In this latest episode of The Peacebuilding Podcast, I interview Charles Crawford, who was the British Ambassador for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1996-1998, Serbia and Montenegro from 2001-2003, and Poland 2003-2007. Crawford previously served as a British Diplomat to the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, South Africa, and Russia.
I got to know Charles when we were working together conducting a leadership development program for senior women in the Afghan government. Crawford led the component on speech writing – a topic he knows a good deal about. (See Speeches for Leaders, his website and other info in the show notes). He is a great storyteller with an amazing assortment of anecdotes from a rich and interesting life.
In this episode, Crawford talks about his early days as an ambassador in war-torn Bosnia. With colorful detail, he tells the tale of being part of the ambassadorial group attempting to bring conflicting parties together across ethnic lines. He describes his early days arriving in Bosnia and seeing the absolute destruction of war. With insight, he observes that the places massacres occurred in the Bosnian war were the very same as where they happened in World War I, II and maybe earlier -- perhaps “pay back” for sins inflicted on grandparents. He describes the large industry that pops up during peace negotiations – foreign nationals pouring in, eating too much, getting paid too much in comparison with the local population, an assortment of issues arising including things like prostitution. He provides perspective such as – the internet did not exist when he went to Bosnia and reflects on the potential uses the internet can provide now in peacebuilding efforts. He talks about the dilemma that, if you want a deal, you may have to engage the worst leaders – something that will suit the extreme ends of a conflict and might not serve the moderate middle.
Most noticeably, in contrast to the many processes explored on this podcast, he describes the typical but top-down approach of building peace in Bosnia and the very real influence of the American president at the time, Bill Clinton, who needed an international policy success -- with ordinary people having little or no say whatsoever in this peace process. Charles was also in South Africa as Mandela came out of prison and Apartheid came to an end. Observing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process held there a bit later, he talks about the difference between a justice and reconciliation lens with the latter not applied in Bosnia. It's reconciliation that's needed, he posits, if you want a real break from the past.
Please enjoy this episode here. Charles Crawford is an amazingly bright and interesting teller of a complicated and relevant tale for those interested in creating a more peaceful world. Check out the show notes on the website for how to reach Charles and a wealth of information that he provides.
As always, thanks for your interest in The Peacebuilding Podcast: Bridging the Divide.
I send you my warm regards,