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Bosnia: Reshaping the International Machinery

To access the report in Bosnian, please click here.


After six years and billions of dollars spent, peace implementation in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains far from complete. Reshaping (‘recalibrating’, in local jargon) the international community (IC) presence is vital if the peace process is to have a successful outcome.

This presence is the result of ad hoc expansion since the Dayton Agreement was signed in December 1995. It is beset by five main problems: lack of a shared strategic vision; uncoordinated leadership; duplication and lack of communication; personality clashes and cross-cutting institutional interests; and ineffectual management of economic reform.

Based on interviews with scores of international and local officials at many levels in Bosnia, this report analyses and assesses the current exercise in IC reform. It urges those involved to agree on a comprehensive proposal – based on the Kosovo ‘pillar model’ – that can not only be endorsed by the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) Political Directors at the next Steering Board meeting in Brussels on 6 December 2001, but which will mark a break with the muddle, inconsistency and half-measures of the past.

Reform must amount to more than just downsizing, or changing the seating plan at the international top table in Sarajevo. It must reflect a coherent strategy, finally, to make Bosnia a stable, viable state with a robust rule of law and enduring central institutions, capable of making its way towards membership in the European Union (EU). This requires a plan to complete the implementation of the Dayton Agreement by equipping Bosnia with the institutions it needs to fulfil the strategy. Once declared complete, Dayton implementation can yield to the technical imperatives of European integration.

Above all, however, the reform must acknowledge that if Bosnia cannot be put on its feet by evolution, nudged along by the High Representative, or by some negotiated constitutional settlement, then the IC must be ready to impose a more workable and democratic model than Dayton envisaged. This could involve creating a strong but fully representative central government, clearing away the counterproductive entity and cantonal structures, devolving substantial powers to the municipalities, and designing largely depoliticised structures for regional administration. It is not too soon for the PIC Steering Board to start consultations on post-Dayton structures.

Time is now of the essence. The IC should take advantage of the current Bosnian leadership’s commitment to partnership in effecting positive change, and give Bosnians something positive to vote for in next year’s elections, rather than find itself starting again with less amenable politicians in 2003.


1. The international community requires much better mechanisms for policy-making and coordination in Bosnia. There should be regular information-exchange meetings of all international parties involved in Bosnia, including bilateral and multilateral organisations, embassies, and think tanks.

2. The international community presence should be reconfigured according to function. A ‘pillar’ structure – built around the four core functions of institution building, the rule of law, economic reform and refugee return – would work far better than the currently loose and overlapping arrangement. One organisation should bear general responsibility for each core function, and in some instances an interagency coordinating body should be established.

3. The OHR’s role is to coordinate and facilitate. It should be the pediment on this pillar structure. The High Representative should be double-hatted as a European Union (EU) envoy, to strengthen the ‘Dayton to Europe’ transition.

4. OHR should also (a) intensify its efforts to endow the state with as many functioning central institutions as can be justified and funded under Dayton’s dispensation, (b) maintain and probably enhance its capacity in economic analysis and monitoring, and (c) work more closely with the international financial institutions (IFIs).

5. Through the European Commission office in Sarajevo, the EU should increase its visibility and amplify its message about Europe. It should also become increasingly involved in the institution-building process and in economic reform.

6. A tangible sign of the IC’s acceptance of the centrality of economic reform to everything it does in Bosnia would be to include the IFIs in the Peace Implementation Council (PIC).

7. Civilian implementation continues to require a secure environment and an effective enforcement mechanism. The NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) should stay – complete with an American contribution – until Bosnia’s governing institutions, including its security institutions, are fully viable and self-sustaining.

Sarajevo/Brussels, 29 November 2001


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