Cleaner environment - safer environment

Capt. Constantin Spînu
First published in
SFOR Informer#155, January 9, 2003

One of the basic tasks for the Stabilisation Force, as stated in the General Framework Agreement for Peace, is to contribute to a 'safe and secure environment' for Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Could a safe environment mean, among other things, a cleaner environment? Some think yes. So did the CIMIC (Civil Military Co-operation) Team in Camp McGovern, Brcko, when they received a project proposal on behalf of Environmental Youth Associ-ation. EKO is an Non Govern_mental Organisation (NGO) founded in Brcko by some enthusiastic young people who want to be part of the future development of their hometown and start to make changes in their society.

Brcko - In October 2002 a project proposal appears on the desk of U.S. Sgt. Joseph Balmos, CIMIC Team. This came from EKO, a local NGO who was asking for help in order to fulfil their goal. A computer, a printer, some office furniture has been already donated. "Working with EKO has been a very satisfying experience because it allows me to support my unit here and, at the same time to help the young people of this community deal with the problem of their polluted environment," said Balmos.

A safe environment for a united BiH
Vesna Kuc, Milos Jovanovic and Jovana Mijatovic founded EKO in May 2000. Based in the Brcko District, its mission is to achieve sustainable development, including basic environmental, social and economic services to all residents of the community. "CIMIC work means dealing with the community problems. Therefore we are trying to balance our activity in order to meet the requests of the community, but in the same time to remain neutral. We are addressing to all citizens, no matter what ethnic group they belong. EKO is one of these projects which helps us to remain neutral, because they are interested in a cleaner environment within Brcko District," explained U.S. Maj. Darrin W. Olinger, CIMIC Team leader.
The CIMIC Team answer to EKO's request was quick and effective. They facilitated the donation of a new computer for EKO with funding from an Austrian NGO, 'Bauern helfen Bauern' (Farmers help farmers) and US soldiers on Camp McGovern. Other items have been donated in the same way are a copier, printer and scanner machine with the help of a church from Alabama and US civilian contractors on the base. The US civilians also donated a large table for art projects. "These donations will continue, because this project has already proved to be a success and everybody wants to be part of a success," explained Balmos.

EKO's first success
Vesna Kuc, EKO's President, speaks about the successes of their Association as well: "We are currently developing a Practical Environmental Education project, founded by the local government. Having government support is a big success for us. The project will run throughout the second school semester, starting January 15, with groups of 10-15 children of the fifth class. Once a week EKO will hold two-hour practical training sessions. This will be a great opportunity for the children to develop their abilities to discuss environmentally related topics and engage in practical ecological projects."
Without doubt these young people can make a difference for their country's future. "I would like to emphasise that SFOR was the only organisation who answer effectively to our needs. Therefore we want to express our gratitude for that," said also Kuc.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US

CIMIC

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Photos: Sgt. Laurent Pontillon

Friends working together for a cleaner environment for Brcko District: EKO and SFOR CIMIC.


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Vesna Kuc, EKO's President, (front) and Sgt. Joseph Balmos, US Civil Affairs, worked efficiently since the beginning. "I would like to emphasise that SFOR was the only organisation, which effectively answered to our answered to our needs," said Kuc.


Brcko - a disputed town
At the 1995 Dayton Peace talks, the representatives of the two Entities of BiH, the Federation and the Republika Srpska, were unable to reach agreement as to which entity should control the Brcko area. One alternative was to transfer Brcko to the Federation, which claimed that historically the municipality was predominantly Bosniac and Bosnian-Croat. The second was that the Brcko corridor along the Sava River provided a vital strategic connection between the two halves of the RS. But it would have been unorthodox for the RS to retain exclusive possession of a city, which was ethnically cleansed during the war. The result was that Brcko had become 100 percent Bosnian-Serb and that 26,000 B-Serb Displaced Persons (DPs) are housed in the area today, most of them illegally
In February 1997, the President of Brcko Arbitration Tribunal, Mr. Robert Owen, issued a decision placing the RS part of Brcko municipality under international supervision. On March 15, 1998, the tribunal decided to maintain this status until the Vienna hearing in 1999. The evidence showed that the B-Serb political leaders still exercised control, aligned with hard-line parties, encouraging a significant level of obstruction against the enforcement of the GFAP. The rights of Displaced Persons and Refugees (DPRE) to return to their pre-war homes were not respected. On March 8, 1999, Brcko was placed under an independent district government, with multi-ethnic institutions and police force, and the exclusive state level sovereignty of BiH.