Croatia: UNDP promotes ethnic reconciliation

03 Sep 2010

Croatia has made great strides towards European integration, but still faces the challenges of ethnic tension in war-affected areas. While much reconstruction has taken place in the formerly besieged cities of Osijek and Vukovar in the east of the country, inter-ethnic tensions still simmer and are exacerbated by an unemployment rate that is nearly twice the national average.

UNDP is working with the Government of Croatia to help diffuse ethnic tensions among disadvantaged communities in these cities.  By increasing access to education, justice and jobs, and improving community policing, the national government, UNDP and partners aim to promote ethnic reconciliation and improve the living standards of people with limited access to social services, and who feel alienated from the political process. 

In Vukovar, the local crime prevention council—which includes representatives of the mayor’s office, the police, and civil society—identified a riverside area, with poor lighting, where inebriated youth were gathering and frequently disturbing the peace. The police were routinely called to investigate incidents there, and the majority of the city’s population avoided the area.

Upon the recommendation of the council to refurbish this area of the river bank, UNDP partnered with the local private sector and city authorities to install lights and outdoor fitness equipment, thus turning the hotspot for local conflict into a safer area for all.

At the same time, the European Union and UNDP are providing financial support to the Ministry of the Interior’s ongoing small arms collection efforts, through which civilians voluntarily surrender weapons and ammunition to the police. UNDP is also working with the police on public awareness events such as media campaigns using posters, television spots, T-shirts, public concerts and sporting events.

Between September 2007 and June 2010, more than 4,000 small arms and 42,000 explosive weapons such as grenades were collected, along with more than 1.4 million rounds of ammunition and over 1,600 kilograms of explosives.

UNDP has also contributed to a new community policing information system that produces data visualizations and detects patterns and trends in crime statistics. The system has recently been activated as a pilot project in Osijek, and it provides publicly accessible representations of recorded crime patterns and trends in real time as findings are presented to local crime prevention councils.