The JICA Research Institute publishes the "Project History Series," which reviews JICA's projects to date and analyzes their trajectories and outcomes. "A Memoir of a Japanese Development Practitioner: In Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina" is the second English-language book in this series. (25 installments have been published in Japanese so far.)
In 1995, more than 8,000 Bosniak (Muslim) residents were massacred in Srebrenica during the Bosnian conflict. After the conflict, many donors provided support, and in 2005, JICA launched an unprecedented project of peace-building assistance to promote ethnic reconciliation and post-conflict rehabilitation. One of the authors, Oizumi Yasumasa, who was dispatched to Srebrenica as a JICA expert, questioned the appropriateness of providing support under the common understanding among the international community that the Bosnian Muslim residents were the victims and the Serbian residents were the perpetrators. Oizumi put down roots in the village of Skelani in Srebrenica and engaged in daily discussions with the residents, unlike other donors. He was keenly aware that assistance to only the Bosniak residents would never lead to ethnic reconciliation and would only deepen the gap between the ethnicities. He started to look for new ways to achieve ethnic reconciliation with the staffs of NGOs established by local residents and city workers.
Over the next eight years or so, through a wide range of projects such as planting prune seedlings, growing strawberries and other greenhouse produce, growing and processing herbs, restoring pastures, beekeeping and renovating water supply facilities, the incomes of residents increased and interaction between the two ethnicities gradually developed. Then, they managed to open a kindergarten attended by children from both ethnicities. Throughout the project, JICA acted as a catalyst, drawing the two ethnicities closer, the authors write. Oizumi says providing opportunities for local people to think, take action and open up their own lives is what support is all about. He depicts how he interacted with the residents of Srebrenica as the situation changed every day, and how the lives of the people and the scenery of the city changed.