Swanee Hunt: Closing the gap between worlds apart During her posting as President Clinton’s Ambassador to Austria, Swanee Hunt found herself an eyewitness to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the neighboring Balkans. Eschewing diplomatic niceties, the Texas-born emissary plunged full force into efforts to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiating table. Her mission produced results but not enough to stave off such horrors as the 1995 slaughter of thousands of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs in Srebrenica. Now living in Cambridge, Mass., and lecturing at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Hunt runs programs like the Institute for Inclusive Security
What were your thoughts when another 500 victims of the Srebrenica massacre were laid to rest on the anniversary of the July 1995 slaughter? I thought how imortant it is to remember these lives and to pass on our knowledge of how such a tragedy could have happened. If we have integrity, then “never again” is a call to action. We can honor the lives lost only by redoubling our efforts to prevent violent conflict. I had the opportunity to visit Srebrenica in March of this year and reconnected with Kada Hotic, a survivor who lost both her husband and son in the genocide and whom I interviewed for This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace. Kada spoke of her pain, but also of her ability to move forward: “When the Serbs killed us, they killed themselves. I forgive, so I am alive.” In July, I reflected on Kada’s words, which are a testament to the restorative power of forgiveness. Just a few weeks after the anniversary, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a discussion at the Holocaust Museum on ways to avert modern threats of genocide. Do you think the Atrocity Prevention Board, one of the measures she discussed, can be effective? Secretary Clinton has seen the impact of genocide. She knows the horrors that took place in Bosnia, Rwanda and elsewhere. In July, she outlined how the Atrocity Prevention Board can be effective: Training officials to recognize signs of danger; bolstering civilian surge capacity to consult with local groups who can advise US officials; collaborating with women and implementing early warning systems to respond to sexual and gender-based violence; using technology to detect when governments are targeting protesters; and cutting off resources to those organizing atrocities. The board isn’t a panacea, but it’s an important step forward. Has the world learned the lessons of Srebrenica? These are lessons that have to be taught to every generation. For many of us in the international community, the word “Srebrenica” will always evoke a sense of tragedy and failure. But it’s easier for those who come after to think “that couldn’t happen here” or “we’d have understood sooner and acted more effectively.” So we need to apply the lessons learned from Srebrenica to current conflicts. As the war gathered steam in Bosnia, policymakers relied on information from those in power instead of consulting all affected
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through her philanthropic Hunt Alternatives Fund. The goal is to increase the involvement of women in politics in order to nurture a new generation of leadership committed to peaceful change. In her latest book, Worlds Apart: Bosnian Lessons for Global Security, Hunt starkly describes the gap between the foreign policy establishment and everyday people and shows how it can lead to the waste of precious lives and resources. Profiled in Exhale in Spring 2011, the dynamic activist and author answered questions about the lessons of Bosnia and the costly delays in foreign military intervention.
groups. We need to gather critical information from diverse groups in order to develop effective solutions. Working across ethnic lines in Bosnia, women could have been a robust moderating force if we had utilized them. We’ve got to tap the power of the entire population, not simply warring leaders, to build peace.