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, , March 2008

Centre for Nonviolent Action, Balkans

Principles and funding.

Keywords: Balkan

The Centre for Nonviolent Action (CNA) is a local peace organisation focussing on cross-border work throughout Balkans. It was founded after the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and started its work in Sarajevo in 1997. In 2001 it opened its second office in Belgrade, Serbia.

CNA’s peacebuilding work aims « to contribute to building fair and just societies ». Its tools include training in nonviolence and conflict transformation, support to peacebuilders, and publishing and film production. In training, it works with those who can multiply the effect (teachers, journalists, activists, social workers, youth workers, and political party activists, with a specific focus on rural areas), but also with those who are sometimes defined as « spoilers » but in fact can be forces for peace, such as associations of ex-combatants and families of missing persons.

CNA openly acknowledges the tensions and dilemmas associated with support by external donors. Entering a funding relationship should, it believes, be guided by the organisation’s values, integrity and independence. Organisations need to be fully aware of the degree of compromise that a particular funding relationship entails, and its own capacity to criticize or challenge a donor (or country) it receives funding from. Failure to do so undermines the standing of the whole peacebuilding field. For example, in expression of the disagreement with US policy, CNA has made a public decision not to accept funding from US government.

Decisions like these, however, are making it more difficult for CNA to deal with some of the key obstacles in its work. As CNA admits, « the main challenge lies in the stirring of this ‘local’ pro-peace energy into constructive action and attitude and in making it visible ». Sustaining energy and commitment among staff and wider networks has been a constant challenge: people burn out, lose their motivation or get frustrated by lack of support in their personal or professional environment, even when there is sufficient interest in and support for a spin-off idea; inability to secure funding exacerbates this even further.