Skip to main content

Promoting reconciliation through youth: inter-ethnic community mobilization

Final Activity Report Summary - PRAYIC (Promoting reconciliation through youth: inter-ethnic community mobilisation)

Inter-group conflicts left a legacy of anger, bitterness, and hatred among the belligerent groups, that is difficult to dissolve. Children and youth living in post-conflict areas grow up in an environment marked by a culture of negative attitudes, prejudices, and hate. The questions remain 'how to deal with such a past especially when new generations are concerned, and how to move beyond the pattern of viewing the other side only through the prism of the suffering and pain of one's group'? Reconciliation in post-conflict areas requires changes at political, economic, juridical, educational, and social-psychological levels. According to socio-psychological theories, fundamental to the reconciliation process is the restoration and rebuilding of relationships.

This project discusses, through a comparative perspective, the role of non-governmental organisations in promoting peace education, inter-group contact and reconciliation among young people in two post-conflict areas: Northern Ireland (Belfast) and Croatia (Vukovar). The project started with an analysis of the types of civic organisations, and of the sustainability, strength, weakness, opportunities and barriers for peace education through community relations work.

Findings showed that civic organisations use different strategies and activities to promote inter-group contact and to deal with a salient social (ethnic/religious) identity. Inter-community programmes bring groups of young people from the two communities together through fun activities and discussions on themes of shared interest and sometimes also of 'sensitive issues' (e.g. cultural diversity, politics, human rights, and so on). Many projects promoted by civic organisations working with young people in Belfast and Vukovar, respectively, have focused on (a) prevention/reducing of anti-social behaviour, (b) improvement of socio-economic situation through training and personal development, and (c) leisure activities. Here, the principle of individual empowerment is perceived as a key aspect of their work, and an important condition for reducing inter-group negative attitudes.

The second part of the project is focused on young people's attitudes towards members of the other community and reconciliation in relation to the opportunities for participation in cross-community projects, communicative styles within family, perception of group victimhood, and attribution of individual and collective responsibility.

Results confirmed that cross-community projects and above all the family are important contexts where children and adolescents learn conflict management strategies. It emerged that those youth who have participated in cross-community projects and learnt more constructive communicative styles within family show significantly higher propensity toward contact and reconciliation with the other community, than those who have not participated in cross-community projects and have experienced problems in communication with their parents.