The psychosocial need for intergroup contact: practical suggestions for reconciliation initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina and beyond

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Abstract

Modern day Bosnia suffers from widespread ethnic segregation, solidified by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the Bosnian war. This has resulted in a lack of intergroup contact and the deepening of ethnic divisions. Using the ‘contact hypothesis’ that was developed in the field of social psychology, this article highlights the need for intergroup contact as an essential element for reconciliation initiatives, and addresses challenges to intergroup contact in the Bosnian context. The author suggests three practical ways to improve meaningful intergroup contact in Bosnia and Herzegovina: 1) develop and support interethnic special interests groups that create a common ingroup identity among members of different ethnic groups in the pursuit of a common, overarching, cooperative goal; 2) increase knowledge of ‘the other’, for example through interethnic education for youth and young adults; and 3) the productive use of intergroup problem solving workshops for grassroots community leaders, supplemented with public communication training for participants not already in a position to have their voices heard by their communities. Initiatives, such as these, can contribute toward eventual reconciliation among the ethnic communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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