CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY AND RECONCILIATION IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE

Project proposal to conduct an Emergency opinion pollin FYR of Macedonia in March 2002

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The Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe designed, conducted, and published a public opinion poll in FYR of Macedonia in March 2002 on the desire of the people for a negotiated settlement, in place of a new outbreak of violence. The project was successfully completed in March and April 2002 and was made possible from generous funding from Foundation Open Society Institute Macedonia (FOSIM) in Skopje, and the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace in Thessaloniki.

The Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe designed, conducted, and published a public opinion poll in FYR of Macedonia in March 2002 on the desire of the people for a negotiated settlement, in place of a new outbreak of violence. The project was successfully completed in March and April 2002 and was made possible from generous funding from Foundation Open Society Institute Macedonia (FOSIM) in Skopje, and the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace in Thessaloniki.

INTRODUCTION
The over-arching objective of this project is to identify possible paths towards reconciliation between the Albanian and Macedonian communities in FYR of Macedonia. Despite the continued efforts by the International Community, the political situation in the FY Republic of Macedonia remains extremely volatile. The implementation of the Ohrid agreement between the two main ethnic communities is at its best a slow and tedious process. Political analysts say that what passes for a peace process is actually just a lid that has been imposed by the International Community onto a cauldron full of problems none of which have been resolved to the satisfaction of either side. On the ground, there is an increasing fear that April will bring about renewed armed clashes like we have seen last year or even worse. The media are still fuelling the flames of ethnic hatred and reports in the international press speak of fresh arms being smuggled into the country.

OBJECTIVE
In most cases, the International Community and NGOs react to a crisis and get involved in the middle of a conflict trying to defuse it. This is followed by an often frantic search for post-conflict solutions. Coming after the fighting, this is always hard to achieve. The proposed emergency opinion poll aims to be an example of a pre-conflict solution, helping to stabilise the political situation in the country and kick-start a real peace process. Once that begins, the initial March emergency poll would hopefully develop into a series of polls which could enhance the peace process like it did in Northern Ireland. The results of the poll will be publicised aggressively through the main media. They would show that in exchange for peace, the people on the ground are willing to make compromises which are presented as impossible by their political representatives. The Northern Ireland polling has proved this. The poll would create a grassroots pressure on the politicians who would find it very difficult to hide behind perceived "national interests" once the polling is done. It would also enable those politicians who are willing to compromise, but find they are trapped in inherited, entrenched negotiating positions, to break out of a deadlock in the quest for peace.

POLLING AS PEACE-BUILDING
The emergency opinion poll in FYR of Macedonia is a first step on a long process of fostering discussion that could lead to real negotiations. Effective peace-building requires the re-establishment of all those elements of a society that make it a functioning success. In particular, dialogue between conflicting parties must consist of reliable channels of communication that can facilitate an honest discourse on all the issues that lie at the heart of the conflict. Peace building requires both vigilance and patience and in this the support of all of the elements of the society and the international community must be encouraged to play a constructive role if a return to violence and war is to be avoided.

POLLING REPORTS:

METHODOLOGY
Opinion polls have proved to be an effective instrument for the peace and reconciliation process in Northern Ireland, as proved by the work of Dr. Colin Irwin (Professor at Queen's University of Belfast) who carried out an extended series of polls after developing a subtle technique of designing questionnaires for the public in Northern Ireland. These polls were part of the peace process between April 1996 and May 2000, and succeeded in increasing party inclusiveness, developing issues and language, testing party policies, helping to set deadlines and increase the overall transparency of negotiations.

IMPLEMENTATION
The activities of this project ran from 1 March to 12 April 2002, according to the following outline:

1-3 March Dr. Irwin made first contacts in FYR of Macedonia with Nenad Sebek, CDRSEE Executive Director; Dr. Irwin and Mr. Sebek met the key individuals who were essential in identifying the issues to be addressed in the questionnaire, and presented the polling project to them.
4-8 March Dr. Irwin developed the questionnaire with input from all sides.
11-22 March Institute for Sociological, Political & Legal Research, Center for Ethnic Relations implemented the polling and data processing.
23-27 March Dr. Irwin returned to FYR of Macedonia to analyse and write the results of the poll.
28-29 March Poll results publicised in all possible media
30 March Round-table discussion broadcast in FYR of Macedonia
1-3 April The publication explaining poll results was edited, printed, and distributed.
5 April Press conference in Athens with all major international media represented
8-12 April Strategy for further polling developed and proposed.

This Opinion Poll is co-sponsored by the Foundation Open Society Institute - Macedonia and The Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe.

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