A Message from Dr. David Johnson

Sarajevo, June 1997

My last visit to Sarajevo was in June 1987 when I brought a small group of University of Tennessee graduate students to see one of the most interesting cities in the world. I had first become acquainted with Sarajevo in 1974 on a research project that resulted in a video for US public TV on environmental progress in Yugoslavia. Sarajevo planners and preservationists had worked hard to restore the old Ottoman city, the BasCarsija, and I wanted to include this success story in the video.

Like everyone who knew Sarajevo, I was aghast at the attack on the city, beginning in 1992, on this attractive, multi-cultural community and its people. I was outraged that Europeans and Americans stood by and did little to halt this new genocide. Like others, I wrote letters to the White House, Congress and the newspapers calling for intervention. Jay Craig did far more--he traveled to Sarajevo during the war, came under fire and back to prod the rest of us into more direct action--to stop the war and to help in the reconstruction and rebuilding process.

Thanks to a grant from the University of Tennessee I have been able, ten years later, to come back to Sarajevo, this time with Jay Craig, to witness conditions and help in a modest way the work of the Bosnia Network. You always worry whether you should get involved in a time and place such as Bosnia in the Spring of 1997. But after a short time here, I have no doubts. Our colleagues are happy we are here. And the several projects now underway under the auspices of the Bosnia Network are truly welcome. The short course to be offered in GIS is eagerly sought after. Bosnia, thanks to American military imagery, has one of the best and most detailed geographic data bases ever assembled. Much of this imagery is now available for reconstruction planning.

Thus, planners and reconstruction specialists have no shortage of information in accessible digital form. But, as always, for implementation to occur, what needs to be added to an information base are imaginative planning ideas, coordination among development agencies, and, above all, the resources to carry out the plans. The Sarajevo regional planning agency has put together an excellent, prioritized list of infrastructure needs and related projects. But these are just the first steps in getting the city back on its feet. Talented local planners, economists, and architects know what needs to be done. But much more financial aid from the EU, the World Bank, and USAID is required, especially as hundreds of thousands of refugees return to Bosnia from other countries. Generous promises of aid were made. Now, they need to be kept.

The work of the Bosnia Network is a small part of this process, but a significant one. Training programs between Bosniac and US schools, and exchanges of students and faculty, electronically and physically, are all welcome here in Sarajevo. The Bosnia Network can help facilitate these vital programs. As I sit looking out over a bustling city still blackened by hate and war but coming back to life, I know the work of Jay Craig and the Global Network is having a real impact and I encourage all of us to continue our support and efforts for the Network. That is the best way we can remember this heroic city and deter the resumption of the horrors of the past five years.

A footnote: I went back yesterday to see old BasCarsija I had filmed in 1974. I was astonished to find it had come through the war almost unscathed. I learned later that it hadn't. It had been a prime target of the artillery on Mt. Igman. The old town had been rebuilt not once but three times! What a heroic city.

David A. Johnson
School of Planning
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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