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Building Peace and Understanding through Youth Partnerships in Bosnia and Herzegovnia | An Interview with Marko Vukovic

judylee • 1 November 2016
Marko VukovicJudy Lee interviews Marko Vukovic, a Bosnia and Herzegovina native

Bosnia is a poor country; a bit of optimism and foreign aid has helped the lifestyle improve but not in an entirely sustainable way. Therefore, many individuals have lost faith and thus have become apathetic. Marko feels that the country is still at war in terms of rhetoric. Many people have become distrustful of the international community and its silence in such an exhaustive period of time.

Marko moved to Boston, United States three years ago from Sarajevo to study Biochemistry at Tufts University. Eventually, he would like to utilize his education to conduct research in a laboratory and apply his skills to institutions back in Bosnia, as scientific research is not yet a major field in the country. Although tensions still remain in the nation, Marko is not afraid. However, he does feel discouraged that the country tends to fall into a cyclical pattern that puts the mindset of the nation very much stuck in 1992. The ethnic conflict permeates all aspects of the society and the new-found privileges are oftentimes taken for granted.

Before commencing his studies at Tufts, Marko attended the United World College (UWC) in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are 16 UWC schools around the globe, each focusing on a particular theme. UWC Mostar is unique in the sense that it is the first UWC institution with an explicit aim to contribute to the reconstruction of a post-conflict society; therefore, the school is rooted in the purpose for resolving conflict and conflict resolution. Marko says that the school manifests this commitment to conflict resolution through the equal distribution of all ethnicities (Bosniaks, Serbians, and Croatians) within the school. He expressed that most schools outside of his are pretty homogenous, so he enjoyed Mostar because it had all ethnicities live and work together. The school provided a fertile environment for relationship-building where there was no space to create prejudice.

In terms of long-term change, he believes that any youth movements will be less top-down and more collaborative. He denoted that any change must first begin by bridging the gaps in between ethnic groups. Whether it be schools like UWC or NGOs and IGOs that instigate the work, this is the fundamental root for nurturing sustainable optimism and transforming disparate communities. Marko feels that it’s not “conflict resolution” as a premise that people are seeking, but jobs, careers, and opportunities to flourish in an interesting and increasingly diverse environment. He adamantly places faith in the power of the young individual to begin taking the first steps towards the changes that people need.

Speaking with Marko really opened my eyes to the root of the problem at hand and the culture and narrative that seeps into the Bosnian community. I look forward to listening further to his story whilst hearing the stories of other young, powerful individuals across the globe.



Judy LeeJudy Lee is a psychology major born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Portland, Oregon. In 2016, she was named her university’s Capstone Student Leader of the Year, an award that honors one student who has positively impacted the community and served as a role model to younger students. Under her leadership as coordinator at Oxypreneurship, the student-led entrepreneurial initiative on campus, Occidental College made its debut on Forbes’ List of Top Entrepreneurial Colleges. Prior to her internship at the UN, Judy conducted research observing human fear emotion and the role of psychophysiological awareness in classical conditioning procedures. She is currently working with peacekeeping affairs under the Military and Defense Adviser for the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the United Nations. Also, in partnership with UNDP, she is leading a task force focusing on the power of youth in peace-building in the Caribbean and Balkan States. Follow Judy on Twitter @judyleeisme and Instagram @judyleeisme.