It has been twenty-one years since the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) officially ended. The war that spanned the years of 1992-1995 had a huge impact on the population of BiH; killing many, displacing even more, and causing neighbors to become enemies. The three main ethnic groups involved were the Bosniaks (primarily Muslim), Croats (primarily Catholic), and Serbs (primarily Christian Orthodox). The Dayton Peace Accords, signed in Dayton, Ohio on December 14, 1995 was meant to end the war in what was formally known as Yugoslavia, as well as create a new system of government with the intention that Bosnia would not fall back into violent conflict. Along with that, much has been done in the past twenty plus years to reconcile the three ethnic groups in BiH. This paper seeks to use BiH as a case study to examine the reconciliation attempts which have been implemented in the region. This paper will begin with a brief synopsis of the Dayton Peace Accords, highlighting the country’s institutional details, followed by an overview of reconciliation attempts. Finally, this paper will look at possible improvements regarding the reconciliation efforts in the former Yugoslav republic.
ENTITIES AND SYSTEM OF GOVERNANCE
The Dayton Peace Accords created two separate entities, along with an independent district. Entities were split down ethnic lines, with the Republic of Srpska being majority Bosnian Serb, and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina being a mix of Bosnian Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats. Brčko District, located in the northeast of the country serves as a multi-ethnic district. The Office of the Presidency rotates between a Bosniak, Croat, and Serb President every eight months, and both the individual, and those that vote for him/her, must be of that particular ethnic group, meaning that individuals can only vote for political representatives of their own religion. A proportional Parliament is present (based on population numbers), along with a Council of Ministers. In charge of the council is a Chairman of the Council who is nominated by a President, and serves as Prime Minister. In addition to the central government, the entities are autonomous as well, composed of cantons in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and municipalities in the Republic of Srpska. The creation of this complicated system of federal governance, and the separation within the government based on ethnic lines, was viewed by the proponents of the Dayton Accords as an effective way to leave the country. Above the Presidency and the Parliament is the Office of the High Representative, which keeps the decisions made by the government in check, and can make sure that the country prospers. While the combination of this office, along with the three Presidents, seems as if it is a fair representation of the three ethnic groups living in BiH, it also can cause little progress to happen, especially if the three ethnic groups have different political priorities. The High Representative is also able to remove any politician from office or veto any law, a power given to them by the Bonn powers, an amendment to the Dayton Peace Accords . The position of the High Representative is held by an individual who comes from a country of the European Union, and the role is meant to ensure Bosnia’s eventual entrance in the political and economic alliance. The current position is held by Valentin Inzko from Austria. In accordance with the rules, OHR is appointed by the international community and his main role is to be supreme interpreter of the Dayton Peace Accords.
One of the main priorities of the Dayton Accords creators was to focus on developmental projects in the country, those with a goal to spur economic and social development - with a primary emphasis on reconciliation between the opposing parties. An issue that is continuously brought up is the inability of individuals (specifically in the Bosnian government) to compromise with opposing ethnic groups and make decisions that are beneficial to the country as a whole. This shows that individuals prioritize their ethnic preferences over their national ones. Research has shown that reconciliation efforts have failed in the past largely because of the inability of individuals to identify as “Bosnian”. They more commonly rather identify through ethnic lines such as: Bosniak, Croat, or Serb. The fact that individuals cannot seem to look past ethnic differences for a peaceful country and prosperity has been one of the main challenges in reconciling the various groups in BiH. While reconciliation difficulties are to be expected between individuals who were directly involved in the conflict, the differences and tensions among the youth can be in part attributed to the concept of chosen traumas. As Vamik Volkan suggests, different traumas, hardships, and/or glories are passed down to individuals through generations, and can differently trigger certain populations. Volkan’s research applies to this particular case because once individuals are born in this social climate, story telling by relatives can impact and influence their perception of the “Other”.
Since the ethnic groups in BiH directly relate to the main three religions that are present in the country, reconciliation projects utilizing religious institutions as the main actors have also been attempted. Not only do religious leaders in BiH carry an ethnic group’s religious identity, but they are also able to significantly impact ways in which individuals of opposite religions/ethnic groups perceive one another. Leaders within the different religious institutions could bring about a sense of trust, cooperation, and peace to their communities, which in turn, is something that could be passed down to the individuals where they would consider reconciliation as a viable option. Research has also shown that while there has been an attempt at the inclusion of religious figures in reconciliation efforts, they have not been successful because other parties have seen the involvement of religious figures as a threat and/or domination effort on the part of that specific religious group. Perceptions of dominance by ethnic groups has shown greater divisions among the groups themselves and the youth that did not necessarily experience the war. Though some have stayed divided others feel angered by the current system that they have witnessed, and have gotten involved with the reconciliation effort as well.
The younger generation in BiH has been born in a country that along with being clearly divided among ethnic lines, is an environment of pervasive mistrust among groups and contains a confused political system that is constantly in rotation. Nevertheless, they see the mistakes occurring in the country (pertaining to ethnic divisions) as something that could be fixed. Though individuals born in this society understand the concept of reconciliation and its importance, very little progress has been made, since these ethnic tensions can still be felt to this day. Though in many cases reconciliation efforts may be driven from the bottom up (individual to institutional level), the youth in BiH see the idea of reconciliation, cooperation, and trust, as something that should be first exemplified by the leadership of the country. The desire from the youth to see a top-down approach – stemming from the executive powers – of reconciliation circles back to the need to place ethnic priorities before national ones.
There is a delicate relationship between the failure of the political system and the failures of the reconciliation process in BiH. To better understand the connection between the youth and the political leaders of BiH, one must understand the level of engagement that each party has. In the past ten to fifteen years, research has shown that corruption within the political system is high in Bosnia, which as a result has led to individuals not interacting with and/or trusting the political actors to accomplish tasks, let alone serve as leaders in the reconciliation process. Though these individuals want the process of reconciliation to be shown from the top-down as mentioned before, they are in a position where they cannot demand reforms and accountability from politicians, because of the beneficial international funds coming into the country. Individuals at the local level would appreciate a top down approach in the reconciliation process, but there is little incentive for politicians to lead it, since they are personally benefiting from the foreign aid pouring in.s[sp
Apart from the main political actors, the educational sector has also not contributed to any sort of progress when it comes to post-conflict reconciliation. Before the war in the former Yugoslavia, schools were integrated between ethnic groups, and students were taught the same curriculum, regardless of their ethnic group. Since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, there has been a major shift in the educational system: schools have separated by the two entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska. With low levels of integration between ethnic groups, the current curriculum in schools both in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska seem to tailor to the ethnic group first, and then to the student. Separation in the curriculum along with the separation of schools has given the youth a low level of interaction between the different ethnic groups, thus making the divide between individuals even wider. This type of educational system has not only led to greater divisions between parties, but has also bred a sort of nationalism among the youth on all sides. With professors, municipal and entity level officials, being able to impact younger generations on how they should see the world around them, less room is created for reconciliation, especially within future generations.
Though failures of reconciliation have been mentioned, there have been some achievements as well. Many have seen truth telling be implemented in the local communities of BiH, which has led to individuals fostering closer relationships. This serves as a good example of how relationships can be mended, however at the same time individual prosperity and economic well-being is seen by many as a top priority, rather than bridging the divide between ethnic groups. Although truth-telling as a concept is a possible outcome between Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, there has been a failure in creating a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the country. International organizations such as the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), claim that the process has failed due to the nationalistic priorities of the ethnic leaders, who have halted the process from moving forward. The concept of economic reconciliation is another idea that has proved to be successful within the Bosnian community. Individuals seem to want “thin” reconciliation which allows them to interact with opposite ethnic groups economically, to gain capital, rather than rebuild relationships. The priorities of individuals based in BiH seems to not only be based on their ethnic priorities, but individual ones as well, and primarily ones that contribute to their financial fortune. The same research which discusses economic reconciliation also shows that though on the ground they are reconciled, criticism arises when a politician of an opposite ethnic group is showing nationalistic tendencies which pulls them apart, creating underlying tensions. While there has been some benefit from a social reconciliation with one another, tensions tend to rise again because political actors use old images of war for propaganda.
Looking back at the initial reconstruction projects that were implemented in BiH, another issue that arose was the idea that the “developed” world was imposing certain changes, specifically to civil society, that were not necessarily approved and/or supported by the local community in BiH. With money being thrown into the country – typically from Western, developed nations – there was little strategy for what the money was supposed to accomplish. The case of BiH can serve as an example of foreign interventions made by developmental countries which has not been an overall success. Authors such as Christopher J. Coyne have written on interventions by the United States on developing countries and has pointed out the failures of foreign aid. While this portion of the case study has pointed out some of the failures of reconciliation efforts, the next piece highlights not the stopping of aid, but a more effective use of it.
FUTURE RECONCILIATION OPTIONS
Discussed above were some failures of reconciliation, along with different programs and ideas which did not reach their true goals. This section will review possible solutions for the region, as well as showcase previous research on what kind of projects would be most useful for this specific conflict.
An idea that is useful to explore further is for peace builders, NGOs, and other groups to directly impact the different ethnic groups on a psychological level. The concept of intergroup contact is something that could be beneficial to this specific situation. Intergroup contact has the potential to allow a greater level and quality of interactions between individuals, which could eventually lead to reconciliation. By learning about concepts such as empathy and understanding, the increased interactions could be beneficial on an individual’s psyche. In the case of the different schools that are separated based on ethnicity, this notion of intergroup contact can successfully be applied. The possible challenge would be deciding the curriculum for an integrated school, but establishing integration from the start would be a significant step in the right direction, concerning attitudes and feelings about the “other”. Previous research has highlighted a sense of “self-acquired knowledge” that is obtained from a group instead of receiving information from existing texts and false narratives. The learning of stories and narratives about the past from those that were there on all sides could make an impact on individuals living in BiH, and has been proposed as a realistic solution to the differences in curriculum. Along with gaining real time knowledge, sharing stories can lead to greater truth-telling done by all three ethnic groups. This being said, the topic of school and curriculum integration are ideas that have been rejected in the past, however by targeting education systems that are accountable for educating Bosnian youth, significant impact can be made within the BiH society if a practice similar this is implemented.
A huge part why reconciliation efforts on the local and federal level have not been possible is because of the lack of agreement on priorities – particularly placing country-wide priorities above individual ethnic priorities. A way in which reconciliation efforts can be improved is by focusing on the future of the country, and the benefits that come with improving the relationships between ethnic groups. Instead of focusing on how a specific ethnic group can benefit from certain policies or practices, stressing mutual benefits instead. This can be done by the integration of businesses and having them operate on a multi-ethnic level. Since everything from a local shop to a television network is separated, having an interconnected system would allow individuals to seek growth on a local level, which could later spread to larger institutions. Mutual benefits, and the ability to make decisions to achieve a better common future, and not basing decisions on revenge, are ways in which an overarching sense of peace can be established. Stressing cooperation between the ethnic groups is an approach that can work at the institutional level, but could also be implemented at the local level, specifically focusing on the younger generation. By concentrating on the youth, peace builders and educators can have a direct impact on the future of Bosnia, with a goal of making BiH a better, multi-ethnic country. Scholarship on the topic of Bosnian development has pointed out how many individuals feel as if they cannot trust the institutions in place, but also do not trust one another on a social level. Ricigliano introduces the Structural, Attitudinal, Transactional (SAT) model, which highlights the three frames of systemic peacebuilding in societies. While the structural deals with the institutions put in place, attitudinal and transactional peacebuilding deal more with interpersonal peacebuilding in conflict contexts. While this text has described how individuals blame the structures put into place for their inability to be successful, as well as showcasing the complexity of the Bosnian system, greater attention must be paid to the daily attitudes and interactions of individuals living in BiH. Attempting to change the institutions may be something that citizens of Bosnia may want, but investing in structural change of a system which is already complicated might not be as beneficial as some believe. Instead, investments should be made in programs that work on local levels, and have direct impacts on the “A” and “T” of the peacebuilding framework.
Impacting the attitudes of individuals of BiH, and investing in community projects such as dialogues and workshops which stress collaboration between ethnic groups could not only have an impact on the local level, but in time could also impact the institutions. Thus, in this case, the attitudinal and transactional would have an impact on the structural. Since collaboration is low on all levels of Bosnian society, spurring development and reconciliation from the ground up with individuals taking charge would impact politicians on a local and national level as well. The increased levels of cooperation between politicians could lead to not only a spur of development but a bigger role for BiH on the world stage.
Along with ethnic versus national priorities, a final issue is that of individuals not choosing to identify by their ethnic group as opposed to “Bosnian” but by their ethnic group instead. Aside from political examples, it has been researched that an individual’s view on symbols such as the flag of BiH and the coat of arms is different in terms of acceptance among ethnic lines. While Bosniaks accept the flag, the coat of arms, and the Bosnian national anthem, Serbs and Croats believe that those ideas are instead foreign, and they do not accept them. The concern of individuals choosing to be attached to their ethnic identity is a priority because without a collective sense of being “Bosnian”, there is little room for cooperation between the ethnic groups. Again, with increasing the levels of cooperation and interaction between the ethnic groups, this could eventually be solved. This specific issue is also something the researcher believes can be fixed with programs that focus on the attitudinal and transactional changes rather than the structural.
Though the potential options for reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been explained, it is important to note that they would take time to implement, and time would be needed to see change on a bigger level. While these interventions have a higher possibility of being successful within smaller towns and municipalities, it would take a longer period of time to solve these issues on a large-scale level.
Overall, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has brought a lot of pain and suffering for those who survived the war, as well as the future generations. With ethnic tensions present among the three ethnic groups and individuals in the political system not finding room to cooperate for the good of the country, there is little to be said about reconciliation projects that have occurred for the past twenty plus years. From the different research that has been covered in this case study, as well as from personal experience, individuals are simply willing to pretend that the war in the 1990’s did not happen. At the same time, they do not want to approach opposing sides, and open themselves up to any sort of relationship. Starting with an individual and moving up to a national level has been successful in other countries, but until there is a shift in mindset within the population of BiH, there is little room for progress to be made in the future.
Biddle, Colin. 2010. “International Failure in Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Problem with Local Ownership.” M.A., United States -- North Carolina: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://search.proquest.com/docview/613976394/abstract/6A958D8FD9F49ABPQ/1.
“General Information.” 2017. Office of the High Representative. Accessed April 13. http://www.ohr.int/?page_id=1139.
Chandler, David. 2006. “Building Trust in Public Institutions? Good Governance and Anti-Corruption in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Ethnopolitics 5 (1): 85–99. doi:10.1080/17449050600558272.
Coyne, Christopher J. Doing bad by doing good: why humanitarian action fails. Stanford: Stanford Economics and Finance, 2013.
Clark, Janine Natalya. 2010. “Religion and Reconciliation in Bosnia & Herzegovina: Are Religious Actors Doing Enough?” Europe-Asia Studies 62 (4): 671. doi:10.1080/09668131003737019.
Dragovic-Soso, Jasna. 2016. “History of a Failure: Attempts to Create a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1997–2006.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 10 (2): 292–310. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijw005.
Freeman, Charlotte M.L. 2012. “The Psychosocial Need for Intergroup Contact: Practical Suggestions for Reconciliation Initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina and beyond.” Intervention 10 (1): 17–29. doi:10.1097/WTF.0b013e3283518de1.
Kostić, Roland. 2008. “Nationbuilding as an Instrument of Peace? Exploring Local Attitudes towards International Nationbuilding and Reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Civil Wars 10 (4): 384–412. doi:10.1080/13698240802354482.
Kostovicov, Denisa, and Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic. 2015. “Ethnicity Pays:: The Political Economy of Postconflict Nationalism in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” In After Civil War, 187–212. Division, Reconstruction, and Reconciliation in Contemporary Europe. University of Pennsylvania Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x1ntm.10.
McMahon, Patrice C. 2004. “Rebuilding Bosnia: A Model to Emulate or to Avoid?” Political Science Quarterly 119 (4): 569–93. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20202430.
Nardelli, Alberto, Denis Dzidic, and Elvira Jukic. 2014. “Bosnia and Herzegovina: The World’s Most Complicated System of Government?” The Guardian, October 8, sec. News. https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/oct/08/bosnia-herzegovina-elections-the-worlds-most-complicated-system-of-government.
REGAN, RICHARD J., ed. 2013. “THE BOSNIAN WAR (1992–95).” In Just War, Second Edition, 198–218. Catholic University of America Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vj8j2.18.
Ricigliano, Robert. Making Peace Last A Toolbox for Sustainable Peacebuilding. Florence: Taylor and Francis, 2015.
Robinson, Guy M., and Alma Pobrić. 2006. “Nationalism and Identity in Post-Dayton Accords: Bosnia-Hercegovina.” Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie 97 (3): 237–52. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9663.2006.00517.x.
Strupinskienė, Lina. 2016. “‘What Is Reconciliation and Are We There Yet?’ Different Types and Levels of Reconciliation: A Case Study of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Journal of Human Rights 0 (0): 1–21. doi:10.1080/14754835.2016.1197771.
Tolomelli, Alessandro. 2015. “‘Two Schools under One Roof’. The Role of Education in the Reconciliation Process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Ricerche Di Pedagogia E Didattica. Journal of Theories and Research in Education 10 (1): 89–108. doi:10.6092/issn.1970-2221/4685.
Volkan, Vamik D. 2004. Blind Trust: Large Groups and Their Leaders in Times of Crisis and Terror. 1st ed.. Charlottesville, Va: Pitchstone Pub.
Zahar, Marie-Joëlle, and Donald L. Horowitz. 2005. “The Dichotomy of International Mediation and Leader Intransigence:: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” In Power Sharing, 123–37. New Challenges For Divided Societies. Pluto Books. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt18dzsm7.12.
Zeldin, Shepherd, Derick Wilson, Jessica Collura, Clare Magill, and Brandon Hamber. 2011. “‘If They Don’t Start Listening to Us, the Future Is Going to Look the Same as the Past’: Young People and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Youth & Society 43 (2): 509–27. doi:10.1177/0044118X10383644.
 Robinson, Guy M., and Alma Pobrić. 2006. “Nationalism and Identity in Post-Dayton Accords: Bosnia-Hercegovina.” Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie 97 (3): 237–52. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9663.2006.00517.x.
 REGAN, RICHARD J., ed. 2013. “THE BOSNIAN WAR (1992–95).” In Just War, Second Edition, 198–218. Catholic University of America Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vj8j2.18.
 Nardelli, Alberto, Denis Dzidic, and Elvira Jukic. 2014. “Bosnia and Herzegovina: The World’s Most Complicated System of Government?” The Guardian, October 8, sec. News. https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/oct/08/bosnia-herzegovina-elections-the-worlds-most-complicated-system-of-government.
 “General Information.” 2017. Office of the High Representative. Accessed April 13. http://www.ohr.int/?page_id=1139.
 Biddle, Colin. 2010. “International Failure in Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Problem with Local Ownership.” M.A., United States -- North Carolina: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://search.proquest.com/docview/613976394/abstract/6A958D8FD9F49ABPQ/1.
 Zahar, Marie-Joëlle, and Donald L. Horowitz. 2005. “The Dichotomy of International Mediation and Leader Intransigence:: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” In Power Sharing, 123–37. New Challenges For Divided Societies. Pluto Books. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt18dzsm7.12.
 Kostovicov, Denisa, and Vesna Bojicic-Dzelilovic. 2015. “Ethnicity Pays:: The Political Economy of Postconflict Nationalism in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” In After Civil War, 187–212. Division, Reconstruction, and Reconciliation in Contemporary Europe. University of Pennsylvania Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x1ntm.10.
 Volkan, Vamik D. 2004. Blind Trust: Large Groups and Their Leaders in Times of Crisis and Terror. 1st ed.. Charlottesville, Va: Pitchstone Pub.
 Clark, Janine Natalya. “Religion and Reconciliation.”
 Zeldin, Shepherd, Derick Wilson, Jessica Collura, Clare Magill, and Brandon Hamber. 2011. “‘If They Don’t Start Listening to Us, the Future Is Going to Look the Same as the Past’: Young People and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Youth & Society 43 (2): 509–27. doi:10.1177/0044118X10383644.
 Zeldin, Shepherd. “If They Don’t” Youth & Society.
 Chandler, David. 2006. “Building Trust in Public Institutions? Good Governance and Anti-Corruption in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” Ethnopolitics 5 (1): 85–99. doi:10.1080/17449050600558272.
 Chandler, David. 2006 “Building Trust”.
 Tolomelli, Alessandro. 2015. “‘Two Schools under One Roof’. The Role of Education in the Reconciliation Process in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Ricerche Di Pedagogia E Didattica. Journal of Theories and Research in Education 10 (1): 89–108. doi:10.6092/issn.1970-2221/4685.
 Tolomelli, Alessandro “Two Schools under One Roof”.
 Strupinskienė, Lina. 2016. “‘What Is Reconciliation and Are We There Yet?’ Different Types and Levels of Reconciliation: A Case Study of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Journal of Human Rights 0 (0): 1–21. doi:10.1080/14754835.2016.1197771.
 Dragovic-Soso, Jasna. 2016. “History of a Failure: Attempts to Create a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1997–2006.” International Journal of Transitional Justice 10 (2): 292–310. doi:10.1093/ijtj/ijw005.
 Strupinskienė, Lina. 2016. “‘What Is Reconciliation”.
 Ibid. 10.
 McMahon, Patrice C. 2004. “Rebuilding Bosnia: A Model to Emulate or to Avoid?” Political Science Quarterly 119 (4): 569–93. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20202430.
 Coyne, Christopher J. Doing bad by doing good: why humanitarian action fails. Stanford: Stanford Economics and Finance, 2013.
 Freeman, Charlotte M.L. 2012. “The Psychosocial Need for Intergroup Contact: Practical Suggestions for Reconciliation Initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina and beyond.” Intervention 10 (1): 17–29. doi:10.1097/WTF.0b013e3283518de1.
25] Freeman, Charlotte. “The Psychosocial Need.” 2012.
 Ricigliano, Robert. Making Peace Last A Toolbox for Sustainable Peacebuilding. Florence: Taylor and Francis, 2015.
 Ibid. 35.