This report discusses key human rights challenges that have emerged in the Western Balkans during its ‘transition’ from socialism to capitalism and in the aftermath of the Global Financial crisis of 2008. The region, devastated by ethnic and nationalist conflicts in the 1990s, also experienced market-oriented economic restructuring, under pressure from donors and in order to meet the criteria for European accession. The report shows that while the discourse of transition emphasized political democracy, the rule of law and human rights, priority was given to controlling fiscal expenditure and privatization, rationalized as necessary to promote a competitive market economy. In this process, social policy was reframed along market-efficiency principles and threatened existing social entitlements and constitutional rights, particularly in the field of employment, health care, housing, old age and social security. Human insecurity with regard to these essential services were experienced by many but particularly by the more marginalised groups in society. These insecurities only exacerbated with the global financial crisis of 2008, as the region was particularly vulnerable through experiencing a high degree of Euroisation with many local currencies being linked/tied to the Euro. The subsequent credit crunch from Western lending institutions as well as falling income from exports forced local governments to further reduce fiscal deficits and commercialise social services, while developing so-called ‘activation’ policies to ‘encourage’ people to take up employment. Such policies also triggered protest marches and demonstrations by individuals, civil society groups and trade unions against governments and their international and local supporters. In many ways, as argued in this report, the process of transition reflected and incorporated violence, expressed not just as direct bodily harm, but also in the destruction of livelihoods, the denial of basic human rights and in struggles for social justice.

Kurian, R., Charkiewicz, E., Bejtic, K., Icoski, M., Savevska, A., & Jungwirth, T. (2015). Violent Transitions. In The Global Classroom: The Impact of Economic Crisis and Foreign Debt on Human Rights. Retrieved from