The Mediterranean’s thoughts on the Rotaract Peace Conference

As you know, the Mediterranean and European Rotaract MDIOs share a part of territory, as in, the coastal part of Europe facing the Mediterranean Sea. However, never before they had the opportunity to attend a conference jointly held by both of them. This, however, changed on the weekend of 11th-12th-13th of March, when the Country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, more specifically, its capital Sarajevo, was the scene of the Rotaract Peace Conference.

We’ve reached out to our President, Jad Salame, the Country Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tamara Gojković and one of the Moderators of the Peace Conference, Tugce Tunalilar; we talked with them a bit and we collected their thoughts about the Peace Conference. Let’s discover what they are.

A: Hello Jad and thank you for being here with us. I’d like to start right away with the questions: when did this project start? When was it the first time you spoke out loud and said “We should have a joint Peace Conference with Rotaract Europe”?

J: Technically, I’ve never said that! The truth is that the idea started when Aleksandar Matić, ERIC’s Social Officer, attended the Mediterranean Peace Forum during MediCon Cyprus in 2021 and was inspired to bring to reality such a project. Both MDIOs’ Boards welcomed the idea and started working together to make it happen.

A: Interesting! Is this also the first jointly-hosted event between Mediterranean and Europe? Also, when, how and why did Bosnia get chosen as the hosting Country and Sarajevo as the hosting city?

J: You see, we of Rotaract Mediterranean had our first collaboration with Rotaract Europe two years ago, when we co-operated within the scope of the FreeIC initiative; since then, our relationship has kept evolving. This year we have partnered firstly on the ‘MDIOs Unite for the Environment’ series of virtual events before collaborating on the Peace Conference, which is, indeed, the first ever physical Rotaract event or conference jointly hosted between both our MDIOs and hopefully it will be the start of many other collaborations.

As for Bosnia and Sarajevo, well, there are three main reasons why both Multi-Districts decided to host the Conference there. First of all, Bosnian Rotaractors have been very active in both the Med and ERIC for quite some time and were incredibly excited by the prospect of hosting us in their Country. Secondly, but also related to the first reason, it also would have been the first international event held in Bosnia. As I said, Bosnian Rotaractors have been doing an amazing job in the past two years and we wanted to help them and their Clubs in growing up even more. Last, but not least, Sarajevo is a city rich in history and a symbolic place for a Peace Conference since it is still recovering from the Bosnian War that took place between 1992 and 1995.

A: That is true. Thank you very much Jad, now, I will move to our lovely Tamara. How much hard was it to organize this international event? Do you also think that your Country is ready to host more of them?

T: I can safely say it wasn’t the easiest thing to organize it, since our team, which was comprised by three Clubs (Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Banja Luka Gloria), was quite inexperienced with international event planning. And it was a very big deal for us! As Jad said, it was the first international meeting in Bosnia and also the first jointly held physical event of Mediterranean Rotaract and Rotaract Europe.

Finding the right place for the meeting wasn’t actually that hard, since the venue we contacted was already fully prepared to accomodate every need of ours, as it was used to host this kind of meeting. And actually helping people to get to Sarajevo wasn’t also that hard. The hardest part was definetely the Conference part of the event: so many little details to think about…

But it was definetely a first step in the right direction for Bosnia and Herzegovina to host more international events, even if I’m not sure we actually have the capacity to welcome a MediCon-sized event. We will be very happy, however, to have the opportunity to host again a Rotaract Peace Conference or an M2R.

A: So there actually was a growth of Bosnian Rotaract! Moving on to specifics, can you tell more about the program of the event? What were the panels and projects discussed? Who were the most important Rotaryans/Rotaractors involved?

T: Our Conference was structured differently than a regular MediCon or M2R, it wasn’t a week-long event, we only took Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Conference itself was from the morning to the afternoon of Saturday, we left Friday for people to arrive and actually explore Sarajevo and Sunday for the departures.

The first panel of the Conference was about Bridging Cultures through Dialogue and it was moderated by Rotaract Mediterranean. The second one was instead about the Harmony Project and it was done by Rotaract District 1910, the Bosnian District. Last but not least, ERIC directed the last panel, whose theme was “Peacing” it together. After that, we ended with a workshop regarding the current situation in Ukraine.

I took part in the Mediterranean panel along with Bilal Al Ayoubi, one of the founders of the Med and former Rotaract Representative on the Rotary International’s Rotaract-Interact Committee, while the ERIC panel featured Bernhard Pribyl-Kranewitter, former Rotaract Europe Secretary and Austrian Country Representative, Peter Neuner of Rotary Freistadt, Incoming Governor of Rotary District 1920 and Iryna Bushmina, DR of the Ukrainian Rotaract District, District 2232. Lastly, Marwa Abou Dayya, founding partner, consultant, and enabler of the Design and Business Development Unit at Beyond Group, directed the final workshop.

A: So many important names! One last question, how was the meeting received? Did people also had fun, other than talking about serious matters?

T: Absolutely! The feedback we received was great and everybody enjoyed their stay in Sarajevo. We were happy to welcome all our guests; clearly we had more European Rotaractors than the one from the Mediterranean area, but, after all, reaching Bosnia is actually easier within Europe. We had 35 people from 17 different Countries!

A: Thank you very much Tamara. Now I want to talk a bit with Tugce as well: how was your experience as Moderator of the Mediterranean panel? Can you also dwell a bit further on what you talked about with Tamara and Bilal?

T: It was a very nice experience with a very welcoming environment! Me, Tamara and Bilal talked a lot, before the event itself, to figure out together a theme that would best fit the Peace Conference. Being able to moderate a panel with such important people in such a meeting felt great and hearing about their experiences and feelings inspired me a lot. I was, of course, impressed with Bilal: he has had many experiences working with, first, Rotaract Mediterranean, and, later on, with UN. He dealt in conflict resolution and he was active in Lebanon to help solving strifes arising from social and political conflicts. It tied really smoothly into the them of Bridging Cultures through Dialogue.

A: Awesome! Now, can you give me a final statement for this interview? What’s your opinion on the Rotaract Peace Conference?

T: I think it was a great first time for the Rotaract Peace Conference, especially because, like Jad said before me, it was wonderful that it took place in a city like Sarajevo. Its historical importance in conflict resolution and peace building were the perfect background for this meeting. And this meeting also showed that, even in face of events that are shocking the whole world, Rotaractors are always ready and prepared to act at a moment’s notice.

Jad Salame

Rotaract Mediterranean President
(Rotaract Club Sahel Metn, District 2452)

Tamara Gojković

Bosnian CR at Rotaract Mediterranean
(Rotaract Club Banja Luka, District 1910)

Tugce Tunalilar

Rotaract Peace Conference Moderator
(Rotaract Club Yeniköy, District 2420)

Andrea Serrani

MedTimes Editor-in-Chief
(Rotaract Club Macerata, District 2090)

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