“By going back to our roots and to what we were, we have for once abandoned our individualities and managed to highlight only what was true and important, and thus we have created a wonderful present.”
Ena Ovčina, participant to the ROOF project
How can cohesion and mutual understanding be fostered among young people? CISP has chosen to do it through culture, as a powerful tool to bring people together and highlight what they have in common at the expense of discord and antagonism. Recently in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) we have organized a series of workshops, educational seminars, and field visits for students from different areas of the country. Over 300 people from Kneževo, Trebinje, Tuzla, Živinice, Jablanica, Posušje, Tomislavgrad, Doboj, Tešanj, Lopare, Sarajevo and Kladanj were involved in the activities of the project ROOF – Roots of the Future, co-financed by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in order to promote socialization and knowledge of one's common historical-cultural heritage and the natural beauties of one's country.
Among the places visited by the students there are the Stećak, famous Bosnian medieval monumental tombstones whose remains are a precious testimony of a harmonious era for Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the Middle Ages tombstones like these were a common tradition for both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and a selection of about 4,000 monoliths grouped in necropolises in several locations have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2016. The sites are recognized by the local population as a symbol of identity and represent a common tradition and shared heritage between Bosnians, Croats and Serbs.
By valuing young people's interests in their cultural heritage and common past, the project ROOF has created concrete opportunities for dialogue and discussion between young students and people who often consider themselves different and distant. Even though the conflict has been over for more than 25 years, the process of reconciliation takes generations and young people have just the necessary capacity and a whole life ahead of them for a long-term commitment. Investing in the new generations, in the future leaders of the country, can help overcome political stagnation and contribute to true justice and reconciliation. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, young people have paid and still pay a very high price due to the levels of instability and fragmentation prevailing in the country.
Addressing the problems of young people, which are now quite similar throughout the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, necessarily requires the adoption of innovative and unitary approaches based on common values that promote participation and sustainability. The ROOF project focuses on young students to strengthen and enhance their capacity for dialogue and promotion of social cohesion.
“The strategic choice to use the vast common heritage of BiH is based on lessons learnt from previous experiences during which CISP matured the common belief that cultural, historical, and environmental richness of BiH is an effective tool for an incisive implementation of inclusive and human rights-based practices. By giving young people a central role in the re-evaluation of their historical heritage and in the valorisation of their country, the students have the opportunity to share their passion and interests with their counterparts from other areas of the country and to work together towards a common objective.”
Deborah Rezzoagli, CISP Director of the East Europe and Asia Geoghraphic Area
The project ROOF was implemented by CISP across one full year and in partnership with Konjuh Lab Tuzla, University Tuzla and the College of Tourism and Hotel Management in Trebinje, with the active support of the communities and civil society organizations in both the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska.
The project successfully closed with the conference "Youth, development of human resources and social cohesion in Bosnia and Herzegovina: new projects launched by the Government of the Republic of Italy" held on January 18th at the Hotel Holiday in Sarajevo.
The event was the occasion to present both CISP's ROOF and Ready for Europe, a project implemented by the Italian NGO RE.TE.
“CISP and RE.TE. are two extraordinary Italian realities that have been operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina for decades: they know this country, they have made a great contribution to its development - and through Italian cooperation for development, which is also present today through representatives of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. We greatly appreciate our long-term cooperation.”
H.E. Marco Di Ruzza, Ambassador of the Republic of Italy in Bosnia and Herzegovina
At the end of the conference, the young people sent a request to the State Government, the European Union, and donors in form of recommendations:
The young people also demanded the improvement of the educational system and the introduction of school subjects and activities to raise awareness of the environment, cultural and historical assets.