OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier awarded secondary school students from Jajce with the 2018 Max van der Stoel Award and EUR 50,000 for their fight against divisions, and for unity, tolerance and better education.
Students from Jajce protested against Central Bosnia Canton’s decision to divide secondary schools in Jajce, and pressure exerted by students, public, the OSCE and foreign embassies in Bosnia and Herzegovina eventually resulted in cantonal Ministry of Education withdrawing this decision in mid-2017 - meaning that students of primarily Bosniak and Croat ethnicities are still attending classes together.
Representative of the group of young activists from Jajce Nikolas Rimac told Banja Luka-based daily Nezavisne novine that they would invest the money “on behalf of survival of activism” in Jajce, adding that they have never expected to be awarded for what they had done.
Former student and one of activists’ leaders Ivica Jukanovic also said that OSCE’s award had surprised him. “The reason lies in our victory and the fight for good… award will be used for reconstruction of school, so it will be easier for children and they will have a prettier school”, said Jukanovic.
Public relations officer with the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina Elma Kadic explained that the jury unanimously decided to award students from Jajce. “Citizens of BiH should be proud of those students, who have raised their voice against divisions, demanding quality education based on inclusivity and non-discrimination”, she said.
Letter signed by Zanier reads that the jury decided to give the award to secondary school students from Jajce, because of their courage and activism, which led to prevention of additional segregation in schools in Jajce and throughout the country.
Students’ representatives will officially receive the award on November 9. The award will be presented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands at the ceremony in The Hague.
The Max van der Stoel Award, a prize of EUR 50,000, is presented every two years to a person, group or institution for extraordinary and outstanding achievements in improving the position of national minorities in the OSCE participating States. Established in 2001 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Award honors Max van der Stoel, a prominent Dutch statesperson who was the first High Commissioner on National Minorities, while also highlighting issues related to national minorities.