Historical General Assembly, 1991

 
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Director's Letter

Dear Delegates,

My name is Bliss Perry, and I could not be more excited to be your director for the Historical General Assembly at HNMUN 2019!

I’m currently a sophomore planning to take full advantage of Harvard’s liberal arts education by pursuing a Joint Concentration (double major) in the surprisingly related fields of Computer Science and Classics. Outside the classroom, I spend much time staffing or competing at Model UN conferences – I’m a member of Harvard’s travel MUN team (ICMUN) and I am a director for our high school conference in Boston, HMUN, and its international equivalent in Beijing, HMUN China. When I’m not merging directives or scheming through crisis, you might find me coding mobile apps or translating Ancient Greek drama – or, more often, eating my way through Boston’s restaurants, spending time with friends, skiing in the woods of New England, and, of course, sleeping!

Our committee will concern itself with the Yugoslav Wars, a conflict which I consider one of the 20th century’s most interesting yet tragic case studies. An explosive expression of bottled-up nationalism on many sides sparked by the fall of communism, the wars raged from 1991 to 1995 and inflicted tragedy on millions. During 2017, I had the immense privilege of spending a few weeks traveling throughout the countries affected by these brutal wars – Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina – and experienced firsthand the natural beauty and cultural richness of the former Yugoslavia. From the Venetian ports studding the jagged coast of the deep-blue Adriatic to the stone mosques and Ottoman fortresses dotting the hills along the crystalline Neretva River, I was constantly in awe of the sheer number of religions, cultures, and ethnicities present in a small region – from Orthodox Serbs to Catholic Croats to Muslim Bosniaks, among other groups - and the diversity of historical sights and traditions each of those peoples have fostered throughout time.

Thus, I was heartbroken to view footage of the devastation leashed upon the region by the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s. Mosques and monasteries ablaze, bazaars bombarded by mortar fire, palaces dotted with bullet holes – history being erased by the minute! Even more importantly, I shuddered at the stories I heard of hundreds of thousands of civilian refugees fleeing their ancestral homelands as a result of brutal ethnic cleansing policies in attempts by various actors in the conflict to create a “Greater Serbia” or “Greater Croatia.” As such, it is imperative for the international community to step in and ensure that the diverse history of Yugoslavia will be preserved and that no group suffers the disheartening consequence of seeing their history erased before their own eyes.

This is where you, delegates, step in. As representatives to the United Nations during such a trying period for one of the world’s most diverse and dynamic regions, you will have the capability to spare millions of people and their culture, history, and tradition from a tragic fate. As we move through time from the wars’ inception in 1991 to their conclusion in 1995, you will be challenged to think on your feet and devise creative and original ways to put an end to the fighting and protect all of the peoples who inhabit what was once Yugoslavia, even within the context of such a bloody and complicated war.

Given the large scope of what we know as the Yugoslav Wars, however, our committee will only have the capability to focus on one of its many “sub-conflicts.” At the committee’s start on December 31st, 1991, the war in Croatia, commonly known as the Croatian War of Independence, is in full swing, while even deeper and more complex tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina are rapidly escalating. As a committee, you must make the grave and delicate choice between putting a rapid halt to a raging war and taking pre-emptive action to prevent a conflict that might just become even more brutal than the first. Furthermore, given the fast-moving pace of our committee, spanning four years, and the rapidly changing nuances of the conflict, delegates will not be expected to produce one large resolution as is typical of general assembly committees, but rather approximately three “micro-resolutions” spread throughout the weekend, which will be much shorter and more concrete in scope than regular resolutions. More information about my expectations for this format will be available in my background guide!

I am so excited to hear the opinion of each and every one of you regarding a topic near and dear to my heart. Please feel more than welcome to reach out before committee with any questions, and see you soon in February!

Sincerely,

Bliss Perry

 

Topic Area: The Yugoslav Wars

Subtopic A. Croatian War for Independence

The most urgent issue which faces the Yugoslav region at the end of 1991 is definitely the Croatian War of Independence. Croatia, inhabited by Catholic Croats, had always held an uneasy place within the larger, Orthodox-Serb dominated Yugoslavia, with Croatian national expression silenced and profits from tourism along the Dalmatian Coast shipped off to other poorer areas of the federation. Ever since the nationalist Croat Franjo Tuđman was elected President of Croatia in 1990 after the fall of communism, though, tensions rapidly increased between Croatia and the remainder of Serb-dominated Yugoslavia, with incidents popping up as varied from soccer brawls to so-called “log-revolutions.” It was in 1991 when Croatia finally declared independence from Yugoslavia and full-scale war broke out between the Croatian National Guard and the Yugoslav People’s Army, supported by the Serbs in Croatia, who declared their own “Serbian Autonomous Regions,” later combined into the breakaway Republic of Serbian Krajina. A brutal conflict, the war has, at the conclusion of 1991, already resulted in countless fatalities, the displacement of many thousands of refugees both Croat and Serb, the massacre of civilians, and the destruction of priceless cultural heritage sites such as the famous port of Dubrovnik. Should they select this topic, delegates would primarily be crafting micro-resolutions recommending different ways to end the conflict immediately. Discussion of this topic touches upon countless issues and tensions – national secession, ethnic and religious violence, hyper-nationalism, preservation of endangered cultural-heritage, and regulation of international involvement.

Subtopic B. The Escalation of Political and Ethnic Tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina

At the end of 1991, the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina finds itself largely safe from the violence which has already engulfed Slovenia and, most notably, Croatia. However, by all indications, tensions are still rising in this republic inhabited by three sizeable groups – Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats. Led by Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović, the Bosnian parliament has issued memoranda of sovereignty and its desire to disassociate with the central Yugoslav government; in response, Bosnian Serbs boycotted the Bosnian parliament, created their own assembly and autonomous regions, and stated that they would secede from Bosnia if the republic pursued independence from Yugoslavia. Soon enough, Croats began to declare their own autonomous regions as well and stated a similar policy to the Serbs. In the meanwhile, the JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) strengthened its already numerous forces in Bosnia and altered the composition of its Bosnian armies to include mostly Bosnian Serbs; clashing with Bosniaks and Croats already, the JNA has razed a few villages, led to a few casualties, and the displacement of over 1000 refugees. These events are undoubtedly the ingredients of a three-way and brutal ethnic war which threatens to throw Yugoslavia into even further chaos. In discussing this topic, delegates will be forced to formulate ways to de-escalate political tensions and reverse the course leading to war before it breaks out in brutal form. Like the topic above, delegates would have to navigate tensions related to nationalism, secession, and ethnic tension in discussion of Bosnia’s future.

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