Declaration On The Dialogue Of Cultures And Civilizations As The Road To The Partnership For Peace, Sustainable Development, Cooperation, Democratic Integration And Freedom Of The Balkan Nations

We, the scientists and researchers gathered at the International Conference dealing with the Dialogue of Cultures and Partnership of Civilizations in the Balkans, do hereby adopt the following Declaration:

 – Throughout its history, the Balkans, as a region, has represented a volatile geopolitical area where different civilization come into contact, where the geostrategic interests of the great powers clash, and where surplus of history and of the culture of fear and death get produced. In addition, this region has in its history been traversed by more soldiers than traders and tourists; it has witnessed more bloodshed than the other regions of the world. Its elites have been slow to learn from the teacher Clio, so that bloody events invloving new generations have kept repeating. Unfortunately, the Balkans still lives in the shadow of the ”shock of the past” and remains only temporarily pacified by different peace-keeping formations.

– The implosion of real socialism and war conflicts at the end of the 20th centuryhave made it difficult for the Balkan countries to be fully involved in the processes of democratic transition and in the intra-Balkan processes of organic reintegration of the Balkan countries through economic, political and cultural cooperation. The results of the postsocialist transition of the Balkans are such that they show that the Balkan countries have experienced social regression and neoconservative restauration. Namely, by uncritically accepting the neoliberal model of dependent / forced transition, the Balkan elites have ushered this region into the processes of subdevelopment, debt slavery, recolonialization and protectorship.

In a word, the Balkans has become a new area of dependent countries of the peripheral ”capitalism of disaster”. It has been downgraded from its position of a semi-developed region, and has been exposed to peripherization and rebalkanization according to numerous sociological criteria. Despite the attempts of the current political elites to institutionally integrate this region into the EU, the Balkans remains fragmented economically, politically and culturally. That fact cannot possibly be masked by political cliches regrading the processes of European integration and a bright future overlooked by the EU administration in Brussels.

From the sociological point of view, the real Balkans lives in the state of а ”zombie economy” – it is economically and socially devastated, impoverished and half-dead, it is politically fragmented and is characterized by the creation of a culture of dependence and by the destruction of its own authentic national and cultural identities. All the given processes have brought the Balkan societies into an alarming state necessitating not only a critical thought on the part of science and intellectuals, but also a radical change of development strategy on the part of social agents.

– In the search of the new ways of overcoming the current crisis and in the definition of the projects of future social development and progress, it is science, universities and the intellectual elites that can play a key role; rather than taking an opportunistic defensive position, they are obliged (through the results of their research) to help the development of fruitful social criticism and rational / democratic consciousness of citizens so that the region could actively participate in the contemporary processes and modern struggles for better today and better tomorrow. In this context, it is the researchers in the fields of social sciences and the humanities that have a special responsibility.

– Having in mind the radical paradigm change in the 21st century, namely the shift away from geopolitics and geoeconomy towards geoculture, it is necessary to raise the awareness of the elites about the critical importance of the role of science and culture in future changes in all social spheres, as they are crucial in technological development, in work and management organization, in the preservation of identity culture, in the research of alternative ways of future development, and in futuristic blueprints of ”the future that has already begun”.

The ministries of science, education, culture, infromation development and technology will become crucial in contemporary and future societies. The key issues will be the development and use of human resources and the role of culture as the critical resource in sustainable development of man and the world.

– The postsocialist Balkan societies must prepare for this new development and civilizational phase of the ”third wave”, so as to keep up with the new forms of competition at the global market of the ”gray matter”, i.e. of intellectual capital.

The place and role of individual nations in the global division of labour, repute and power will be all the more determined by gifted people as creators of the ”society of knowledge / inovations”, by the creative intelligentsia and its spirit of ”creative destruction” as well as by entrepreneurial elites, rather than by military wisdom and courage or political demagogy. That will be a match for which one should prepare here and now.

And that is where universities and education come in; in other words, there is the issue of what reforms we need in order for our science and education to secure the development of new professionals for the new / future times. It is high time we understood the spirit of the words of Naisbitt (the author of ”Megatrends”): ”Just as past, through history, has determined the present, so will the future be detremined by the actions we take in the present”. We are so late in those preparations for inovations (i.e. for the modernization processes in the world) that we must gallop towards it! It is time for an alarm at the University and in society so that social and cultural preconditions in the struggle for our new position and role in the world could be established through a system of new radical reforms. We need well-thought-out radical reforms in science and education as the key generators of knowledge and of new elites, so that we could keep up with the world and compete with it.

– Starting from the efforts invested so far in the academic community in Niš and following the logic and results of our resreach carried out so far, we stress the following:

– the best contribution to the reassertion of the messages of the Edict of Milan can be given if some of our initiatives we have put forward during our 15-year involvement in the projects such as Regional Cultural Coopertaion in the Balkans and The Culture of Peace, Identities and Interethnic Relations in the Context of the Processes of European Integration could be institutionalized within the education system of our (Balkan) universities by:

–  establishing interuniversity system of M.A. and PhD studies of Balkan cultures / the studies of the culture of peace;

–  developing the Centre for Multidisciplinary Research into the most creative factor of advancement of science and culture at universities, especially through development of transdisciplinary reserach in the fields of:

–     new technologies and communications;

–   biotechnological development and genetic engineering;

–   modelling strategies of sustainable (ecological and bioethical) development;

–   the development of complex global and regional sociology and applied reserach;

–   the research of concepts of regional development and regional cooperation in the Balkans;

–  the reserach of demographic reproduction of the population and the survival and development of the Balkan nations;

–  the development of conflictology as a scientific discipline dealing with the reasons of long-term conflicts in this region;

– the development of social ecology as  a scientific discipline dealing with the impact of social factors on human surrounding and viceversa.

– Such an ambitious reserach programme requires the establishement of new forms of coordination and cooperation of Balkan intellectuals. Our experience shows that the most elite core of researchers, scientists and prominent cultural works should gather together and define the platform for a new policy of social agents in the Balkans which would be challenging both in its ideas and its recommendations. That will, in turn, necessitate not only a more intensive regional coopertaion of scientists and cultural workers, but also the establishment of The Balkanological Institute at the University of Niš (as one of its scientific and reserach units), as well as the formation of the Forum of Balkan Intellectuals, as an interactive democratic form of intellectual community of all those wishing to express their ideas dealing with:

the development of regional cooperation, development and the culture of peace;

reassertion of the values of the ”Balkan to the Balkan nations” slogan, which precisely demands intensifying political cooperation among the Balkan nations with the aim of preserving the autonomy of the given region;

– the actions necessary to start the Balkan Synthesis Journal, which would be didicated to science, regional cooperation and the culture of peace, and which would publish papers related to the current problems and alternative projects of the development of the Balkans as a community of equal nations, cultures and citizens, and which would do so in different languages. This journal would also reassert the democratic and freedom-loving thought on the coexistence of the Balkan nations, the dialogue of cultures, partnership of civilizations and the culture of peace in the Balkans, as prerequisites of development and progress.

  1. Just like most of the other Balkan countries, Serbia today is faced with the problems of subdevelopment as well as with the problems of huge disproportions at the regioanl, democraphic, economic, social and cultural levels – the problems of metropolization and inner colonialism, social inequalities, contradictions and conflicts. These problems demand permanent social research and resolution by social agents. They also require a redefinition of the strategy of regional and social development, as well as a funcional institutional decentralization. In that sense, it is also necessary to establish The Balkan Centre for the Research of Regional Development, Conflictology and the Culture of Peace, which would be involved in a multi- / transdiciplinary comparative research in the given areas, and which would serve as a basis for exchange of the theoretical and practical ideas on the possibilities and instruments of resolution of the given and similar contradictions, so that the Balkan societies could be deblocked in their development and so that they could dedicate themselves to the challanges of modernization, and to the Balkan and European integrations.
  2. In order to intellectually articulate, implement and rosolve these and other civilizational and developmet issues, universities must become more engaged and responsible, as they are scientific and educational institutions, the spiritual seats of culture, the key places of the formation of national elites and of the development of the dalogue among cultures and civilizations in the Balkans, and have a crucial role in spreading the culture of peace and globalization of understanding among Balkan nations, so as for our cultures to mix and so as for them to make a permanent bridge of cooperation and concord among the Balkan nations. It is in this context that universities, faculties, institutes, professors, teaching assistants and students will intensify interuniversity cooperation among academic institutions, organizations, institutes and research groups in the Balkan academic community, using thereby new technologies, spreading the culture of communicology, the spirit of tolerance, dialogue and cooperation within the young generation, which is to create and be the main agent of future development.
  3. In order to be able to timely recognize and objectively inform about the given civilizational and developmental problems, and in order to promote the new values in the sphere of cultural policy and the spreading of global understanding and solidarity in the Balkans, it is an active and responsible role of the mass media that is required. This is a result of the fact that the first victim in war is ”the truth”, or, as is says in the UNESCO’s Charter: ”Since wars begin in human minds, so also the strategies of preserving peace must also be created in human minds!”. In order to secure peace and form alternative development and emancipatory projects, it is the media, apart from the new elites, science and universities, that have a great responsibility. The media must be not only highly technologically modernized, but must also be autonomous with respect to the centres of power, and must also be much better integrated in the Balkan regional network as well as in professional communication and cooperation.
  4. It is our opinion that the revival of religion (in the plurality of its forms) in the contemporary world can be a factor of the culture of peace as well as of conflict. That would primerily depend on whether religion is autonomous or whether it is subjugated to the extrareligious factors striving for achievemnt of extrareligious goals. We are convinced that the dialogue of different religions and confessional communities is possible and necessary,and that religious hierarchies should not shut themselves off and shoud not oppose ecumenist movements and associations, unless those  movements and associations strive for a supreme authority and totalitarian power in the sphere of the richnes of diversity of mankind.
  5. Confronted with the current consequences of economic and social crisis in the world as well as with regional conflicts that threaten to develop into a global civil war between the rich minority and the poor majority of the world, and having in mind the postconflict state in the geospace of the Balkans  (which is currently in the state of ”unfinished peace”), we would like to point to the importance of contemporary religious and peace movements advocating tolerance, the culture of peace and non-violence. As the Spanish philosopher Unamuno put it, the religion of patriotism should stop getting dressed in military uniforms and the cross should not be turned anymore into a knife! Patriotism should turn into love for mankind and vice versa. It is only in such a context that homo religiosus and his love of God will not hamper the contemporary challenges of modernization / secularization and the creation of mankind as a community of equal citizens and nations and of the richness of cultural differences. Naturally, the renewal of the authentic human community and the realization of such future of mankind is not possible without profound structural changes in the contemporary society and without a radical change in the ruling strategy of social development in the world. In that sense, the struggle for peace is today linked to the problems of development; as the former President of Brazil Lula da Silva put it: ”Without global justice there can be no global peace”, i.e. true peace can only be a result of the unity of development and social justice.
  6. In order to step out of the current crisis, the Balkans and the world need a radical change of the global strategy of development so as toovercome the negative effects of the neoliberal model and so as to secure social partnership of all social layers in the struggle for development and peace in the Balkans and in the world.
  7. The Forum of Balkan intellectuals – conceived of as a horizontal and democratic academic structure, would (through scientific gatherings, confrences, declarations and announcements) reassert the struggle for peace, development, dialogue of cultures and partnership of civilizations in the Balkans. This would be a secular way of promoting the spirit of tolerance and the respect of pluralism embodied not only in the Edict of Milan (coming from the religious sphere) but also in the secular European tradition of the Enlightenment and of civic humanism. This, together with the development of social criticism, would inspire creativity, cooperation and progress of all the nations, citizens and cultures in the Balkans.  In addition, this would also help the Balkans become once again a place of cooperation and integration (rather than of fragmentation and clashes) and would also help shape the idea / vision of the Balkans as a community of equal nations and citizens.

 In contrast to Huntington’s thesis about the inevitable clashes of civilizations in the 21st century, we think that the right road lies in the dilaogue of cultures and in partnership of civilizations. Only such a strategy of cooperation and tolerance, of respect of the culture of differences, of and developing interculturalism, can turn the Balkans into a bridge among nations, cultures and civilizations, between the East and the West, the North and the South, for the benefit of the Balkan nations themselves, of Europe and of mankind.

 In Niš, May 25th, 2013

The participants of the International Scientific Conefernce

The Dialogue of Cultures and Partnership of Civilizations in the Balkans