Davor Jancic

International Law as a tool for turning fear of the unknown into the cooperative known

“I have learned how important it is to try to operate as part of a group, as part of a mechanism within a wheel which never stops but goes on with or without our wishes,” says Davor Jancic, because “we are not helpless.”

Davor is a young man who was about to enter his university years in the spring of 1999 when NATO inflicted horrific bombardment of his home city to end the ethnic cleansing under the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic. Situated on a plain beside the Danube River, the city of Novi Sad served as a crossroads for various Balkan cultures as well as Romans, Magyars, and Ottomans in ancient times. NATO decided it was a strategic city and destroyed the bridges across the Danube as well as oil refineries, the city’s electricity, water, communication, major buildings, and several residential areas. For almost three months, civilians endured the bombings in abject fear and helplessness.

A pre-law student, Davor entered the University of Novi Sad which had escaped most of the bombing, except for the philosophy department building. He doesn’t judge NATO’s actions, however, except to analyze the whole wartime disaster. He remembered the ethnic fighting during the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and has concluded that the two main areas that contribute to such catastrophes are lack of communication and stigmatization based on stereotyping. The conflict created an artificial battle line, Davor says, between “two sides, two groups, two communities,” leading to deadly prejudices “that affects my country, my community, and my world.”

Though older generations suffer from the collective memories that precede World War II, Davor insists that “there is no reason for a member of the Albanian ethnic group or a member of the Serbian ethnic group to a priori dislike each other.” Davor hates being cast into a prejudicial way of thinking without his consent. “My world and that of my friends does not bear the burden of collective memory. The time is ripe,” he adds, “to break away from the past, to move on and normalize the relations between all ethnic groups in the region. And it is up to my generation.”  If the ethnic groups realized they are all human beings with more similarities than differences, “misperceptions could be averted and pacified. And that is exactly where I would like to give my modest contribution to society.”

Eager for Serbia to join the European Union—a move that required resolution of Kosovo’s status as well as the judicial processing of war crimes—Davor joined the European Movement in Serbia and became an active member in the European Law Students’ Association where he served as its president. While there, he worked for the NLB bank in the legal department.

Before graduating summa cum laude as the “Student of the Generation” in 2005, Davor and his associates established an NGO called The Youth Dialogue Programme (YDP). YDP aimed to reestablish the lost communications among youth in Serbia and Kosovo and to effect peaceful reconciliation among all ethnic peoples of the region through panels, joint projects, and activities. Davor became the YDP Director for International Relations, and a colleague who became the executive director of YDP said that Davor’s efforts contributed greatly to the success of regional conferences dealing with cooperation among students from Serbia and Kosovo, Kosovo’s future, European and NATO integration, and the high-level European Policy Summit, “Balkans Crossroads.”

From the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Davor earned a scholarship to study law at the University of Amsterdam with the understanding that these students had to organize an international symposium to be attended by academics, representatives of the institutions, ambassadors, and NGOs. Davor was appointed chairman, responsible for four committees: program, finance, logistics, and communication. He approached it in his usual systematic way, first by establishing rules and procedures, and then by careful analysis of problems, solutions, and feasibility, and finally diplomatic implementation. The Director of the Amsterdam Law School credited Davor with much of the symposium’s success. After completing the LLM degree in International and European Law cum laude, Davor was offered a research position in the field of European Constitutional Law at the University of Utrecht, where he is working on his PhD.

When Davor applied to HSI, he wrote, “Interethnic misunderstandings often arise from a fear of the unknown. I herewith apply for the program to turn the unknown into the known…for the benefit of all international communities and individual