/a's population is mainly Albanian in ethnicity (90% was a normal estimate) yet Kosovo/a is important in Serbian nationalist mythology and the grievances of the Serbian ethnic minority about the autonomous administration of the 1970s and 1980s played a central role in the general relaunch of Serbian nationalism. In 1989, Belgrade annulled Kosovo/a's autonomy and imposed direct rule. This intensified the ethnic polarisation and brought a range of discriminatory measures, resulting in 70% of the Albanians in employment losing their jobs and Albanian teachers, pupils and students being shut out of their schools and university. The regime enforced its role with brutal policing.

In response, Kosovo/a Albanians moved from demanding republic status to, like Slovenia and Croatia, demanding independence, while adopting a policy of nonviolence. The backbone of this policy was the organisation of parallel social structures to hold their own community together - these structures were primarily an education system from kindergarten through to university, a network of health clinics and a voluntary taxation system inside Kosovo/a backed up by support from Albanians abroad. After 1992, there were few nonviolent protests and increasingly the strategy of nonviolence depended on the hope that international support would restrain Serbia and eventually help Kosovo/a gain independence.

In fact, the international powers were preoccupied with Bosnia. Increasingly - and especially after Kosovo/a's exclusion from Dayton process - a number of Albanians began to call for a more active policy of resistance. For most, this active policy should still be nonviolent. In 1997, the students impressed international diplomats and media with their nonviolent discipline in the face of police brutality as they organised protest marches and vigils demanding their right to education. At the same time, however, a Kosova Liberation Army was beginning to organise itself and stage armed attacks on targets such as police stations. In February and March 1998, Belgrade responded to the KLA with a "security offensive" - the subsequent massacre of Albanian civilians in Drenica marked a turning point as thousands of Albanians then joined the KLA, and the armed conflict escalated.

Throughout the 1990s, very few Albanians saw much value in Serb-Albanian dialogue. They saw little concern about their situation among the Serbian opposition, and those few who were concerned seemed marginal. Moreover, inside Kosovo/a, members of each community tended to be suspicious of those who spent too much with members of the other community: people in either community who sought to build a multi-ethnic Kosovo/a tended to be courageous and rather isolated.

BPT's initial concerns with Kosovo/a were to avert war, to inhibit the wholesale human rights violations involved in the direct rule of Kosovo/a from Belgrade and to strengthen the nonviolent strategy of the Kosovo Albanian population. However, by the time of the exploratory mission in April 1994, it was clear that any international team based in Kosovo/a would be there on sufferance from the Belgrade government. Therefore the strategy had switched to focus on looking for dialogue opportunities and in particular on connecting Kosovo/a Albanians with Serbs who opposed the human rights violations, so helping the construction of "a great chain of nonviolence" (Johan Galtung's concept).

The first team arrived in November 1994 and stayed until January 1995. The CC, in an effort to demonstrate BPT's openness to listening to all points of view and in search of Serbian contacts for dialogue, had accepted an invitation from the Serbian Orthodox Church for this team to make a study tour of Kosovo/a. This stratagem proved to be mistaken as the team lacked sufficient grounding in the perspective of human rights activists, either Serbian or Kosovo Albanian: its reports failed even to mention a wave of arrests and torture against Kosovo Albanians who had been dismissed from the police force.

A second team went to Prishtina in February 1995 and stayed there until April when, after being summoned by the police for "informative talks", it was ordered to leave. Despite this short stay, the team is remembered in Prishtina. Some of its contacts were interviewed by the PBI mission, and were the source for some of that mission's criticisms of BPT. That team's reported lack of discretion exercised a considerable influence on its successors' behaviour. On the other hand, even as late as 2001, a former member of a dialogue-oriented youth group expressed his appreciation of the two volunteers for their encouragement at a time when foreigners were rarely seen in Kosovo/a.

After these two "false starts", BPT set up office in Belgrade, intending to cultivate contacts there and play a visiting role on Kosovo/a. In fact, several months passed with little contact with people in Kosovo/a and, at this point, the CC came close to abandoning the attempt to work in Kosovo/a. In mid-1996, the visiting programme resumed, the team hiring a flat in Kosovo/a for their increasingly regular stays. In 1997, this flat was rented permanently.

BPT, through its regular visits and long-term commitment to Kosovo/a, came to know some of those individuals and groups open to dialogue or contact with the other community, and to offer them the additional strength that came from outside support. Also included in this effort have been peace activists in Serbia who sought dialogue and co-operation with their Kosovo/a Albanian neighbours. BPT was a bridge between peace minded individuals who had very little contact with each other.[4] BPT's work in Kosovo/a included visits to many local groups, offering introductions and making connections between groups within the Serb and Albanian communities, providing technical advice and trainings, and introducing local NGO member to international journalists, to embassy officials, and to international NGOs that can provide them with further support. Two particular initiatives were encouraging the Centre for Nonviolence and Human Rights in Ni[sinvcircumflex] to visit Kosovo/a and to involve Belgrade students in the situation. It was largely at the prompting of BPT that in 1997 both bodies visited Prishtina to observe the Albanian student demonstrations, the Belgrade students declaring their support for the universal right to education.

There was a sense too that the teams should work hand in hand with international peace movements without a permanent peace presence. Thus, while the volunteers themselves were warned against being directly involved in humanitarian aid, they often cooperated closely with groups such as Tilburg za Mir who donated equipment to peace groups in the region. Also some of the international groups who facilitated workshops or other events to bring Kosovo Albanians and Serbs into contact with each other found a value in inviting BPT to attend and to follow-up these meetings, "keeping the contacts warm" in the words of one such facilitator - Hugh Miall, director of the Richardson Institute.

2.1.3 BPT in Kosovo/a after the NATO war 1999

The fighting between the KLA and Serbian forces in 1998 claimed more than 2,000 lives and at one point caused the displacement of more than 400,000 people (20% of the population of Kosovo). The international presence in Kosovo/a increased considerably during the year, and in this year dialogue efforts also proliferated. But nothing - neither military threats nor the mounting of the OSCE's largest mission - seemed able to interrupt the cycle of "provocation and reaction" between the KLA and Serbian forces. When peace negotiations in Rambouillet failed in 1999, NATO attacked FRY, bombing military targets and industrial infrastructure in Serbia, Montenegro and Vojvodina, as well as a few targets in Kosovo/a itself, while inside Kosovo/a Serbian forces and paramilitaries engaged in ethnic cleansing. More than half the Albanian population of Kosovo fled or were expelled from their homes. The war ended in June, with Kosovo/a becoming a quasi-UN protectorate administered by an international administration supported by a 50,000-strong military force, KFOR, led by NATO. Immediately Albanians began to return, and most members of the Serbian minority to flee. Even those Serbs willing to stay and adapt to the changed situation soon found themselves under threat. Now those Serbs remaining in Kosovo live either under military protection or in enclaves.

In August 1999, BPT returned to Kosovo/a - working in Serbia and Kosovo by the same team was judged impossible at this point. The team found that a few former Kosovo Albanian contacts were still in prison in Serbia, some others were in prominent positions and almost besieged by the huge influx of internationals wanting to build "civil society", while most local English-speakers had well-paid jobs with the international administration or other international agencies. Two specific projects were proposed. First was a project of "stories of survival", recording the recent experience of the Albanian population without simply confirming ethnic stereotypes - for instance, showing that Serbs and members of other minority groups had sheltered and protected Albanians at the height of the ethnic cleansing. The other was to start a cross-community Youth Centre in an area where there was an ethnic mix but where ethnic tensions had not escalated to the point that work for reconciliation would be impossible.

For the centre, the team eventually chose an area, Dragash in the southeast of Kosovo/a, where Albanians co-exist not with Serbs but with Gorani (Slavic Muslims). Although Albanians tend to view Gorani as having sided with the ruling Serbs during 1990s, the tensions between both groups have not generated the degree of violence that exists between Albanians and Serbs elsewhere. In discussions with leaders of the community the plan for a community Youth Centre was developed. The centre, first more a virtual than a real place, began in spring 2000 with language classes for children and teachers., and later (autumn 2000) computer classes for youth. Normally the ethnic groups attended separate classes in the same school building, so the team considered it to be a success that members of the two groups participated in common activitiesin the new youth centre.[5] The centre has continued since the BPT team dissolved in early 2001, now being organised by a coalition of three other international NGOs. In particular the German Forum Civil Peace Service is continuing programmes in the Youth Centre, hoping to hand it over in the hands of a yet-to-be formed group of local representatives.

2.2 Why BPT closed down

2.2.1 What happened: A chronology

The trigger for closing BPT was the collective resignation of the five volunteers in Kosovo/a in January 2001. Relations between the team and the BPT structures - including the office in Minden and the sub-group - had been increasingly problematic in the year 2000. The volunteers' frustrations with BPT reached their limit in January 2001 when, upon their return to Kosovo after a Christmas break, they found that there was less than 60 DM in the bank account in Prishtina when they had been expecting a transfer of some 13.000 DM. Having acquired a building to serve as a community centre in Dragash, and raised funds to equip it, they now feared delays in essential work such as the electrical re-wiring. The volunteers sent out urgent messaes about the situation and phoned certain members of the Coordinating Committee to hear their opinions. Two days later, all five submitted their resignations.

In their individual letters, each team member shared their views that the lack of an adequate structure in BPT handicapped them in fulfilling their responsibilities in the field. Similar concerns about BPT structures had been raised by others as well and discussed within the Coordinating Committee. A working group had been set up and was preparing suggestions on restructuring BPT, but the steps that had been taken so far to address these issues were small and slow and did not command the confidence of either the team or some members of the CC.

There were different reactions both to the teams' complaints and to the situation in which their resignation put BPT. Although some CC members had strong feelings about how the team presented the problems it faced[6], the CC decided that following the team's resignation it had to concentrate on the issue of the future: Above all, to decide whether it was capable both of remounting its work in the field and re-structuring its overall way of working. With all the volunteers leaving by the end of March and no possibility of replacing five volunteers at once, it was clear that BPT could not continue its work in the field without interruption.

From January to March, BPT members discussed the situation by email and in person at an "open" meeting of the BPT Coordinating Committee and later at a General Assembly, where the final decisions were made. At the BPT CC in mid-February, some preliminary decisions were made to close the current projects in Kosovo/a. There was a strong commitment to find a way for BPT's work in Dragash, the Dragash Youth Centre, to continue under temporary management of other NGOs and eventually to be turned over to the local community. A series of meetings in Dragash in February and March brought interested NGOs and local citizens together to develop a workable arrangement. Thus the Youth Centre continued with oversight from a consortium of international groups and with one BPT volunteer staying in Dragash for several months to working with this project.

Before deciding finally at its General Assembly to close BPT, the CC felt that it was worth sending an exploratory trip to Kosovo/a to see if there were new ways for BPT to contribute to peace in the region. This trip was conducted with one of BPT's supporting organisations, EPB (Equipe de Paix dans les Balkans), which is also known as BPT France. Unfortunately, the report on the exploration did not reveal any new formations that would meet BPT's mandate and yet have fewer organisational demands. (Separately, the EPB decided to continue developing a volunteer project and a report on this effort is in this report.)

The mood at the final General Assembly was sad but decisive. It was clear that the BPT as it was structured did not have the capacity to operate its projects in a way that could be both supportive and effective. The members of BPT, mostly peace organisations from Western Europe, could not supply enough resources, both people and funds, to make the necessary changes to achieve this. The GA decided to end the organisation by the end of the year. The last of the volunteers left at the end of March and the International Office closed at the end of May.

The General Assembly was firmly convinced that the BPT experiences continue to be helpful and relevant to others carrying out peace work and nonviolent intervention efforts. As a result, they agreed to carry out an evaluation of BPT's work, particularly of the last two years, and to hold an evaluation meeting middle of October. This meeting took place and collected a lot of information on different aspects of the work of BPT.

This publication here now can be considered the final activity of BPT-International. Only its French branch, EPB, will continue to work in Kosovo/a under the name of Balkan Peace Team France.

2.2.2 Why did this crisis develop, and why did it lead to the break-down of the project?

As a member of the Coordinating Committee pointed out in an e-mail to the other members of the CC, BPT had had repeated cycles of crisis which it survived because of various strengths that compensated for structural weaknesses. The main strengths can be regarded as the quality of much of the fieldwork, the goodwill and commitment of many CC members, and the wide net of contacts. Later this evaluation will deal more fully with the nature of the structural weaknesses.. They were mainly to be found in the relationship between the volunteers and the international structures, including the international office; the project's lack of financial security or even clarity; the ineffective management of the international office; the heavy workload borne by all parts of the structure. Some of these weaknesses could be traced back to insufficient funding - if there had been enough money, there would have been more office staff, probably a field coordinator, better equipment and so forth.

Money, however, is a necessary but not a sufficient explanation. More than lack of money, the problems of financial management were a persistent source of insecurity for volunteers. On the one hand, they were often perturbed that there were not funds in hand to carry out commitments they were making in the field. On the other hand, when more detailed budgeting was introduced, they were irritated at the imposition of financial controls. Other factors played a decisive role as well, in particular the lack of confidence that the CC was capable of managing either the finances or the central office. Most members of the CC could no longer give the energy and commitment required to overcome the crisis of the volunteers' resignation.

Volunteer criticisms of the BPT structures were nothing new. However, in the year 2000, the criticisms from the Kosovo/a team reached an unprecedented level of intensity. Partly, this was because the team was in a very different situation from its predecessors.

  • As the only team in the field, they did not have colleagues outside the situation with whom to check their perceptions.
  • Having five members, this was the largest BPT team - a fact that probably contributed to the team being its own point of reference.
  • Even though three ex-BPT volunteers were close at hand (having jobs with various international agencies in Prishtina) in 1999 and 2000, there was no continuity in perspective between generations of volunteers.
  • Where previous generations of volunteers took local activists as their reference points, in post-war Kosovo/a the situation had changed dramatically. From international neglect, the situation had changed to international saturation. In the second half of 1999, more than 300 international NGOs set up operations in Kosovo/a, and previous activist contacts now had the ear of much more influential international figures than BPT volunteers. (For instance, two of them succeeded in persuading the US Congress to suspend funds to the UNHCR until the Congress-funded Kosovo Women's Initiative was put on a better footing.)
  • The international administration, agencies and NGOs and also local groups now tended to have up-to-date office equipment. Whereas in 1997 BPT had helped deliver a secondhand computer to a group in the rural women's network, in the post-war situation another international volunteer project - Balkan Sunflowers - found itself thanking the key group in that coordination for the donation of a notebook computer!
  • The Youth Centre project in Dragash was a new departure for BPT: a BPT initiative in a small town where nobody on the CC had any personal contacts.


In general, volunteers who had been impressed by the BPT they had encountered at the volunteer assessment and in their training then came to expect a level of professionalism that did not exist in the overall management of BPT. As BPT had existed for seven years, they thought that more of the basic structural problems would have been resolved.

In the early days, there was a general recognition that BPT had either improvised procedures or borrowed models from elsewhere that might need adapting. It was generally recognised that BPT was on a learning curve, and both the CC and the volunteers proceeded in that spirit - evaluating progress, listening and promptly responding to criticisms. The CC had quickly recognised a disparity between the experience of volunteers in the field, living and working intensely in a situation of conflict, and the experience of CC members, living in their own homes and dedicating just part of their time to this work. Also, there was often a disparity in motivation: whereas the CC members had their roots in peace movements and nonviolence, only a minority of volunteers did. This brought complaints, for instance that the early trainings focused too much on nonviolence and not enough on the practical skills that would be needed.

Occasionally in the past volunteers had complained of "lack of guidance" in their work. More often, teams were happy to manage themselves, but even then there was a persistent complaint about "lack of feedback" on the reports they were writing and the work they were doing. This was partly a result of CC members being overloaded with other tasks, or unfamiliar with or lacking confidence in addressing the issues faced by volunteers. Some suggest that the lack of guidance and supervision had to do with the non-hierarchical, consensus-based structure most member organisations preferred. Certainly, these principles were alien to some volunteers, but the point of frustration tended to come with the failure to do work vital for the organisation - the issues varied over time but included failure to distribute adequate information to potential volunteers, inconsistencies in the forms of training available to volunteers, the lack of regularity of the newsletter, and of course lack of clarity and security about the project's finances.

In 1997, the CC had held a special session looking at the need for BPT structures for an organisational transition, to become a more solid organisation, with more or less established structures and a secure funding base. This session set a framework that BPT would stay in the region at least for a further three years. At a time when many international NGOs were withdrawing from Croatia, that was useful for the strategic planning of the Split team in particular. The session also drew up certain priorities in terms of establishing a stronger base for the international organisation. Unfortunately, this session remained little more than a promising beginning - the detailed follow-up was lacking.

One observation made in 2001 was that BPT volunteers compared their situation with that of other international workers in post-war Kosovo/a and found themselves unable to deal with the shortcomings of a grassroots, peace movement style project. Certainly in terms of equipment, housing and office space, BPT would suffer from such comparisons. However, former BPT volunteers who worked for other agencies in post-war Kosovo/a could confirm that the level of knowledge of the situation, especially among the sub-group, and the level of support and preparation for the volunteers were much greater than was available in most international NGOs or agencies in Kosovo/a.

One issue in the decision to close that was only diagnosed after the volunteers' resignation was that CC members were less motivated to support a project initiated by BPT itself, such as the Dragash Youth Centre, than to support initiatives coming from local people interested in dialogue. At one point, the team had solicited advice on how to foster "ownership" of the Youth Centre - a problem never previously encountered by BPT because of its closer relationship with local activists.

3. What we learned in the evaluations

3.1 Organisational Structure

3.1.1 Description

Balkan Peace Team has been a coalition project of about ten members. Though the composition changed a bit, the following organisations have been with BPT almost from the beginning to the end: Österreichische Friedensdienste (Austrian Peace Services, ÖFD), Brethren Service, Bund für Soziale Verteidigung (Federation for Social Defence - BSV), Dutch Mennonites working group ex-Yugoslavia, Eirene International, International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFoR), Mouvement pour une alternative nonviolente (MAN), Peace Brigades International (PBI) and War Resisters´ International / London (WRI).[7] Besides these member organisation, two BPT country groups formed: in Switzerland and the Netherlands. The core of both were people from the member organisations in these countries. Additionally there were 8 individual members of BPT.

Most member organisations sent a representative to the Coordinating Committee (CC) of BPT. BSV, IFOR, PBI and WRI informally were considered to be entitled to a seat on the CC, although its members formally were elected during the yearly General Assemblies (GAs). The CC also recommended that the French coordination (the "French-speaking groups", meaning MAN and other French nonviolent groups plus the two Geneva organisations).[8] Some of them sent staff persons to the CC, but in spite of the demanding work (it was estimated that being a part of the CC needed 2-5 hours/week) several CC members served in their own time. At least one seat always was filled by an ex-volunteer, and the Coordinator(s) had a seat[9] qua officio.

From the members of the Coordinating Committee, a three-person executive committee was appointed to fulfil the German association law, but this executive committee was bound to the decisions of the CC and did not meet as a body. Being a member of the exec was considered a formality (they were the persons who could officially sign for the organisation) and not a real working position in the structure of BPT, although that has been known to cause some confusion by new CC members and IO staff used to working with a formal association structure. That construction did not hold any longer when BPT broke down - the three exec members then became the ones being responsible for the closing down of the association.

The member organisations (rather, most of them in reality) paid a rather nominal annual fee of DEM 1.200 (613 ), but in addition paid for the participation of their reps in the CC and in the General Assembly, and some of them helped with substantial fund-raising. In addition, Austrian Peace Services, Brethren Service and Quaker Peace and Service supplied and/or financed volunteers, and several organisations did advertising for BPT, helped with international networking and the like.

The Coordinating Committee met about 3-4 times a year (in the beginning even more often) for a week-end. Since 1995 it created subgroups - occasionally including people not members of the CC - in order to spread the work among more people.. Each of the field teams (Croatia and Serbia/Kosovo/a) had a subgroup; there was a training subgroup, a personnel "subgroup" (for long time consisting only of one person), and a PR subgroup that only met at the CC/GA meetings. In addition, the last years there was a treasurer, a finance subgroup and a subgroup for the international office.

BPT created the position of a Coordinator with an office that was situated in Germany being hosted by the BSV. The reason for that decision had been that the first three Coordinators were hired under a special German financial scheme where the unemployment office subsidises a large part of the salary of a person for up to two years if that person was unemployed for at least a year. The last Co-coordinators, a jobshare, were paid totally by BPT itself. In addition, there was an office aide paid by another employment scheme, and from time to time an office volunteer.

BPT's main funding sources were private donations (mainly from Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland), governments (Switzerland and Britain), organisations like Diakonia Germany, a Christian Belgian trade union, and the Lutheran Church in Germany,foundations, (Heinrich Böll Foundation for example), and the fees of the member organisations. Its yearly budget in the year 2000 was about 300.000 [10]. Approximately one-third of the funds came from private donors, one-third from government sources and one-third from foundations or other organisations.

The field teams of BPT were rather small, 3 persons per office. At the beginning of BPT, the minimal stay of a field volunteer were six months. That was later prolonged to a year. Some volunteers, mainly those from Brethren Service, stayed for two years. From time to time short-term consultants, for example former volunteers, joined the teams for a period of time between six weeks and three months.

BPT covered volunteers' expenses for food, lodging and travel on BPT business. Additionally, BPT paid ca. 150 pocket money. There was also a 150 holiday payment. Volunteers serving with BPT for more than three months were entitled to reintegration help of 30 for every month they worked with BPT. BPT supplied each volunteer with health insurance, third-party liability insurance, and accident / invalidity insurance.

The main steps to become a volunteer were the following (see also the appendix):

  1. Getting in contact with the International Office in Minden and receiving the Preliminary Questionnaire and other background materials.
  2. Returning the filled in questionnaire with names of references to the International Office.
  3. Interview by a local representative of BPT.
  4. On the basis of application, references and interview, invitation to the next scheduled Assessment (ca. 5 days, always held in a training centre in Amersfoort/Netherlands, organised by 2-3 BPT representatives (1 CC, 1 trainer, 1 former volunteer).
  5. At the end of the Assessment, information whether s/he had been accepted as a volunteer, as well as (possibly) the date and location of her/his placement ("pooling").
  6. Training
  7. Placement (sometimes after some waiting time).


BPT had no age limits: maturity counted for more than physical age. In practice, there were no volunteers younger than 22, many were in their 20s, but there were also volunteers in their 30s, 40s, 50s (including two grandmas), and one in his 60s. Slightly more women than men volunteered. Perhaps only two volunteers were in a marriage at the time they joined, although some others had stable couple relationships with a partner in another country. Volunteers came mainly from Western Europe or the USA, although there were two Australians and one Filipina. Applicants from all parts of former-Yugoslavia or of "Yugoslav" extraction were not accepted. A significant minority of volunteers had prior experience in the region with other peace or humanitarian projects. The list of required skills volunteers had to bring was not very long. Volunteers had to be able to express himself or herself in English, and be willing to learn Croatian, Serbian or Albanian. They had to be mature, communicative, and to have past experience in demanding situations. High value was put on experience in another country, and conflict resolution or social movement experience, though none of these were "musts". Neither did they have to have computer literacy, or book-keeping skills, though the lack of these sometimes was felt a lot, because the teams were required to communicate by e-mail, write reports on computers, and do their own book-keeping.

There were a number of issues about volunteer placement where BPT had no formal policy, for instance concerning the placement of couples or of people with physical disabilities. One couple approached BPT wishing to volunteer together, but withdrew their application before it came to a CC meeting (informally strong opinions had already been expressed on both sides of the question). One elderly volunteer with restricted mobility was accepted at the volunteer assessment, only to be rejected at a CC meeting.

When BPT was founded, it started to build up an alert network[11], but did not really develop it. Peace Brigades International assured BPT that its alert network would be available in case of threats to BPT's own volunteers, though not for support for local activists.

3.1.2 General observations

3.1.2.1 Member organisations

Both the evaluation of 1999 and the final evaluation dealt with the question of what being a part of BPT had meant for the member organisations. Several functions were identified where member organisations, in the words of the 1999 evaluation, "profited" from BPT:

  • Get information on the situation in the countries BPT worked in.
  • Gain experiences in conflict transformation, nonviolent intervention, international fundraising; chances and limits of peace teams; how to organise a peace team; model for Civilian Peace Service; all the various aspects of what peacebuilding or peacekeeping work might mean in the field.[12]
  • Show that it is possible to work in highly escalated conflicts.
  • Co-operation in an international coalition; gaining experience in transnational work; learning co-operation between religious and non-religious organisations (also mentioned in M2001)
  • Transfer of knowledge from the CC reps (and volunteers[13]) back to their organisations.
  • Public relations for their own organisation (Answer when asked "what do you do in the Balkans?"); gaining credibility or political profit from the positive reputation of BPT in one's own country; using the example for civilian intervention, peace teams, Civilian Peace Service in own publications, which occasionally also brought donations (last point: remark from the evaluation meeting in 2001)
  • Importance for other projects of the organisations, e.g. in the promotion of Civil Peace Service that several member organisation were engaged in, or in the work plan for the "Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence".
  • Networking functions, both towards local NGOs and towards each other in the coalition.


The interviewed reps of the member organisations and CC expressed general satisfaction with these functions. Only the lack of PR material (see below) and more co-operation in attempts to reach institutionalisation of CPS on national and European/international level were mentioned as desiderata.

These positive aspects are also reflected in the questionnaires and the meeting in autumn 2001, although here some new negative aspects came up that had not been mentioned before:

  • Lack of political commitment of member organisations towards the goals of BPT, and different policies of BPT and its member organisations were critically remarked upon (the questionnaires did not really elicit any explanation of these points.)
  • European base brought discomfort with too much US involvement and also with lack of involvement from people from the Southern hemisphere.


One very general potentially negative aspect has been raised by Müller/ Büttner/ Gleichmann: Under the heading "A Need for Action that Exceeds Institutional Capacities", they write that "the goal of developing an alternative to military intervention has led to massive human resources within the member organisations and founding organisations of the BPT being focused on the project and remaining tied up in it for many years. This has meant not only that very limited staff resources in the various organisations have been tied up, but also that `Balkan' work has largely been defined as work for the BPT. Space for other activities - for mobilisation, actions, information - and also for other topics, has shrunk. The BPT has thus become `the' answer not only in the discussion about intervention, but also in dealing with the conflict in the Balkans. Despite the working capacity flowing into the BPT, the work that arises there cannot be done adequately, with the result that the upshot at both ends is unsatisfactory: there is hardly any capacity for further activities in the conflict, nor is there sufficient capacity to do the work for the Balkan Peace Team satisfactorily." (p.160, translation Müller).

This picture could only be partly confirmed by the evaluations of 1999 and of 2001. On the one hand most organisations said that they were not content with the level of their input, and some doubted if they could maintain the present level. But on the other hand most thought that it would not make much difference to their other Balkan activities if BPT didn't exist.[14]

There were times - especially in Kosovo/a - when outside groups looked to BPT for cooperation in other types of international nonviolent intervention. Before the war, the team tended to be reluctant to consider even the plans for expansion in Kosovo/a being promoted within BPT by MAN and were normally hostile to proposals involving larger groups of international activists taking part in high-profile nonviolent actions. This points to a difficulty for long-term, low-profile peace teams in responding to strategies seeking to use an international presence to dramatise the situation and attract more media attention.

3.1.2.2 Coalition structure

Throughout the project it was open to question if BPT should remain as a coalition project "forever", or if it should be transformed into a more independent international association. When BPT closed down, the question was still open, hitherto those wanting to keep BPT as a coalition at least for the time being still being the majority. The strongest argument against independence was that basically BPT would not be able to survive as an independent organisation: it needed the input and combined competence and approaches of the member organisations, plus the international base in order to do fundraising on an international level.. Additionally those active in BPT were mostly delegated by their organisations and had responsibilities to those organisations: they were not independent volunteers mainly dedicated to BPT. Another factor may have been that the co-operation itself was much appreciated, and perhaps people were therefore hesitant to take radical steps (see below 1.1.3; EV99).

Few felt that the success of BPT-NL as a support structure for BPT-International could be repeated in other countries.

As a negative point on the coalition structure, it was mentioned in 2001 that a coalition structure made it easier to avoid responsibilities, because responsibility always fell on more than one pair of shoulders. (M2001)

3.1.2.3 What it meant personally for those involved

All the work described above was only possible because those actively involved in BPT on behalf of other organisations profited from this work. This came clearly out of the final meeting in October 2001 as well as out of earlier evaluations. Generally it was stated that persons had more weight than organisations. Other positive aspects, besides the "profits" already listed above, listed by those on the CC or serving BPT in other functions were:

  • Learned to know great people; met people with the same ideas (M2201)
  • Don't regret having joined BPT; was worthwhile having it (Q2001)
  • Gained training experience; gained organisational experience (as IO staff) (M2001)
  • Enjoyed the CC-meetings and had the feeling to be able to give an active contribution (M2201)


Only one person mentioned in 2001 that the amount of work also led to frustration, and spoke of the feeling of never doing enough. (M2201) From the personal experience of the author, this negative side was probably more widespread than is reflected in the evaluation.

The evaluation meeting in October 2001 rated what the participants considered as impact on the personal/individual level in a chart between 0 and 100%. This chart[15] is documented here - that it is a product of subjective perception probably does not need extra mention:

Level: personal / individual




Degree

Activity

0%


10

Recruit peace workers for other/future projects

10

Provide people with international contacts that helped them to "survive" (Kosovo/a)

10

Some western individuals got to know the Balkans a bit better (volunteers, cc members, donors, audience on speaking tours

20

introduce understanding of nonviolence in some actors in Kosovo/a-Albanian society

50

on cc members: cultural understanding

70

young people that were chosen by BPT in Kosovo/a to participate at the dialogue project of the B. Institute and the follow up done by BPT: better understanding

70

The week or day for the youth organised in Dragash with assistance of BPT: better understanding

70

Strong impact on volunteers: Learned a lot - conflict resolution, teamwork, listening, culture and language

100

Careers in international organisations for some volunteers by providing a start and first experiences

100

Partnerships (6 couples acc. to GNPF-study)

3.1.3 Specific observations regarding the different entities of BPT

3.1.3.1 General Assembly

The General Assembly has barely been mentioned so far. One person observed in 2001 that it didn't play much of a role as a special entity (Q2001). From the authors' own experience, this observation can be confirmed. Despite the fact that many individuals and organisations were invited to the General Assembly, few had enough interest to participate in the meetings. The result was that there was so much personal and organisational overlap between GAs and CCs that its meetings sometimes were little more than a duplication of a CC meeting.

3.1.3.2 Coordinating Committee

Several problematic aspects of the work of the Coordinating Committee (CC) can be found below in "Aspects of the functioning of the structure" (3.1.5). Here, only two aspects shall be addressed that is not reflected below: First, generally, the evaluation meeting and the questionnaire in 2001 showed that the changing composition of the CC over the years, and problems in regard to hand-over from the "first generation" of CC members to later reps was a problem. There was the feeling that the degree of engagement lessened. Several organisations in addition had problems to find new reps when the first ones stepped down and had to be replaced.[16]

Second, there were several comments towards the end of BPT that the CC meetings had become less enjoyable, and there were several distressing clashes during meetings. While it was widely recognised that the phase of BPT when CC members and the Coordinator would stay up late into the night playing cards and joking with volunteers was bound to be temporary, it seems that in its later years less care was taken to maintain good relations between participants at CC meetings.

3.1.3.3 Subgroups

While the institutionalisation of subgroups in 1995 generally was seen as an improvement compared to the time when the CC took all decisions jointly (EV99), there has also been criticism mainly regarding slow and ineffective decision-making because the groups did not have a clear convenor and no one who had 'the last word'. In the case of the personnel and the team subgroups, there was also a confusion of responsibilities in regard to who took care of volunteers after they had been pooled or sent to the field. (Q2001)

3.1.3.4 International Office

The international office has for long times been a point of dissatisfaction and sometimes tension between office staff and CC, and office and teams. Most of it was due to serious understaffing: At the core of the problem was that there was not enough money to pay sufficient staff hours. Only a short time before the end of BPT, the two Co-Coordinators managed to fund-raise for enough money to cover the costs of two half-time positions. Previously, BPT relied on the above-mentioned unemployment subsidy scheme (ABM). which meant that there was only one full-time position in the office because small organisations like BPT could not get more than one staff person under that scheme. Because BPT depended upon ABM subsidies for its staff person, it meant that we were limited to people who were unemployed and fit the criteria of the unemployment office. (At one point, BPT was granted a new ABM subsidy but was not able to find a suitable person to fill the position.) It also meant that there was a change of staff every two years because the ABM subsidies are limited to two years per person at maximum.

Because there was more work than the staff could manage - even two part-time positions plus an half-time office aide proved not enough - there were always things that did not get done, or done too late, or in an insufficient manner. Public Relations, distribution of the reports written by the teams, and also book-keeping were the three areas often neglected. (M2001, Q2001, EV99. Remarks on the tensions between IO and the field teams see below.)

3.1.3.5 Involvement of former volunteers

In spite of the work-load, BPT had problems in finding useful roles for its individual members and former volunteers. Unlike other organisations (like PBI, for instance), BPT-International did not systematically urge former volunteers to stay involved, give public presentations on their work or fill other support roles. Nevertheless, a number of former volunteers gave talks about BPT on their return to their home country, and in contrast to the international picture, BPT-NL was successful in involving former volunteers. There was always one seat on the CC for a former volunteer, but in general the roles available were rather ad hoc - such as interviewing prospective volunteers or occasionally former volunteers were invited to visit a team as short-term consultants in the field.

3.1.4 Observations regarding special tasks of the structure

3.1.4.1 Funding

BPT always struggled with an extreme lack of funds. There were several financial crises in its lifetime, sometimes coming close to forcing the end of work in the field. Some CC members saw it as an irony that in 2001 when BPT closed down there was more money than there had been ever before, though most of it was ear-marked for the Dragash project. BPT realised that while it was easy to finance a project like Dragash, there was a lack of funds for networking and other activities.

The lack of funds did harm in several ways:

  • In the field it harmed the work of the teams who at some moments did not know if the project would survive, and therefore were very hesitant to develop any middle-term working perspectives. It also put question-mark on the project as reliable partner. MüBü99, M2001)
  • Some teams got involved in fundraising which most people considered should not have been their job.
  • There was not enough money to pay for adequate staff time (see above), which in consequence meant that some aspects of the work did not get done.
  • There was a lack of technical support to the teams (enough and reliable cars, computers, phones etc.) that not only caused problems for the work of the teams but may also be considered a security risk at some moments. The last team in Kosovo/a gave the lack of adequate technical support as one of the reasons for their leaving their project.(Q2001)
  • At least once a training had to be cancelled due to lack of funds, and thereby the preparation of new volunteers stopped. (Q2001)


Both in the evaluation of 1999 and 2001 the question was asked if BPT had problems in keeping its political independence in relation with its funders. Some people involved noticed a problem in this regard while others did not, maintaining that it was easy to "sell" BPT. (Q2001, M2001)

The CC members who represented organisations had a special problem with fund-raising because they at the same time often were involved in fund-raising for their own organisations that also were in need of money, or even sometimes in financial crises themselves. (EV99) The resulting de-facto competition between BPT and its member organisations meant that fund-raising was mainly (with some exceptions like a British CC member making the contacts with the British DFID) left to the IO and to the Dutch and Swiss support groups.

"The fact that BPT was an international organisation was sometimes a hindrance for fund raising in sense that for example Dutch funds would prefer to give money to a Dutch organisation or at least an organisation they had heard of. BPT was known in many countries but the layer was very thin". (A CC member in an e-mail in February 2001)

3.1.4.2 Public Relations

Public relations was one of the main weaknesses of BPT. It never managed to develop PR as a regular and successful activity. Besides reports in the magazines of the member organisations, the BPT newsletter -(produced and mailed by the Dutch support group), the website constructed by another Dutch volunteer, and the production of a slide show and a leaflet by a volunteer in 1995, there wasn't much - certainly no PR policy or continued activities (M2001, MüBü99). The reason was work overload - the need for PR was always seen, but there was very little time to work on it, having in the eyes of those juggling with too many tasks on their hands less priority than other tasks.

This lack may be considered to have had consequences both for the fund-raising, and for the building up of international influence (see below). On the other hand, when journalists visited the field or outside media requested volunteers for articles, the volunteers were always counselled that considerations of their fieldwork should have priority.

3.1.4.3 Lobbying

BPT never engaged in any concentrated lobbying work, nor did it have the structure (personnel) that would have permitted such work (M2001). One Coordinator began the circulation of OtOc field reports to German parliamentarians. However there was a general regret that BPT did not make fuller use of such reports outside Croatia. (EV99) Also, some member organisations felt that lobbying was a task that should rather be left to them (EV99).

3.1.4.4 Alert Network

When BPT was founded, it started to build up an alert network, but did not develop if far. Only once it was used in Croatia, when protest letters regarding the house evictions were sent to Croatian authorities (MüBü99, PBI98) The reason for neglect of the tool may also be seen probably more in the work overload than in a lack of opportunities to use it. There was at least one incident where OtOc made use of the alert network of a member organisation: in 1996, on hearing of the arrest and beating of a conscientious objector, OtOc and a local activist succeeded in seeing the objector in prison and taking a photo of a military policeman threatening him. By the end of the day, WRI had sent out an email alert, followed the next day by Amnesty International - prompt action that very likely stopped further beatings of the person concerned.

3.1.4.5 Evaluations

BPT has never undergone an external evaluation (unless the study by Müller, Büttner and Gleichmann is considered such an external evaluation), but regularly monitored its work internally, and in 1999 and 2001 carried out two internal evaluations. There were occasional special evaluation meetings, such as one organised on training in January 1996 , and at least four times, BPT evaluated did the work of specific teams:

  • Spring 1996: evaluation of team work in Split by talking to local activists by member of CC (MüBü99)
  • Summer 1997: member of CC meets team in Split for internal evaluation. Ex volunteer joins team as counsellor (MüBü99)
  • Summer 1998: evaluation of work in Northern Croatia, with recommendation to close team down (MüBü99)
  • Spring 1999: closure of Split team after crisis in team, and feeling of not being needed anymore. Confirmed by field trips by subgroup member(s).


The evaluations had some impact. The field assessments served as preparation for discussion and decision-making on policy questions in regard of the work of the teams. The evaluation of 1999 was discussed in a CC and GA meeting, and for example the decision to remain a coalition was at least partly prepared by it. The study of Müller, Büttner and Gleichmann had limited impact, partly because the manuscript was only available in German. Barbara Müller presented some findings at one General Assembly, which served to reaffirm the perception that the key strength of BPT was what the volunteers did in the field and also supported the move towards slightly larger teams.

Volunteers themselves normally had two evaluations: one at the end of the three months, and finally an exit evaluation. Several volunteers consciously used their exit evaluation to send a message to the rest of BPT about the improvements they would like to see.

Member organisations had their own discussions of BPT policy, some of which included opinions from local activists (for instance those at the Council meetings of WRI) and many of which fed back into BPT's own discussions. (For instance, the relevant section of the minutes of WRI Council meetings were circulated to the teams and the CC.)

3.1.4.6 Recruitment and training, introduction in the field

The evaluations of 1999 and 2001 brought up several issues concerning the search for and the preparation (trainings) of the volunteers and the communication with pooled volunteers. The process followed seemed too complicated and the guidelines unclear.

At the beginning of BPT, BPT followed PBI's example in combining trainings with an assessment. That meant that at the end of the trainings the participants were told if they would be accepted as volunteers of BPT or not. This process caused much dissatisfaction with the candidates,with the trainers and with the CC, and was abandoned in 1997 after a special meeting to evaluate and develop BPT's training procedures. Since then, the assessment was generally considered a job well done by BPT's, both by the BPT representatives and by volunteers. (PBI98, Ev99, M2001, Q2001)

But BPT did not manage to find a continued policy on its trainings. Some trainings were organised with BPT trainers only, some jointly with a Croatian training group, other volunteers were sent to trainings given by other institutions (Kurve Wustrow, StadtSchlaining), some volunteers were placed without any training. (EV99, M2001) One of the reasons for the problem BPT had with its trainings was its small numbers of volunteers. There were seldom enough pooled volunteers at one time for BPT to organise a its own training. A consequence of the shortcomings in this area Peace Brigades International in their study of BPT found: "A clear deduction from the interviews with the team (both current and former volunteers) is the lack of a common understanding of the BPT mandate, policy, goals...".(PBI98)

In 1998, a new element of "in-field training" was introduced to volunteer "summits". One CC member attended the whole summit and facilitated some sessions with training role-plays, while another attended to facilitate a session on "cultural sensitivity". This was considered a promising development, but with the closure of the Zagreb sub-team and the collapse of the Split sub-team, no further summits were organised and the in-field training was not repeated.

The hand-overs between volunteers were often problematic. In Zagreb in 1996 and in Belgrade in 1998, three experienced volunteers left in rapid succession without being able to transmit much of the knowledge they had accumulated to their successors. (It was at this moment that the PBI mission visited the Belgrade team.) However, even the introduction of one new volunteer into an otherwise stable team could be difficult. Donna Howard in her study quotes a former volunteer: N.N. "revealed some pitfalls in the arrival of a new BPT team members: 'An introduction packet was written but not always followed. Sometimes the departing team member was reluctant to leave, causing troubles; sometimes they were eager to leave and too negative towards the new team member... Sometimes the new team member thought they knew it all already and refused to be introduced.'" (NP01:222) Sometimes the net of local contacts was endangered by a bad or no hand-over at all. (MüBü99, M2001)

In regard of the length of service, a period of one year has been considered the minimum. (M2001)

The number of volunteers in a team was partly determined by financial reasons, by the living space available, and partly by the work to be done. Three person-teams seemed to be the minimum that worked although the quick turn-over of volunteers caused dissatisfaction here as well. BPT expanded to five volunteers for Kosovo partly prompted by the findings of Barbara Müller and Christian Büttner.

A problem was that at least in the first years of BPT there were often less than three in a team, for instance because no new volunteers were available on time, and that proved to be a problem for the work. (MüBü99, M2001)

3.1.5 Aspects of the functioning of the structure

3.1.5.1 Information flow and communication

In the evaluation of 1999 most CC members expressed satisfaction with the level of internal information or even said that it was too much information to digest.

A lack of sufficient information was mentioned in regard to the work of the teams from time to time (EV99), and for the treasurer in regard to the financial situation (M2001),

If CC members were basically content, other members of member organisations drew a different picture, and complained about not enough information, and difficulty to understand what was going on without attending BPT meetings (EV99).

Volunteers expressed confusion about how much and what they were meant to report, whom to inform etc (EV 99, see also below on reporting).

In regard to communication, it was mentioned in the evaluation of 2001 that communication was difficult because it depended mainly on e-mail. (Telephoning to and from Kosovo/a was either very difficult or as was the case in Dragash, there were no phones available.)

3.1.5.2 Decision-making

The view on decision-making seems to have changed between 1999 and 2001. While in the evaluation of 1999 most found the decision-making generally satisfactory, although 'a bit complicated and slow', and sometimes badly prepared, the lack of coming to decisions quickly and efficiently was much more strongly felt in the evaluation of 2001.

Causes for the slowness are seen in the need to consult member organisations, and in a lack of clarity who had the last word. Especially the Co-ordinators and the teams often felt that they did not have permission to act, the team resented the effort from Minden to micromanage their finances. (Q2001)

3.1.5.3 Leadership

A special aspect of decision-making, and one of the most critical points of the BPT structure that have been identified, is the issue of leadership or better: the lack thereof. BPT did not have a structure with clearly identified persons to make final decisions. There was neither a chair for the whole organisation, nor convenors/chairs of the subgroups, nor team leaders or a field co-ordinator. Instead, the expectation was that groups (subgroups, CC, teams) would come to consensus. BPT was set up in the non-hierarchical, consensus-based structure most member organisations preferred, and considered an important element of nonviolent culture. But while the Coordinating Committee managed to work that way because most of its members shared the principle, BPT did not always manage to enthuse its volunteers with its underlying principles. The problematic side of this structural feature came up in at least three areas:

1. Some volunteers, not only the last team, complained bitterly about a lack of leadership/ guidance for their work. (On the other hand, there have also been teams who wanted self-management and rejected attempts by the CC or the subgroup to intervene in their work., Q2001.) Strategizing was practically left to the teams to do alone, sometimes with the help of the subgroup. The organisation was content with making decisions on the overall direction of their work. (MüBü99)

2. In cases of conflicts in the teams, or problems with certain volunteers who proved unsuited to the work, there was no prompt nor proper response (Q2001).

3. There was not sufficient supervision of or guidance for the Coordinators what causes both tensions between the CC and the International office, and between the teams, the CC and the IO. For the final team the "lack of leadership" they complained about may have had much to do with a perceived hesitancy of the CC to give clear directives to the IO. (Q2001)

4. Another issue concerning the post-war Kosovo team in 1999 may have been resentment of one member's de-facto leadership.

In regard to supervision of the team-work it should be also mentioned that consequently BPT did not have one conflict that quite often happens in other organisations: There was seldom tension between the office/CC and the teams on what the teams should be doing, and who would determine the strategy. (Q2001) Exceptions were discussions at the CC after the exploration done by the first Kosovo team, and a period when the North Croatia team was not being open with the CCfor fear that, if they were honest about their problems, the CC would close the office. (Two of the volunteers in the team that moved to Karlovac said in their exit evaluations that they felt that their main achievement had been to stop the closure of OtOc-North.) For some years, BPT discussed the option of establishing the office of a field co-ordinator. The first time that proposal came up, it was abandoned because of financial restraints, and because the teams at that time were not happy with the thought of someone they understood would play the role of a supervisor. In the last year before the closure of BPT, the issue came up again, and the CC was interested in looking for funding through the German Civil Peace Service. But BPT closed before an application could be finished and submitted. (Q2001)

3.1.5.4 Efficiency

To sum up: The evaluation of 2001 (M2001 and Q 2001) showed that there was a problem regarding the clarity of the structure. It was not always clear whom to address, who was responsible for liaison with teams, staff and for finances, and what the policy regarding certain issues in fact was, since established practice and what was written in the policy papers did not always match any more. The lack of leadership, that is at least the view of several in the CC, made the organisation ineffective and slow. (Q2001)

3.1.5.5 Relationships

There are many different types of relationships to look at: Within teams, team-team, teams-CC, IO-teams, within CC, donors-BPT, teams-partner in the field, men-women, age differences, member organisations and BPT, and BPT-other peace groups, only to name the most important.

  • Within teams: There were times when the volunteers within one team did not get along well. In some cases that led to one of the persons stopping his/her work early, or seeking transfer to another sub-team. In other cases they just worked separately, seeking support outside the team with local activists (MüBü99). The last Kosovo/a team on the other hand kept relying on each other for moral support, which in the eyes of one of the volunteers caused a snowball effect in regard to the conflict with CC and IO. (Q2001)
  • Team-team: While there were teams both in Croatia and Serbia, and two sub-teams in Croatia, there were inter-team summits which generally were seen as positive events, both for exchanging information and for creating a 'corporate spirit', even if there was not much consequent co-operation. (MüBü99, Q2001)Teams-CC: While the evaluations do not indicate periods of big conflicts (again with the exception of the last Kosovo/a team), one volunteer remarked that he felt 'in another world' coming to the CC meetings, a "peace movement world". (Q2001) There were also conflicts between CC (or subgroups) and certain individuals on the teams. These conflicts never came to the CC because the volunteers left precipitately
  • Office-teams: There have been times when there was a clear conflict between the IO and the teams, although there were also times when people were satisfied (EV99). Almost always there was friction around book-keeping done by the teams, and during the last year of BPT a conflict developed that led to a very poor quality of communication between the two bodies. (Q2001) Other sources of tension were about how close should be the personal relationship between the office and the teams. One source of resentment from teams was a feeling that sometimes the office did not understand their work - so volunteers reporting to CC meetings were upset with Coordinators who decided to do other work at this time.
  • Within CC: One person commented that cross-cultural misunderstandings were not recognised (Q2001)
  • Donors-BPT: see above the section on fundraising. From the side of BPT representatives, the relationship seems generally to have been easygoing, and no big problems experienced. There is no information how the donors perceived the same relationship.
  • Teams-partner in the field: BPT always wanted the team members to use local partners for reference but this did not always happen. (Q2001) On the other hand, some local partners got the feeling that foreign volunteers who were meant to be there to give support to the locals, requested support rather than giving it. (This complaint came up only in later stages of the project, and not when very experienced volunteers were in the teams.) (MüBü99)
  • Member organisations and BPT: see above. The participation of member organisations depended very much on the commitment of certain individuals within these organisations. Those who were not directly involved in BPT, found themselves caught between a lack of information, and the difficulty to assess the project without knowing much about the concrete situation in the field. Therefore, they were mostly happy to defer the concrete decision-making to their delegates. (Q2001)


3.2 Logistics of field work

3.2.1 Description

The situation in Croatia and the Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) differed from each other a lot in the time BPT was there, although both came out of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and inherited its laws. Croatia, while otherwise quickly setting about creating its own legal framework, continued with the practice of open access for foreigners to its countries, hoping to draw tourists again to its shores. That meant that Western Europeans and North Americans could easily get a 3-month visa at the border, and had no problems prolonging that. At the beginning, there was no provision for international NGOs to register, though that changed in the second half of the 1990s.

FRY on the other hand practically closed its borders in response to the EU sanctions to its country. Western foreigners[17] were usually only allowed into the country if they had a personal invitation by a Yugoslav citizen living in the country, or if they were students or journalists. Those inviting foreigners knew that they might draw the interest of the police to themselves. The same held true for landlords in Kosovo/a hosting foreigners. After entering the country (for both Croatia or FRY), visitors were supposed to follow the procedures of former times, namely having to register their address with the police within 24 hours.Kosovo/a after the war of 1999 is open to foreign NGOs who normally register with UNMIK. Living and working: The teams rented a flat or small house where they both lived and worked. For the first two months in Croatia, three volunteers shared a sleeping room, but soon a policy was agreed that at least each had a room to herself/himself. Later, too, the teams in Split and Belgrade rented somewhere to be a permanent base in Knin and Prishtina respectively. The offices began with one laptop computer with e-mail access (e-mail being the main means of communication) and a fax/answering machine and as the decade progressed acquired more computers and mobile phones. The flats/houses were usually rented with all furniture needed. For their work, each sub-team in Croatia usually had one car - usually used ones donated by supporters in the Netherlands or Germany. Some team members also used bikes in addition. Before the war, the team in Serbia/Kosovo/a preferred to use public transport, but afterwards the team felt a four-wheel drive vehicle was indispensable to develop the Dragash project.

Generally, the policy of BPT was to trust the volunteers to assess the risks of their work, and to give them the power to make the appropriate decisions. It was explicitly stated several times in crisis situations that the project would not order the volunteers back against their wish, nor would it sanction them if they left because they felt endangered even if the subgroup did not think it necessary. When crisis situations developed, subgroups and teams tried to figure out what to do together, in the case of the team that was in FRY in 1999 directly before the NATO attack for example defining a list of criteria which would mean that the team would have to leave. (In the end, it left when something happened that was not on the list.) Other precautions usually - although not taken by everyone as the PBI team found out - included registration with an international aid NGO's "alert list" or his/her governments' office in Prishtina. Registration with the embassies of the volunteers took place once the fighting began in Kosovo/a in 1997-98. No such precautions were taken nor considered necessary in Croatia.

Regarding insurances, the volunteers were insured for health, accident/invalidity and third-party liability.[18]

In 1994, BPT formulated Rules and Guidelines for the work of the teams, but it is unclear to which degree these guidelines were known and used by later teams:[19]

  1. "Go in pairs
  2. One person stays at the home base
  3. Tell the others where you are and how long you will be
  4. Files and documents should be kept in a safe place
  5. Don't disclose information
  6. Use prudence at all times
  7. Volunteers are not to work for any other person or organisation during the term of service nor fundraise on behalf of other groups.
  8. After service with BPT is over, volunteers cannot work with another organisation in the area for a period of one month
  9. Take 1 day off per week and 2 more days a month
  10. We are not here to solve the problems, but to enable local people to solve their problems themselves
  11. Be aware that it is not our business as foreigners to tell people what they have to do, and be cautious against the Western tendency `to do something.'
  12. Each action should be assessed as to what risk the action entails for the volunteer, what risk it entails for the BPT getting evicted from the country, what it means for the people you are working with, what the long term effects of it probably are.
  13. Never give in to the pressure that `you have to do something' or act against the will of the people concerned
  14. Do not promise anything you are unsure of being able to fulfil
  15. Respect the rules of non-partisanship. BPT organisers have defined impartiality as not working for any organisation/group as volunteers by:
    1. counselling them;
    2. hanging around in their offices too much;
    3. translating letters, making telephone calls, etc for them;
    4. have their office in an independent building;
    5. present themselves as members of the team;
    6. avoid political statements;
    7. maintain contacts with many different groups and organisations;
    8. stress their independence as foreigners;
    9. listen to people, without offering agreement or support; and
    10. avoid close personal friendships."

The teams did not wear special uniforms nor usually did anything else to make themselves especially visible. For certain situations like monitoring court trials or visiting authorities, the teams used a visiting card pinned to their clothes - much like many other internationals also did. The advantage of that card was that it could be removed quickly once it was not needed anymore. (see also relationship to other actors below).

Language: The project language of BPT was English - meaning that all the communication and reports happened in that language[20]. The volunteers were expected to learn Croatian/Serbian or Albanian when they began working in the field. They were encouraged to take lessons before arrival, but most did not know much when they came to the teams, and so language classes were a priority for the first month in the field. Their later performance varied.[21] Several volunteers became more or less fluent in Serbian/Croatian; in addition before 1999 two attained conversational Albanian and one fluency. In post-war Kosovo/a, the volunteers mainly learned Albanian although at least two also tried to learn the local Slavic language.

3.2.2 Access to the field

The Croatian teams without exception entered the country as tourists, and then registered personally, and without ever encountering problems, with the police. Two years before the closure of the Croatia project, BPT started a process to register as an international NGO - that process was completed successfully only in 1999 after the last volunteer had left the country.

Access to FRY was much more complicated. Most volunteers entered the country with personal invitations issued by members of the Serbian partner organisations or personal friends in the country. Unfortunately this generally meant that they had a single entry visa, valid just for three months. One or two registered for a language course and gained a longer-term visa that way.

In regard to registration with the police, the volunteers used to register in Belgrade, but not all of them did it in Prishtina. The letter BPT wrote in response to the PBI evaluation states: "There are conflicting views about this police registration. True. The political atmosphere in Prishtina changes dramatically and frequently, and the decision to register has been based on whether this increased BPT's risk of harassment or not. After moving to Belgrade, the team registered some visits and did not on others. Sometimes this was done because they planned to visit Serbian government offices or agencies. Sometimes it was not done because their hosts felt it would put them at risk. In the past year, as BPT's presence in Prishtina became regular, the registration decision was left to each team member and their level of comfort. Some did not register, feeling that in was too great a risk. Others registered for just the same reason. That is where the practice remains. As the situation in Kosovo/a is changing, and the international community increasing, the risks from registration will become less." (PBI98)

That means that access to and registration in the country was mainly seen by BPT as a security matter, both for the volunteers and the project (which risked eviction if not complying with the laws), and for those locals who invited the volunteers or with whom they stayed. While there was no real problem in Croatia, the presence of the BPT volunteers in Serbia and Kosovo/a can be considered to have been a continued if calculated security risk both for them and for those they came to support. This issue was discussed almost permanently in the FRY subgroup, and with the local partners. Their usual response was not to worry since they were anyway under police surveillance, and inviting a foreigner did not really add to the danger they were in. (See also below on security.)

Entering with a tourist visa valid for three months had other disadvantages as well, the most prominent being having to leave the country in order to renew it, and in case of FRY not being sure if this would be done successfully.

In FRY the unofficial status affected BPT's contacts with local actors in Serbia, and it led to avoidance of the media. (M2001)

After the "informative talks" with police in Prishtina in 1995, BPT setting about forming an association in FRY officially registered as a NGO, BPT-FRY. A number of Serbs and Albanians agreed to be members, and the registration finally came through in December 1995. The team "consultant" and the volunteer most involved in this had imagined that, as well as doing something to regularise BPT's situation in FRY, the association itself might serve as a forum for dialogue. In fact, it remained a paper structure, almost forgotten, and did not meet any of the formal obligations of a NGO in FRY, such as holding an annual general meeting, updating the lists of members, presenting financial accounts. The general view on the CC was that BPT was obliged to set up such an association but that it could do little to secure BPT's permanent presence in FRY.

3.2.3 Living and working conditions

There has been some criticism on the living conditions of the teams, mainly not having separate office and living space (PBI98, NP01:227)

The quality of the equipment was often a source of complaint. However, whereas the teams in Croatia and Belgrade tended to put up with this and dream of something better, these issues became an acute source of tension for the team in Kosovo/a in 2000. At this time, the international office would normally refer to financial constraints preventing the acquisition of what the team said was needed, while the perception of the team in Kosovo/a in 2000 was that the organisation's priorities were wrong, and in the stormy CC meeting in Prishtina in May 2000 the team posed issues such as an adequate vehicle and communications equipment as evidence that the CC did not care about their safety.

Another problem in this regard seems to have been a lack of technical knowledge from the side of some team members in the use of the equipment. Computers and cars tended to break much more quickly than they - in the eyes of the Coordinators and subgroups - should, and that was - rightly or wrongly - attributed to mishandling of the equipment (Q2001).

3.2.4 Security

Generally, first the question of security of team members has to be distinguished from the security of the local partners and others the teams were in contact with.

3.2.4.1 Security of local partners

This issue has already been touched upon above under access, and will also be dealt with more when looking at accompaniment and other protective activities of BPT in Croatia. At this point, the observation to be made is that the presence of BPT especially in Kosovo/a before 1999 was not a protection but definitely a potential security risk for everyone they were in contact with. This fact became a problem both in regard of private - not politically highly engaged - citizens they had contact with, for example they rented a flat from, and with activists who worked not in the open, for example being engaged in projects the Albanian leadership might frown upon. (Towards the Serbian authorities, the risk was pretty much the same for everyone.) For one landlord it was a problem when the team began to put up Serb visitors though she eventually came to accept this.

In response to the PBI evaluators, BPT wrote: "The report refers to two incidents where the team betrayed the trust of local groups. One of these was in 1995 and one in 1997. The [first] incident made it very clear to us that Kosovo/a was an area where at that time internationals could be rather a threat than a protection to local activists. Until then we had assumed that - as obviously the PBI evaluation team has done - accompaniment does almost always serve as a protection. Of course, it could be argued that this protective function could be assumed if BPT had developed its own international alarm network better. We don't think so. There have been other international organisations with much better standing with their respective governments, and a chance to get these governments to put real pressure on the Yugoslav government who failed to exert pressure on the basis of being 'internationals'". (PBI98)

3.2.4.2 Security of BPT volunteers

While working for BPT, no volunteer ever came to serious bodily harm. The only violent incident was a beating a female volunteer suffered by a neighbour in Split - an incident that caused as much uproar and attention locally as within BPT, but could not be tracked back to political causes other than sexism and general dislike of suspicious foreigners.

The Croatia team once experienced phone threats: After publishing its report on Krajina, it was bombarded with e-mails that amounted to death-threats. (MüBü99)

The second team in Kosovo/a in 1995 was invited for an "informative talk" with the police, in the course of that talk an address list was found that the volunteer carried with her. The team consequently left Kosovo/a, but its worry and the worry of BPT was more for the security of its partners and contacts in Kosovo/a than about its own security. The worst that could happen to BPT was to be evicted as happened to an Italian NGO at exactly the same time.

Nevertheless, the evaluations show that security was a problem for BPT, and that BPT did not do everything it should have to ensure the safety of its volunteers:

  • The last team in Kosovo/a felt a serious lack of security because of missing evacuation plans, because of a lack of appropriate equipment (including a safe vehicle), and general communication with the subgroup. (Q2001)
  • The PBI evaluators criticised in 1999 that in the Belgrade flat there was "... no safe space for confidential documents. We were concerned about issues relating to security. Volunteers were wearing local anti-war T-shirts although they could never be sure about who might come to the door." And, similarly: "The team travels to and from Kosovo/a through check-points (we got checked twice on the way to Prishtina) carrying very sensitive propaganda material of some organisations or letters..." (PBI98)


3.3 Field work

3.3.1 Description

3.3.1.1 Goals, approach and principles

The motivation to found BPT probably generally was to do something against the wars of Yugoslav succession that found very much attention both in the general public and in the peace movement at that time, and to prove that there was an alternative to military intervention. (MüBü98)

The Declaration of Goals and Principles[22] formulates as BPT's overall goal that BPT 'seeks to promote a peaceful development by maintaining a permanent presence of international volunteers in some crisis areas.' More concretely, the "goal of the Balkan Peace Team is to work for the peaceful resolution of the conflicts, demonstrating an international commitment to peace and working to increase that commitment."

Still more concretely, a mandate with six working areas[23] was formulated: "The Balkan Peace Team:

  • seeks to identify possibilities for dialogue between the different groups;
  • serves as a channel of independent and non-partisan information from the regions, reflecting all points of views;
  • assists in the promotion of human rights for all;
  • contributes team-members' skills for the benefit of all citizens, for instance by offering workshops in mediation and non-violent conflict resolution;
  • acts as international observer at the scene of incidents or potential flashpoints;
  • escorts individuals or maintains a presence in threatening situations."[24]"


Not mentioned in the Declaration, but being nevertheless an important point in the work until 1999 was that BPT would support local activists in their work, finding ways to make itself useful to them in its identity of being an international project, not setting up projects of its own or doing work that also local activists could do. (Müller/Büttner comment on this in their study of 1999.) That meant that BPT consciously tried to avoid replacing or duplicating the activities of local activists but tried to find a niche there where internationals could fulfil a unique role. Connected with this was the rule that the teams would only work on invitation. That had two levels: A team was only opened after an invitation by local activists was issued (Kosovo/a, Serbia, Croatia), and on a day-by-day-basis it meant that the teams would try to make sure that they only did what people wanted them to do.

Consequently, it was always assumed that BPT would be no longer needed when local groups functioned on their own and saw no great need for BPT's presence. For this reason, the role of the team in North Croatia was under question from 1996 onwards until it was finally closed in 1998. For this reason, too, it was decided that BPT could not justify a fresh start in South Croatia after the collapse of the Split team.

These two points - follow the lead of local activists and work by invitation only - may be considered as non-stated[25] principles besides the other ones cited in the Declaration: "The principles of the Balkan Peace Team are non-violence, independence, and non-partisanship, with a strong concern for human rights."

After 1999, this approach changed without that ever being made really explicit. The work of the new, post-war team in Kosovo/a was much more independent of local groups, seeking out and developing projects of its own rather than being guided by the needs of local activists. At one point in 2000, Kosovo sub-group members had to explain to the team why "networking" with local activists was regarded as a fundamental BPT activity.

3.3.1.2 Description: Activities

BPT's emphasis in Croatia was very different from its emphasis in FRY/Kosovo/a, and in both cases the emphasis for one team would vary over time according to changes in the situation or even according to the capacities of the team. Activities of the teams included:[26]

  • Regularly visiting and meeting with local activists, learning about their situations and needs (all teams);
  • Monitoring and presence at human rights-related events, for example at house evictions and trials in Croatia, and at demonstrations and vigils in Belgrade.
  • Accompaniment of activists at field visits in the Krajina after its reoccupation by Croatia in 1995, and during trips of Serbian activists to Kosovo/a
  • Visiting certain areas, e.g. villages in Krajina after 1995, learning about the situation of those who remained behind, and demonstrating international presence. (Croatia)
  • Research of information and report writing (all teams): biweeklies or monthly reports with both an internal and public part, public six-month reports and special reports.
  • Translation, proof reading, computer assistance, advice for campaign planning/ strategizing, counselling on how to do international fundraising, and other 'good offices' provided in support of the local groups (all teams);
  • Bridging to a) local authorities

    b) to the international UN/NATO/EU/OSCE presence and embassies,

    c) to international NGOs and foundations and

    d) groups and individuals from the "other side of the conflict"

    Bridging could mean both facilitating contacts, or drawing the attention to local NGOs (all teams)

  • Being contact point both for local and international NGOs seeking information.
  • The team in Serbia/Kosovo/a before 1999 played a linking function between Belgrade and Ni[sinvcircumflex]' groups and groups and individuals in Kosovo/a which was more than 'bridging': The team played a much more active role in bringing such groups and individuals together.
  • Provide safe space for meetings (offering the flat as meeting point, for example)
  • Workshops and trainings: there have been a few workshops organised by the teams, on group-building, prejudice reduction and the like. Trainers often came from outside rather than the trainings given by team-members themselves although also that happened.(Croatia, Serbia)
  • Organisation of panels and other public meetings (once in co-operation with Pax Christi and refugee groups in Banja Luka)
  • Conduct of fact-finding missions, and subsequently publishing of reports: Krajina, Eastern Slavonia, Bosnia
  • Establishment of a Youth Centre in the remote Kosovan community of Dragash where both Albanian and Slavic Muslim youth could have access to locally identified services such as computer training and English language lessons. (Kosovo/a 2000)
  • Material support was given in at least one case in spite of BPT's leadership frowning upon such activity (Croatia),


If these activities were sorted according to team, then in Croatia the human rights related activities and report writing played the biggest role, while the Serbia/Kosovo/a team did not engage in human rights issues at all. On the other hand, dialogue and conflict resolution did not play much of a role in Croatia, but became the main focus in FRY.

3.3.2 Observations regarding goals and approach

In the final evaluation of 2001 some participants thought that the goals were formulated too generally, while others felt that verbs like to contribute, to serve, to act were important, because they expressed that BPT wouldn't try to achieve anything alone and by its own.(Q2001)

When asked in 1999 if the goals should be revised, most people interviewed did not advocate any fundamental changes, but rather a prioritisation based on the recognition that the emphasis and focus of the work of the teams shifted, networking and dialogue becoming more important while human rights advocacy and protective roles didn't play much of a role any more.

One participant in the final evaluation wrote: "We carried out the mandate. But was it the right mandate?" (Q2001) This question that may be shared by others within BPT, has not been pursued further, and therefore will be left here as it is without further comments.

3.3.3 Observations in regard to the principles

Both in the evaluations of 1999 and of 2001 the participants generally thought that BPT stuck to its principles. (EV99, Q2001). Indeed, only one of the principles, non-partisanship, elicited any sort of more detailed comments and sometimes almost something like a controversy. The other principles were more or less taken for granted.

3.3.3.1 Nonviolence

BPT always considered itself a nonviolent project, and most of its member organisations come from an explicit pacifist/nonviolent background.

This commitment to nonviolence caused BPT to focus on civilian, grassroots groups and NGOs. The CC never debated what it meant in relation to the various military actors and political violence in the field. It was quite normal for teams to avail themselves of certain facilities provided by the international military, ranging from maps and other information to medical care, and several team members had social relations with members of international military forces. A commitment to nonviolence did not play much role in choosing volunteers. (MüBü99) And it was an area of some contention how much of a role principled nonviolence should play in the trainings. (Q2001)

3.3.3.2 Independence

The authors were unable to find any reference to this principle in the evaluations or in minutes of the CC meetings. It did not play any role in the practical work other than as a principle in terms of relationship to funders where attention was paid to receiving funds only if there were no political strings attached to them. But one CC member commented: "Personally I emphasise `independence' rather than `non-partisanship' in the mandate. For instance, as an `independent' source of information, we were quite often making judgements, especially judgements critical of Croatian government policy. Usually I encouraged teams to quote local activists rather than give their own opinions, but I think that our report-writers were never really `non-partisan' in choosing between the opinions of local partners and those of the regimes."

3.3.3.3 Non-partisanship

Non-partisanship for BPT had, as one CC member wrote in the evaluation of 1999, "a tactical dimension (to gain trust of all parts), and a principled dimension relating to nonviolence, which seeks a solution good and fair for all (win-win), and the liberation of oppressed AND oppressor. My question would be: a) were volunteers able to keep an inner independence (distance) to be able to constructive criticism also towards our local partners, policies, BPT- members; b) did we develop enough contacts to "the other side", e.g. authorities in CO, Serbia, or Serbian organisations (M2001)in Kosovo/a, Serb nationalists (= present their views and frustrations too?)" (EV99)

One Croatia team defined non-partisanship as follows: "'a) Otvorene Oèi is non-partisan when it comes to dealing with various sides in the conflict, and when working in support of different NGOs, but that b) Otvorene Oèi IS partisan on the side of human rights, which allows volunteers to take a bit more of an active stance for human rights requested from us by local activists.'"(quoted after MüBü99:81)

These quotes outline the problem BPT has had with the principle of non-partisanship. On the one hand, the project worked on request, aimed at supporting local groups, and on the other hand it was 'non-partisan' what was seen as a problem by several people who responded to the evaluations, not only volunteers. (EV99, Q2001)

Important was the principle in regard to relationship to the authorities. Here, it certainly was an advantage to a) point out that BPT worked on both sides of the conflict line Croatia-Serbia, and b) that it did not make any public statements on political issues like military intervention in Bosnia, Arming the Bosnians etc. what some NGOs in the region as well as internationally campaigned for. (EV99)

It also was important in regard to the reporting. It is assumed that when BPT's reports found attention it was because they came from a non-partisan source. (EV99)

In relationship to the local activists the principle of non-partisanship partly was accepted because it allowed BPT to bridge groups and individuals from different sides. But several local activists had a hard time with this stance, expecting more solidarity, more active support and more public criticism by BPT. (MüBü99, EV99, Q2001)

3.3.3.4 "Strong concern for human rights"

It may make more sense if this was considered more as an intention than as a real principle. Nevertheless, since it is listed under the principles, it needs to be discussed here. Further below under "Fulfilment of the mandate", the question of human rights advocacy will be dealt with more fully. But already here can be said that this principle did not play a practical role in the work inFRY. Not because BPT was not aware of the human rights violations going on there, but because the analysis of the field said that involvement in human rights issue would quickly lead to deportation, and therefore was not compatible with dialogue work (MüBü99). Instead, the teams there concentrated on dialogue work between grassroots NGOs.

In hindsight, it may be questioned if the almost total exclusion of human rights questions was both necessary and wise. One particular instance can illustrate the need to schedule fundamental reviews of strategy. In January 1998, when most observers were expecting a Serbian security offensive in Kosovo/a, the team visited the UN Human Rights Office in Belgrade to ask what plans they had to monitor this offensive. They were told that the office had no intention of monitoring the offensive. In view of the probability that the Serbian offensive would involve atrocities - as it did - perhaps, in hindsight, the best role for BPT would have been to alert other bodies that might put pressure on the UN Human Rights Office to take a more active and more preventive posture. In fact, in keeping with their normal discretion, they did not disclose this conversation even to CC and sub-group members until after the Drenica massacres.

3.3.3.5 Follow the lead of activists and work only by invitation

It was an informal principle of BPT to support self-reliance and not foster relationships of dependence (BPT files 1996, quoted after MüBü99). But in reality the teams sometimes 'pushed' local activists, proposing or advocating certain activities (MüBü99) or inviting them to join in something (even just visiting a disco in an ethnically mixed group).

The 'only by invitation'-rule was important mainly in the beginning, but in the recent years it had not been used in a formal way any more (neither in Croatia nor in FRY). (EV99). But the underlying principle of close co-operation with local NGOs on a partnership basis was continued in Croatia until BPT closed its teams there. In Serbia, the team was more independent. It maintained good contacts to the two organisations (one Kosovan, one Serbian) that had invited BPT, but certainly when beginning the dialogue project it went in a more independent way, linking the groups partly on its own initiative. (EV 99) At least one volunteer who worked in Kosovo/a in the early times of BPT felt like we were betraying the organisation that invited BPT when BPT began a dialogue project instead of accompanying the organisation in its human rights related trips and visits. (EV99) However, both Anti-War Campaign of Croatia- who invited BPT there - and the Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms in Prishtina did not invite BPT to play a specific role in relation to them as organisations but rather because of what they imagined an international peace presence could contribute to the situation, especially in support of other groups.

In Kosovo/a since 1999, there was a definite tension between being present, looking or waiting for openings for cross-community work, and pressure to do something concrete (M2001). BPT soon settled for one concrete project the Youth Centre in Dragash. The second project - interviewing Kosovo Albanians about how they survived the previous ten years - never got off the ground, but at the time of BPT's closure two volunteers working out of Prishtina had begun a project interviewing members of various minority communities about their situation.

3.3.4 Fulfilment of the Mandate

The six points in the mandate are formulated in a way that it is difficult to define success. (Q2001). According to Müller/Büttner/Gleichmann, former volunteers saw the mandate as very vague compared to that of other organisations, but appreciated flexibility they had with BPT. (MüBü99)

3.3.4.1 "BPT seeks to identify possibilities of dialogue between the different groups"

Dialogue played a paramount role in the work of the team in Serbia/Kosovo/a between 1996 and 1998, while it did not play much of a role in Croatia (with the exemption of the mentioned panel and Round Table in Banja Luka on return of refugees to Croatia in 1998.)

That means that BPT in FRY did a lot in pursuit of this goal, and succeeded in bringing individuals and groups together.

But while the contacts in Croatia have been maintained with the help of the Pax Christi field office there, most of the contacts between Serbians and Kosovo Albanians were forcefully interrupted in 1999 by the ethnic cleansing, NATO intervention and subsequent de-facto split of Kosovo/a Nevertheless, contact between Serbian and Kosovo/a-Albanian activists was in some cases maintained through the war and into the after-99 period, to which the dialogue activity of the FRY team in 96-98 may have contributed although this could not be ascertained for sure. Today, of the former BPT contacts, very few are doing anything by way of dialogue.(M2001)

The founding of a cross-community Youth Centre in Dragash in 2000 also needs to be put under this heading because the goal of the Youth Centre was to provide opportunities for members of both ethnic groups to come and meet in pursuit of joint activities. Since BPT left in early 2001, the activities of the centre have been going on. At the moment, it seems that although most activities are still separate for each ethnic group, some headway is being made towards co-operation. (report by James Derieg to the author end of January 2002)

3.3.4.2 "BPT serves as a channel of independent and non-partisan information from the regions, reflecting all points of view".

This part of the mandate was carried out mainly by the Croatia teams' public reports that were then distributed both within the country, and to international NGOs and GOs (UN, Embassies). It has already been mentioned that the evaluations both in 1999 and 2001 have shown that the participants were not satisfied with the use BPT made of the reports - very often that was a part of the work that was neglected due to too many other tasks to do. Also, teams had problems to figure out the use of the reports, and felt unsure in regard to the degree of confidentiality some reports had. Nevertheless, BPT knows of some instances when its reports were taken notice of by international actors, and referred to. The Austrian Embassy in Croatia for example distributed one report on refugee return to all the other embassies working on the issue. (PBI98, MüBü99, EV 99, Q 2001) Amnesty International staff repeatedly expressed their appreciation of BPT reports, while Oxfam, upon its withdrawal from Croatia, made a small regular grant to the work of OtOc on the strength of OtOc's continuing monitoring and reporting of the situation.

Besides report writing, BPT also fulfilled the function of an information channel through being visited by people who wanted information (something that never has been included in official policy papers).The team in Kosovo/a became important as a contact for groups who wanted contact to Albanians. (MüBü99)

3.3.4.3 "BPT assists in the promotion of human rights for all"

Human rights advocacy work played a major role in Croatia. It mainly took the form of support of local human rights groups in South Croatia (Split and Knin) as well as occasionally in North Croatia. It included presence at house evictions, at related trials, and monitoring visits to the re-occupied territory of Krajina in and after 1995. (EV99, MüBü99, Q2001)

On the other hand, advocacy on human rights issues with the International Community was almost missing.[27] Neither did BPT develop any activism like some other international organisations have been doing in Kosovo/a and in other countries (NP2001: 60 pp).

3.3.4.4 "BPT contributes team-members' skills for the benefit of all citizens, for instance by offering workshops in mediation and nonviolent conflict resolution."

Offering skills mainly took the form of help with computers, translation, counselling on how to do international fundraising and the like. (EV99, MüBü99)

Workshops in mediation and conflict resolution were rarely given by team members themselves because with a few notable exceptions they lacked the necessary skills. What the teams did from time to time was to point groups looking for trainers to training resources, or actively making contacts to international trainers. This task became more and more unimportant with the development of a very lively training culture both in Croatia and Serbia by local trainers. (PBI98, EV99, MüBü99)

The original papers referred to foreign language teaching, and this was essential in the development of Dragash.

3.3.4.5 "BPT acts as international observer at the scene of incidents or potential flashpoints "

The Croatia team served as international observers at incidents and court trials, and documented looting of the 1995 Serbian homes and other sites in the Krajina. In FRY, this part of the mandate did not play much of a role, but there was some observation done during the student demonstrations in autumn 1997 in Prishtina, and the Belgrade demonstrations in 1996-1997. (PBI98, EV99)

3.3.4.6 "BPT escorts individuals or maintains a presence in threatening situations".

Protective accompaniment was not a major focus for BPT. However, it played a role in Croatia. It was particularly important after the reconquest of the Krajina, where it included accompanying people travelling to the Krajina and even staying around the clock with some threatened individuals. Volunteers would sometimes visit and stay overnight in offices that had been threatened or where there had been arson attempts. Perhaps the most frequent form of protective accompaniment was accompanying local activists to the scene of a house or apartment eviction: this was to serve as a witness, to give support to the local activist, to open doors to authorities, to international agencies, and sometimes also to play a protective function. But often this protective function was more important for the client/citizen that the activist visits than for the activist herself/himself. In Kosovo/a and Serbia, accompaniment has played a role insofar as team members have "accompanied" Serbian activists visiting Kosovo/a, thereby giving them a certain sense of security, not so much from the Serbian police but to be well-received by Kosovo Albanians. (PBI98)

Müller/Büttner (1999) analyse the protective role of the team in Croatia, and found that the accompaniment in some concrete situations caused police and authorities to be more careful because they did not know if the presence of BPT volunteers might have consequences. But BPT did not systematically create a supporter network, and de facto its monitoring was not a real threat to the authorities. The authorities soon realised that, and started to treat the international BPT volunteers the same way as locals - with a small amount of uncertainty remaining. You can never be sure - as a policeman - that this foreigner does NOT have dangerous contacts.... Sometimes, BPT managed to counteract this by inviting other international observers with more political clout (EEUU, CSCE/OSCE or UN monitors, journalists and the like). (MüBü99, PBI 98)

The questioning by the police and subsequent withdrawal of BPT from Kosovo/a in 1995 made it very clear to BPT that Kosovo/a was an area where at that time internationals could be an additional risk rather than a protection to local activists. While Müller/Büttner for example seem to assume that this would have been different if BPT had had a supporter network like PBI or Amnesty, BPT itself doubts it. In answer to PBI the Coordinating Committee wrote in 1998: "Of course, it could be argued that this protective function could be assumed if BPT had developed its own international alarm network better. We don't think so. There have been other international organisations with much better standing with their respective governments, and a chance to get these governments to put real pressure on the Yugoslav government who failed to exert pressure on the basis of being 'internationals'."(PBI98) Indeed, during the presence of the inter-governmental CSCE Mission in Kosovo/a, police beating Albanians who had been in contact with the CSCE Mission taunted them about its impotence. (Humanitarian Law Centre, Spotlight Report no 6, Belgrade, August 1993.)

3.3.5 Strategizing

BPT has never developed a long-term strategy, nor - as described above - offered much guidance to the teams. The typical process in Croatia was rather that the teams looked for openings, for possible activities and projects, and then - often after having begun with these activities - the Coordinating Committee discussed the place these activities had within BPT's overall mandate. Strategies were usually made after the activities, and never broken down to enough details to be very useful for daily life in the field. Partly this was a conscious decision - the issue of strategy is closely related to the partner relationships. At least in Croatia BPT wanted to leave the strategizing to its partners, and support them in whatever way was compatible with its principles and mandate. But the evaluations also show clearly that there was always an insecurity about what should be left to the partners, and what should be initiated by BPT.. The fact that the teams got conflicting advice from people on the ground, everybody wanting BPT to do something else, did not help much either. In the evaluation of 2001, one former volunteer pointed out that if BPT had not had its own activities in Croatia, it would not have been invited to co-ordination meetings and BPT would never have been called for advice. (MüBü99, Q2001)

Generally, the final evaluation meeting felt that BPT should have involved more local partners / actors / reference persons in the decision making and policy development. (M2001)

In Kosovo/a the relationship of teams with local partners was completely different. The strategy in pre-war Kosovo/a was basically to look for opportunities and then try to develop them

3.3.6 Partner relationships

There are several aspects to the partner relationship, some of them have been dealt with above:

  • Follow the lead of activists and work only by invitation 'only on invitation rule' mentioned above under 3.4.5 (Principles)
  • The issue of strategy development (see above 3.6 on Strategizing)
  • How the partners perceived the role of BPT and why it was there,
  • What the partners expected of BPT and what they got.
  • Day-to-day co-operation


BPT did have formal invitations by groups in Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo/a. But once in the field, its partner relationships became much more flexible. BPT did not work with one or a few firm partners, but rather maintained good working contacts to a number of groups in each country. One former volunteer counted just for Croatia 13 organisations/offices working at grassroots level on human rights, return and legal advocacy, 1 working at middle level in promoting public discussion of issues, 2 trying to connect upper levels with grassroots. (EV99) The list of groups produced both by Müller/Büttner and at the evaluation meeting in 2001 confirm this picture of a multitude of 'partners' in the time before 1999.

In Kosovo/a after the war, the team had some contacts to local groups, but no real partner organisations. The Youth Centre in Dragash was developed in co-operation and support from local authorities as well as citizens, but certainly on initiative from BPT. Today it is used by one or two women and other NGO groups. The international organisations carrying BPT's work on hope to give the centre into local hands. (Report from James Derieg to the author, end of January 2002)

3.3.6.1 How the partners perceived BPT's role

The PBI evaluators wrote in1998: "Since organisations said they did not really know what BPT is, we went through who they thought BPT was. The responses were diverse: An NGO working on Kosovo/a; preparing conditions for Albanian-Serbian talks; confidence building; and part of the counter-information network. According to the organisations we interviewed, BPT in Belgrade does: Give support to them; Distribute local NGOs propaganda; Translate Books for them; Help writing funding applications; Help NGOs get started". BPT commented on the evaluation that "These may be guesses but they are very accurate and to our reading, they show that the BPT FRY teams role is clear to local groups." (PBI98)

Nevertheless, there are more indicators than the interviews PBI did to show that it was not always clear what BPT's role would be. This was both confirmed by ex-volunteers in the 1999 and in the 2001 evaluation. One former volunteer commented on how the partners saw BPT: "Ineffective, continued to ask what we had to offer why we were there, seen as good-natured but not useful". (Q2001)

Donna Howard found in her interview with a former volunteer that "local appreciation of BPT was spotty; 'We were not appreciated by all at all times.'" On the other hand, a very positive evaluation of Balkan Peace Team's work came from Albanian and Serbian activists in the region. A leader of an important NGO in Kosovo/a stated, and is quoted by Howard: "If reconciliation is going to happen, the work of the Balkan Peace Team must continue and be strengthened." (NP01:231)

The team in Kosovo/a after 1999 complained when they left that they had problems to be respected in a professional, high-salary environment they encountered in Kosovo/a. One comment in the evaluation meeting in October 2001 was: "Being young, volunteer, grassroots and low budget - what does it mean for access and reputation?" (M2001) On the other hand, it was pointed out by a CC member in an internal discussion paper in early 2001, that few internationals have contracts longer than six months, and that BPT compared well with most international organisations operating in Kosovo/a in terms of our selection, training and guidance of staff and length of service. In general, BPT had argued that grass-roots volunteers working on a low-budget were in a better position to earn the trust of local activists than high-paid international staff who were often seen as pursuing career opportunities or serving governmental interests.

3.3.6.2 Expectations of partners and how they were met

Müller/Büttner/Gleichmann write: "Solidarity with a non-violent resistance-movement was the starting-point for deliberations on the Kosovo/a Peace Team. When it came to implementation, however, detachment from the resistance-movement increased and the team's own emphasis on the promotion of dialogue became hard to interpret as anything other than a distancing. The question is at what level is solidarity with the oppressed taking place? Or has it been totally sacrificed to an `impartial' stance? How does this stance benefit the resistance/promote changes in the power situation?" (MüBü99:161, translation by B.Müller)

The answer provided by the April 1994 exploration of Kosovo/a was in terms of Galtung's concept of constructing "a great chain of nonviolence". The exploratory mission discussed this with representatives of the CDHRF, the inviting organisation, who said they fully understood the limits under which an international team would have to operate. Although this concept itself rarely surfaced in later internal discussions, it was generally clear that the dialogue that the project was trying to promote was with those Serbs willing to make common cause with the Kosovo Albanian quest for justice.

It is undeniable that there was some distancing from elements of the Kosovo Albanian resistance. Volunteers tended to feel personally alienated from professions of nationalism or from the patriarchal attitudes that characterise Kosovo Albanian society. However, it would be mistaken to view the Kosovo Albanian resistance as being a monolithic movement. Whatever conservative elements there are in Kosovo Albanian culture, an important tendency in the original turn to nonviolence was the aspiration by part of the population to be "western" and "modern". In general volunteers tended to gravitate towards those people they felt were most on their wavelength. At a time when the nonviolent struggle in Kosovo/a was generally stagnating, the team were naturally drawn towards dynamic characters who wanted to revitalise the situation. Above all, they connected with the westward-looking feminist and youth groups who took the attitude that they would not play the victim and just complain of being blocked by "the Serbs", but rather they would try to do what is possible in the situation that existed. These people needed solidarity not just in the face of Serbian repression but also in what they were trying to do to change their own society.

A particular high for the team came in autumn 1997 when Kosovo Albanians returned to the streets in protest after a five-year moratorium. Far from feeling distanced from the student demonstrators, the team were actively and emotionally involved. After the second demonstration, one volunteer told a CC member who phoned her, "you know I have had doubts about BPT strategy, but now I want to tell you that we have got it absolutely right". The volunteers had spent a lot of time with the students preparing the demonstration, but had also played a key role in the limited outreach there was to Serbia, bringing observers from Ni[sinvcircumflex] and Belgrade to Prishtina and even accommodating them on the floor of BPT's flat.

At the same time, the San Francisco group Peaceworkers proposed that BPT should be involved in organising large-scale international nonviolent support demonstrations inside Kosovo/a for the students. This cut across the long-term connections the team were trying to make and was not seriously considered as a role for BPT. However, it should be acknowledged that BPT's long-term work in Kosovo/a was probably less widely appreciated by activists in Kosovo than the brief nonviolent action of six US associates of Peaceworkers who went to Kosovo/a to show solidarity with the student demonstrations and were promptly detained, then deported and banned from FRY.

In Croatia, the situation was very different. The Anti-War Campaign (ARK) had reacted against large-scale international actions such as the Helsinki Citizens Assembly 1991 "Peace Caravan" and wanted a long-term international presence of people interested in working at the micro-level. Culturally too Croatia, with its long experience of tourism and its cultivation of western links, seemed far more familiar to volunteers than Kosovo/a.

Important for the partners of BPT in Croatia was: closeness (sharing experiences, equal relationship to local activists, bonus as foreigner, bridge function (to authorities, int'l groups, UN, sponsors), additional supporting force (collect more information for example, ask questions locals would not have thought to ask, translations). (MüBü99) Groups in Split often expected practical aid like translations, development of funding material, driving around in car. The teams usually refused these expectations (with many exceptions) because of non-partisanship but felt badly about it. (MüBü99)

BPT was one of the first volunteer organisations coming to Croatia to work on human rights and peace issues. In the second half of the 1990s, the Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights in Osijek has initiated a peace team project of its own, setting up mixed local-international teams in five places in Eastern Slavonia. Other groups made arrangements for international volunteers to come and work with them. Though not having hard facts to prove it, the participants at the final evaluation meeting assumed that BPT's example may have played a part in this development. (M2001)

A small Dalmatian HR organisation maintained and later even broadened its activities. Without BPT´s support they might have dissolved or at least had less influence. (M2001)

3.3.6.3 Day-to-day relationships

In regard to the daily work, one problem mentioned quite often was providing continuity of contacts with local actors with changing team members (M2001)

BPT policy discouraged team members from favours for locals outside the activities of the project, nonetheless as mentioned above, in Croatia translations were sometimes made (also in Belgrade) and cars loaned. Private friendships developed as well. Howard quotes the same volunteer again: "Sexual relationships were discouraged but nevertheless happened, and three volunteers ended up getting married to locals... Social relationships with ordinary locals were encouraged, however, to get a better understanding and find friends outside of the team and activist populations." (NP01:225-226)

3.3.7 Relationship to other actors

BPT tried to avoid being identified with the EU or the UN in Croatia, both for ideological reasons - wanting to be an alternative to military intervention - and for strategic reasons. With these international governmental missions being rejected as ineffective and sometimes corrupt, it was rather an asset to a NGO to show that it was not in league with them. This was of more practical relevance in Croatia where these international actors moved in the thousands than in FRY. It was not until 1998 that more than a handful of international agencies began to operate in Kosovo/a, and by then the team had its own well-established network of contacts and ways of working. This care to avoid identification did not lead to avoidance of these international actors. On the contrary, the teams in Croatia generally sought a low-level co-operative relationship with these international actors. It exchanged information with them, invited monitors to join them in activities undertaken by local NGOs, and for example utilised the Refugee Protection Working Group meetings provided by the United Nations High Commissioner on a bi-weekly basis which provided networking and sharing of resources with other NGOs. The opening of OSCE office in Split was according to Müller/Büttner seen as a success of the work. (MüBü99).

Contacts to other international NGOs were maintained if they worked on related issues (e.g. UNHCR, Oxfam), and they were sometimes also approached successfully for grants. (Q2001)

Müller/Büttner/Gleichmann and the final evaluation in 2001 both show that BPT did not have contacts to very many international actors. It was rather a small circle who could be activated locally and internationally, while they perceived a lack of continuity of contact to other actors.[28] (MüBü99)

3.3.8 Putting the activities into a theoretical framework

Nonviolent conflict intervention takes place in three strategic contexts:

- When it contributes to finding a negotiated solution to the conflict, or brings people into dialogue on such solutions, it is part of peacemaking.

- When it helps to prevent, control or reduce violence, it is part of peacekeeping.

- When it works on the underlying causes of the conflict, helping to remove them and to foster reconciliation, it is part of peacebuilding.[29]

BPT has - as most other grassroots peace teams and civil peace services - been active mainly in the fields of peacebuilding and peacekeeping.

Under peacebuilding activities can be counted the founding of the Youth Centre in Dragash. It falls into the category of what Ruben Kurschat (1998) calls "multi-ethnic or multi-communal social work". Kurschat describes a multitude of activities that are typical activities of social workers but have the implicit function of bringing people together across ethnic or other perceived lines of conflict. This kind of social work creates a neutral space or protected area in which people, independent of their ethnic or religious identities, come together and do things together, such as attending a computer course or playing football. The objective of furthering reconciliation is rarely made explicit because of the fear that work concentrating on the ethnic lines of conflict might strengthen those lines and thereby deepen the conflict. The social worker or peace expert might insist on participation from all sides and would try to stop all attempts to close one project or activity (e.g. language course) to members of the other groups. But rather than making "the conflict" the issue to meet about, the activities are used to reflect on group processes and one's own behaviour, and thereby deal with the conflict indirectly. (NP2001:86)

Other peacebuilding activities were: the dialogue projects in Serbia/Kosovo; offering meeting space as the team occasionally did in Kosovo/a before 1999; visiting citizens; support of local groups and the development of civil society; support for local groups and civil society development; networking activities; co-organising public activities[30]; training and education in conflict-related skills.

Peacekeeping functions have already been discussed under Mandate. To sum up, BPT did some accompaniment work and organised a presence at incidents, but its protective function was very limited due to two factors: the lack of international political clout that is according to Mahony/Eguren the precondition for deterrence by accompaniment (Mahony/Eguren 1997:228), and the lack of susceptibility of the FRY government to international pressure. BPT was not about stopping or preventing war. Müller/Büttner write: "In 1995 in Croatia and in 1997 in Serbia, the project experienced at first hand the run-up to surges in escalation. In Croatia, the volunteers thought it a defeat not to have secured a foothold from which they could exert some influence. By contrast, the organisers had never even expected this of the project. In the deliberations about how to react to a possible escalation in Kosovo/a, the question of the possibilities for achieving prevention was not even discussed--so far did it lie beyond perceived capacities." (MüBü99:160 pp., translation Müller)

In the memory of the author, this observation is right. But nevertheless, it may need some qualification: At the very beginning of BPT, the first proposal to set up BPT spoke of sending a hundred volunteers to Kosovo in order to prevent a war there. This goal was abandoned as too ambitious already in the planning stage of BPT. Still, the basic idea may have lingered and influenced the volunteers.

Another CC member has commented that after the Drenica massacres, preventing war was not only beyond the capacities not only of the BPT but of the OSCE's largest mission to date - the Kosovo Verification Mission. "When both the armed parties in a conflict see their interests as being served by military escalation, the space for international nonviolent intervention is limited."

Nevertheless, in addition to the OSCE, there were several groups interested in mounting a nonviolent intervention. One proposal came from the Italian group Beati i Costruttori di Pace who reported that they had found a group of displaced Albanians who would like a large contingent of international volunteers to go to Kosovo/a to offer them nonviolent protective accompaniment. The BPT CC members and former volunteers who discussed this at the WRI Triennial in September 1998 tended to take a very sceptical attitude.

As for peacemaking, there was little BPT activity that fell under this heading. Dialogue projects clearly fell more under the field of peacebuilding - they were not usually about finding a solution to the conflict, although some including "problem-solving" elements that came up with particular proposals for action on common interest.

3.4 Recommendations to successors

The final evaluation meeting in October 2001 brainstormed a list of recommendations and 'lessons learned'. While many of them have been incorporated into this paper, the most important are repeated here[31]: (M2001)

  • Importance of clarity regarding mandate, policies, structure, communication, decision-making, competencies of the different structural bodies, relations between member organisations and 'project';
  • Keep it simple!
  • Do not start new things before you have the resources to do them.
  • Review structures periodically (every two years). have clear and regular evaluations as part of the work.
  • Develop a culture of working together including honest and open criticism, but criticise behaviour, not personality.
  • Separate training and mission preparation, and always separate assessment and training.
  • The whole project suffers when a part is neglected (M2001)
  • Try to find people who know - if you don´t know it by yourself (M2001)
  • Concerted effort for peaceful change needs more (lobbying, political pressure etc.) than one project (M2001)

Perhaps peace teams are most useful in situations that are being neglected, or working with groups that are being neglected - with the international saturation of Kosovo/a, this was in the end very difficult. (E-mail by a CC-member in spring 2001)

4. BPT France follows in Balkan Peace Teams' Tracks

by Equipe de Paix dans les Balkans (EPB) -- BPT France

BPT France was looking forward to being involved in BPT's European project for peace-building within Europe's borders. Unfortunately, at the same moment that we were ready to send our own volunteers, BPT International decided to bring its mission to an end.

But the work is not finished., since the General Assembly of Balkan Peace Team International, meeting on the 12th of October 2001, officially acknowledged that the association "Equipe de Paix dans les Balkans" (BPT France) is continuing the work of BPT.

For nearly seven years, Balkan Peace Team's unique effort had proven the sceptics wrong, especially those who said that Europeans will only work together on the common pursuit of profits. Balkan Peace Team, a non-governmental organisation, was actually pursuing the dream of those who founded the European Union, that of peace and reconciliation.

BPT France would like to pay tribute to the commitment of all of BPT's volunteers over the years. They worked at times in areas of extreme tension, always maintaining their determination to help develop peace in the Balkans. Their numbers seemed insufficient at times and the financial means available to them sometimes felt inadequate. Despite these difficulties, we are confident that their presence brought hope to the communities they supported and that this hope will be manifested in the form of greater understanding and co-operation between divided communities.

New Projects for BPT France

A lot remains to be done in the Balkans. In February 2001, BPT's Coordinating Committee felt that if BPT or any of the member organisations continued to work in the region, new pointers toward effective work needed to be found. They agreed to send an exploratory mission. Pierre Dufour and Tanya Spencer visited Kosovo/a from the 1st to the 15th of March. Their main objective was to assess the strength of interest among local NGOs for support in local efforts to build bridges between communities.

They took part in numerous meetings in Prishtina and Mitrovica and there were many positive conclusions to be drawn. The discussions focused, in very precise terms, on what conditions existed for future volunteer peace missions in Kosovo/a. There are numerous local NGOs working now to rebuild the society, to secure human rights, and to create a democratic spirit within their respective communities. However, few of these NGOs have local volunteers who are able to help develop cross-community exchanges. With the economic situation still very precarious, few people have time to devote to conciliation work. More than one NGO showed interest in having volunteers with the kinds of backgrounds and training that BPT volunteers have traditionally had, such as conflict resolution.

BPT France has developed structures for the management of a project, and for the recruitment, training and sending of volunteers to Kosovo/a. We have decided that rather than create our own projects, we will place volunteers with local NGOs. We have now identified a number of NGOs with whom we wish to work.

Two NGOs will be our first partners. EPB will be sending volunteers to work with them in the autumn of 2001 (the first volunteer is already on site), and in 2002.

  • The NGO Resource Center and Community Centre of Mitrovica is an initiative run by Kosovars and supported by the OSCE. The Centre provides a home and an infrastructure for various local initiatives, which aim to promote co-operation and civil society.
  • The Mixed Library of Mitrovica is a project to create and run twin libraries in the North and South sectors of the town.
  • The first volunteer, Nathalie Jousselin, arrived on 11th October 2001 in Mitrovica, to work in support of this project. Her overall aim is to develop a common cultural activity, bringing Serbs and Albanians together, around the town's libraries. Her main concrete objectives are:


§ to facilitate relations between the people in charge of the two branches of the Mitrovica, of the North and South sides of the town;

§ to encourage them to co-operate closely in order to develop exchanges, and in order to favour the proper working of the library as a whole;

§ to participate in the cultural life of the province by making proposals for events and activities within the network of Franco-Kosovo associations, in particular in the Mitrovica area, but also in Kosovo/a as a whole.

To achieve the co-operation between BPT France and the local organisations identified, we will need more than our good will. We will only be able to maintain and develop our projects if other NGOs and individuals in many countries are interested in our initiative and want to help us. First and foremost, we hope that many of you who supported BPT will also support this effort.

One lesson we have learned from the BPT experience is that such projects gain much from being thought out and worked through at an international level. This leads to a rich variety of experience and it increases credibility on the ground.

Please do not hesitate to let us know of your support and your suggestions!

The spirit behind BPT's work has not disappeared and the need for this type of work is still strong.

Following in Balkan Peace Team's footsteps, we intend to issue a regular Newsletter on the activities of Balkan Peace Team France (EPB) and the evolution of the situation in Kosovo.

We propose to send this letter, the "Bridge over the Ibar", to you, initially on the basis of six instalments a year.

BPT is not authorised to transmit its mailing list to us, but we count on you to confirm your interest and your support, by contacting the following address:

Equipe de Paix dans les Balkans (EPB),

114, rue de Vaugirard

F-75006 Paris, France

Tel: ++33-1-4284-2078, Fax: ++33-1-4544-5713

Email: equipesdepaix@free.fr

References

1. Sources quoted:

Arajärvi, Outi, Das sind meine Freunde aus Belgrad. Ansätze ziviler Konfliktbearbeitung in Kosovo. Zur Arbeit des Balkan Peace Teams, Projektpartner der Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Januar 1999

Müller, Barbara/ Büttner, Christian/ Gleichmann, Peter, Der Beitrag des Balkan Peace Team zur konstruktiven Konfliktbearbeitung in Kroatien und Serbien/Kosovo, Auswertung Beigleitforschung Balkan Peace Team, Part 1, Manuscript January 1999 (unpublished manuscript). Referred to asMüBü 1999)

Nonviolent Peaceforce Feasibility Study, ed.: Christine Schweitzer, St. Paul, September 2001 (referred to as NP01)

"Statement of the Coordinating Committee of Balkan Peace Team about the evaluation presented by Marie Caraj and Fernando Nicasio for the International Council of Peace Brigades International, in December 1998 (Referred to in the text as PBI98)

"Answers to the questionnaire", documentation of an internal evaluation done by BPT's members in 1999. A questionnaire had been going out and answers collected from present and former volunteers, CC members and member organisations. (Referred to in the text as EV99)

Answers received to the "Questions for the BALKAN PEACE TEAM FINAL EVALUATION, September-October 2001". (Referred to as Q2001)

The minutes of this evaluation meeting that have been produced by Barbara Müller who also facilitated that meeting (Referred to as M2001).

E-mail by Eric Bachman with comments on the draft paper (dated April 4, 2002) (EB0402)

2. Other Literature quoted:

Galtung, Johan, Drei Annäherungsweisen an den Frieden: Friedenssicherung, Friedensstiftung, Friedensbewahrung, in: Galtung 1982, p. 50-80. Originally published as "Three approaches to peace.peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding", in: Galtung, Peace, War and Defence - Essays in Peace Research vol 2, Copenhagen:Christian Ejlers, 282-304

Kurschat, Reuben, Scham und Schuld in interkollektiven Konflikten. Überlegungen zu einer 'multiethnischen Sozialarbeit' im Nachkriegsbosnien, Studienschriften des Friedenskreises Halle e.V. Bd 1, Halle/Salle 1998

Mahony, Liam/ Eguren, Luis Enrique, Unarmed Bodyguards. International Accompaniment for the Protection of Human Rights, West Hartford:Kumarian Press, 1997


[1] Those who did interviews with local activists came across other problems. For example BPT heard after the visit of the PBI evaluators that many expressed a lack of trust in the PBI team and some said that they did not give answers to the questions. One in particular said he told them he did not know anything about BPT. Others said they were not forthcoming with direct and full answers because they had the impression that the PBI visitors were funders checking up on the teams. (PBI98)

[2] It can be found on the web at www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org/research/

[3] When this evaluation was written in early 2002, the human rights situation in Croatia had improved although there remain problems mainly in those parts of Croatia that had been under Serbian control from 1992 to 1995. One of the largest issues Croatia still faces is the return of its ethnic Serbian population that mostly fled Croatia in 1995, while at the same time having to integrate incoming Croats from Bosnia and Serbia.

[4] For German speakers, the booklet produced by Outi Arajärvi for the Heinrich Böll Foundation in 1999 on the work in Kosovo ("Das sind meine Freunde aus Belgrad. Ansätze Ziviler Konfliktbearbeitung in Kosov@") can be recommended.

[5] Although students from both ethnic groups went to the same school, they were taught in classes separated along ethnic lines. A sa result of the English classes the two groups started to have some more contact with each other. (EB0402).

[6] Some suggest the team exaggerated the situation, and that the team did not accept its own responsibility for various problems. For instance, while the team itself was blaming the IO for not transferring the money, the Co-coordinator responsible saw the team as negligent in supplying information about both future needs and past expenditure. For instance, the financial reports submitted to the IO after the closure of the team, indicate that - in addition to the Prishtina bank account - the team had on hand a significant amount of cash, some 3000 DM. This was not mentioned in discussions with the CC. The team's request for 13.500 DM for January arrived at the IO during the staff's Christmas vacation. As soon as the IO returned to the office, they transferred the funds requested, but by the time it arrived (4 days later) the volunteers had resigned. (EB0402)

[7] The first five have been WRI, BSV, IFOR, MAN and PBI who met during 1993 to plan BPT. Officially, PBI became a member as an organisation only a few years later, and did not remain so for long, but as long as a representative of PBI participated in the Coordinating Committee, PBI internally was considered and treated as a full member. PBI left in spring 2001, immediately after the break-down of the team work. Three other organisations have been formally members for some time but did not play an active role in BPT: World Peace and Relief Team (Austria), Collectif du jumelage des sociétés civiles de Genève et Prishtine and Geneva Helsinki Citizens´ Assembly Geneva. Quaker Peace and Service joined in 1998 but left again in 2000.

[8] The first CC representative of this coordination was a staffmember of the "Justice et Paix" Commission of the French Catholic Church, the seat later reverting to MAN.

[9] Job sharing between two persons was permitted and practised from time to time. The last two Coordinators shared one seat, and so did several times two persons representing one member organisation, and for some time two ex-volunteers.

[10] 1 is a little less than 2 DEM.

[11] The policy paper of BPT's own alert networks listed the following ten cases it could be used:

1. Physical attacks on citizens or nonviolent activists in the country

2. Arrest/disappearance of citizens or nonviolent activists

3. Direct threats to citizens or nonviolent activists

4. A threatening public atmosphere short of direct threats

5. Other human rights violations announced

6. Other human rights violations occur

7. Physical attack on team members

8. Arrest/disappearance of team members

9. Direct threats to the team

10. Threatening public atmosphere concerning the team.

[12] List from the evaluation meeting in 2001.

[13] named as an aspect by one organisation, did not come up as a general point.

[14] "Doesn't make much difference but [there is] one project which might be pursued more if there weren't BPT. If someone from the IO takes representation over, it might be different - in the area anyway. Can't put as many volunteers in other places as in the Balkans, but it has been a good choice so far; doesn't make a difference; personnel and financial resources are earmarked (cannot be used for other projects); BPT one of 5-8 similar projects; BPT only project in Balkans, but would perhaps commit more to non-violent social change within Germany." (EV99)

[15] Documented by Barbara Müller.

[16] In the end, only two organisations were still represented by a representative of the 'first generation', War Resisters' International and EIRENE. All the others had gone through at least one change of representatives, some even more, and some changes were not very successfull in regard to permanency and commitment of the new representatives.

[17] Italian citizens being the only exception. They still could enter without a visa.

[18] Only the very first teams did not have these insurances but were asked to look after insurance themselves.

[19 ]BPT 1994

[20] Second languages used informally were German,spoken by one-third of the project members, and sometimes also French, depending on the attendance of the French-speaking BPT members at meetings.

[21] It is difficult to get a clear picture because there were quite a lot of other factors - whether they were based in Split or Zagreb/Belgrade, age, if volunteers depended linguistically on someone else in their team, etc, and always there are so many exceptions that it's hard to see a pattern. Incidentally at the in-field training in Nov 1998, there was only one volunteer fluent in a local language - everybody else was struggling - whereas a year earlier the whole Belgrade team was fluent in Serbian and both Split and Zagreb had one person fluent. (EB0402)

[22] Adopted by the BPT General Assembly, Paris, 2.2.1994; changes by General Assembly, Frille, 23.11.1996, Bonn 19.-20. November 2000. There have not been many changes since the first declaration of 1994. Mainly the point of "language courses" under "offering skills" was taken out, the last point rephrased, and the introductory description of the situation (not quoted above) changed.

[23] Rather than quoting this mandate, the activities were often sorted into three categories. These categories in practice more or less replaced the six points of the mandate cited above, but are rather another way of sorting the mandate than changing the contents of it: Human rights advocacy, civil society development and nonviolent conflict resolution/dialogue.

[24] This one read originally: "If requested by individuals or organisations which had received threats as a result of their nonviolent activity to protect human rights, the team considers escorting threatened individuals or maintaining a presence in the office concerned".

[25] Non-stated in the Declaration of goals and principles. They were made explicit enough in other papers, in the meetings of the Coordinating committee, and in volunteer trainings and assessments.

[26] List assembled from all the sources quoted.

[27] That is a difference to PBI and other peace teams. See NP2001:59 pp.

[28] The forthcoming book on BPT by Barbara Müller, and the Working Paper of the IFGK by Barbara Müller on Peace Constituencies (2002) will deal with the same issues. The Working Paper will be accessible at www.ifgk.de/

[29] These three strategies have first been defined by Johan Galtung in 1975 (Galtung 1982) although they became known as a sequel of tasks in Boutros Boutros-Ghalis Agenda for Peace 1992. For a discussion of the strategies, see NP 2001:25 pp.

[30] For example Pax Christi Benkovac, who together with Balkan Peace Team helped several local humanitarian and human rights groups organise a Croatian-Bosnian Round Table on the return of refugees from Bosnia to Croatia.

[31] Those that were left out were merely repetitions of the criticisms described above, and some points that were repeated more than once are combined into one item.


Continue to appendices



Balkan Peace Team International e.V., in co-operation with the Federation for Social Defence / Bund für Soziale Verteidigung - BSV (Minden, Germany 2002)

Internet edition hosted by War Resisters' International (WRI) and coded by Ken Simons

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Programmes & Projects
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