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Promoting human values in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


When ethnic divisions are centuries old and even young children have experienced life under threat, what can be done to help people live together in peace? In the Balkans, the ICRC has been trying something new.

The ICRC delegation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been implementing a programme in schools that aims to break down barriers and combat attitudes that can lead to conflict.

Known as " Promoting Human Values " , or simply " PHV " , the programme seeks to promote positive cultural and humanitarian values. It was launched in late 1996 with the support of the Norwegian Red Cross, and developed in cooperation with the Macedonian Red Cross Society.

After the Education Ministry allowed testing in a dozen schools, the project was assessed in the spring of 1998. The evaluation noted the enthusiasm of the teachers, who liked its novel approach. In July 1998, the Ministry approved the project for national implementation as part of the curriculum during the following school year.

Between October 1998 and February 1999 the ICRC organized 12 seminars to prepare the people who would implement the project in the classroom – altogether 430 teachers of history and literature, at primary and secondary level, were trained.


Kids enjoying themselves at an ethnically-mixed workshop run by the ICRC in Macedonia
©ICRC/Bojan Loznaliev 


Since then the project has spread to schools around the country, reaching thousands of pupils o f the Macedonian, Albanian and Turkish communities.

 Kosovo crisis  

In March 1999, ICRC Skopje froze the programme to give priority to life-saving activities arising from the Kosovo crisis. When in September of that year most of the Kosovo refugees had returned home, work on the programme resumed.

A link between " PHV " and the Red Cross Principles was made by including basic dissemination modules in the project and during workshops. The team put together a special resources kit including video clips, exercises and games.

The project continued throughout the 1999-2000 school year; the Red Cross team gave support by making presentations at schools and organizing monthly three-day workshops for teachers and pupils.

 Internal conflict  

In 2001 the project was suspended again because of the internal conflict. However, after a peace agreement was signed, and parliamentary elections held in September 2002, ICRC re-launched the programme with the support of the new Minister of Education. Due to post-conflict sensitivities the programme focused on schools where it would have the greatest impact; the number of schools involved was reduced, but more students were involved from each school. 

The programme is continuing in the 2003-2004 school year. A new manual will be distributed to teachers of target subjects in all secondary schools and to teacher-training colleges.

Building on this experience, ICRC and the education authorities are also planning to introduce a new schools programme – " Exploring Humanitarian Law " , or EHL* – during the 2003-2004 school year. A trial of the first module will be carried out in selected senior high schools with a view to incorporating it in the curriculum.

 Sharing experiences with Albania  

Further modules will be tested and the necessary changes made in cooperation with education specialists, so that secondary school teachers will be able to start the programme in September 2004, with manuals in the three standard languages.

The lessons learned will be shared with the education authorities in Tirana, who are interested in testing EHL in schools in Albania.

The ICRC has sought to involve national Red Cross volunteers in the schools project so that it can be gradually handed over to the national society. Four teams of six people – teachers and Red Cross workers – have been selected and trained. But for 2004, ICRC will continue to supervise the project, and provide both financial and logistical support.

 * EHL is a global ICRC project to make young people aware of humanitarian law.