Students discuss peacebuilding with former Croatian president

Former Croatian President Ivo Josipović speaks with students

UO students studying abroad in Croatia heard from former Croatian President Ivo Josipović as part of the Human Rights and Peace Studies program in the Balkans.

Josipović spoke about his efforts toward transitional justice and reconciliation with other governments in the Balkans during his time as president. He discussed various efforts during and after his presidency, including efforts to prosecute war crimes regardless of the nationality or justification for the crimes.

“Everyone thinks their guy is the good guy and the other guy is a war criminal. But war crimes were committed by all sides. And you can’t have peace until you deal with war criminals,” Josipović said in his lecture.

Even with these weighty topics, the students in the program found it easy to talk with Josipović and ask questions.

“I feel good to know that a world leader such as Ivo Josipović was so grounded and friendly,” said Feroze Hasan, a junior majoring in political science. “He definitely will have a major influence on my future.”

The 10-week Human Rights and Peace Studies study aboard program takes students to the countries of former Yugoslavia — known as the Balkans — specifically Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. The program is led by Will Johnson, instructor of international studies and assistant vice provost for operations and innovation for the Division of Global Engagement, and Emina Buzinkic, a longtime humans rights, peace and political education expert based in Zagreb, Croatia.

“The students join this program because they want to understand how to promote peace and justice in the aftermath of violent conflict,” Johnson said. “The students have engaged with dozens of academics, civil society actors, lawyers and politicians who have dedicated their life to promoting peace and human rights. These interactions are in many ways more beneficial than any lecture the students receive from me or Emina.”

The program starts with coursework in which students learn about historical, philosophical and international perspectives on human rights and peace studies. During the latter part of the program, students participate in four weeks of guided research and fieldwork where they get hands-on experience working alongside peace-building efforts and affected populations.

Through both coursework and connecting with the people involved in the day to day of peacebuilding, students are able to gain a new perspective on themselves and how to address these issues at home and internationally.

“My experience on this study abroad trip has been incredible,” said Oksana Leontyuk, a senior majoring in international studies. “It's made me have a clearer focus of what I want to do with my life after I finish college.”

To learn more about the program and other study abroad opportunities, visit

–By Jesse Summers, University Communications