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Bosnia: Making a viable state
Urgent need to reshape the international presence

SARAJEVO/BRUSSELS, 29 November 2001: The international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina is beset by five main problems: absence of a shared vision and effective structures; lack of leadership and coordination; duplication and non-cooperation; personality clashes and turf wars; and ineffectual management of economic reform.

These problems – made more urgent by budget cuts – are universally acknowledged, and a number of proposals to overhaul the international presence are now under debate. In a new report, Bosnia: Reshaping the International Machinery, ICG urges the international community to adopt a comprehensive reform plan at the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) meeting in Brussels on 6 December, and then quickly implement it.

A model discussed in detail in the report suggests a ‘pillar’ system, built around four core functions: institution building; the rule of law; economic reform; and refugee return. One organisation should bear general responsibility for each function – with the Office of the High Representative acting as co-ordinator and facilitator.

Change must amount to more than downsizing, or altering the seating plan at the international top table in Sarajevo, if Bosnia is ever to become a viable state, capable of making its way towards membership of the European Union.

For six years, Bosnia has absorbed billions of dollars in a massive peace implementation effort. But it has been saddled with constitutional machinery that is unworkable and self-defeating. The 1995 Dayton Agreement worked as an armistice, but the Dayton constitution created a weak central government, two deeply divided entities, three constituent peoples, ten cantons in one half of the country, and effectively three armies. It has failed to provide the foundations for a viable state.

ICG Balkans Program Director Mark Thompson said: “We should not lose sight of what the international presence is for. If Bosnia cannot be put on its feet by evolution, nudged along by the High Representative, or by some negotiated constitutional settlement, then the international community must be ready to impose a more workable and democratic model than Dayton envisaged. It is not too soon to start consultations on post-Dayton structures.”

ICG’s Bosnia Project Director Mark Wheeler said: “Time is of the essence. The current Bosnian leadership’s commitment to ‘partnership’ should be seized – giving Bosnians something positive to vote for in next year’s elections. If not, the international community could find itself starting again with less amenable politicians in 2003.”

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