UNHCR is deeply saddened by the passing away of the Đorđe Balašević, a poet and a songwriter loved by people in all the countries of former Yugoslavia.
A strong opponent of the war and violence in the former country, Mr Balašević was the first artist from Serbia who travelled to the war-affected former republics. With UNHCR support, he organised two concerts dubbed “Reconciliation Concerts” in Sarajevo, BiH in February 1998. He donated all the proceeds to the children – victims of war in BiH.
Two months later – in early April 1998. – the then High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata decided to appoint him a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador for the countries of former Yugoslavia. At the press conference following appointment, Mme Ogata stated that his concerts had awakened valuable hope of all people from the former Yugoslavia and expressed belief that he had the power to bring them together again. Seeing the grief that the whole region has been engulfed in since Friday, Mr Balašević stood true to her words during his life and after his departure.
“We lost a great artist and an admirable advocate for human rights. He will be sorely missed”, said Francesca Bonelli, Representative of the UN Refugee Agency in Serbia.
Mr Balašević attended the Millennium United Nations conference in New York together with other UN Goodwill Ambassadors at the invitation of the then Secretary General, Kofi Annan in 2000.
Đorđe Balašević had a rare gift of voicing the sentiments of the population around former Yugoslavia and beyond and to connect emotionally with millions who attended his concerts since the late 80s. Throughout his life, his ballads pointed to the absurdity of war and ethnic hatred, described the toils of ordinary people and celebrated love.
All of us at UNHCR extend our deepest condolences to Đorđe’s family and join his many friends and admirers in paying tribute to his life and mourning his loss.