Photo: A. Andjic/Belgrade Security Forum 2018
10th edition of the Belgrade Security Forum to be held on October 21-23, 2020 in Belgrade hotel Hyatt Regency under the title No Trust – No Peace!
Addressing the General Assembly in September 2018, Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres warned, “Trust is at a breaking point. Trust in national institutions. Trust among states. Trust in the rules-based global order. Within countries, people are losing faith in political establishments, polarization is on the rise and populism is on the march”.
Trust is a key component of human interaction and political organisation; Karl Deutsch called it the “cement” on which peaceful relations are built. However, trust requires leadership, and belief; and it “becomes possible only when a situation arises in which the intentions of others are unknown (…) and in which the consequences of their actions could produce harm” (Torsten Michel). A valuable concept in international politics, trust enables actors to reduce one of its main features – uncertainty (Lucas Van Milders).
And yet, wherever we look trust seems to be lacking. Global agreements and instruments supposed to prevent nuclear proliferation, affect the causes and consequences of climate change and protect human rights depend on collective action, which is unimaginable without trust. Trust is further eroded with the ascent of new technologies, transforming life under the pretext of making it easier, while encroaching privacy on unprecedented scale.
In the Western Balkans, trust is lacking on all levels. Faith in democracy, institutions, human rights, political parties, the very possibility of change, even the European Union, is dissipating. In the end people lose mutual trust, as the last bond and reason to stay in this region.
On the other hand, theories and scholars of international relations have for long “failed to develop an account of peace, focusing instead on the dynamics of power and war” (Oliver Richmond). For them peace was more about balance of power than the everyday life of people. However, there is now a “rediscovered interest” in peace. And in order to create peace, we must both understand its conditions and deepen our understanding of it (Cornelia Beyer). In the Western Balkans and Europe, peace depends on how the EU will evolve from here and how credible is the membership perspective; will the frozen conflicts be resolved; can Belgrade and Pristina finally normalize their relations, and under what circumstances.
Two years later, as Belgrade Security Forum reaches a jubilee in its 10th edition, we will find out whether Guterres’ assertion still stands.