Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Evaluating Peacekeeping Efforts in Bosnia 
By: Jessica Gawn 

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was one of the six republics of the former Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Following the 1991 dissolution, tensions intensified between the three largest ethnic groups; Muslims, Serbians and Croats. The Bosnian Serbs and Croats wanted BiH to be divided along ethnic lines, with the ultimate aim of seceding entirely. The Bosnian Muslims, on the other hand, were looking to create a unified state; where they, as the largest ethnic group, would have the most power.

Following a failed referendum on independence in February 1992, the international community became increasingly concerned about the conflict brewing in BiH. Unfortunately, diplomatic efforts to mediate the growing conflict had no effect. In April 1992, the Muslims acquired arms and declared a unitary republic, triggering a massive retaliation by the Serbians. The fighting that followed was vicious, characterized by ethnic cleansing and war crimes. Mediation efforts were largely unsuccessful until the Dayton Agreement in December 1995. 

Peacekeeping Before Dayton 
The United Nations (UN) tried to resolve the conflict by implementing an arms embargo, creating a “no fly zone,” establishing a war crimes tribunal, and through the efforts of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR). These interventions were unable to achieve the core peacekeeping goals of violence abatement, conflict containment and conflict settlement. UNPROFOR had a limited mandate and inadequate manpower to successfully manage the conflict. Its mandate focused on delivering humanitarian relief and protecting ‘Safe Havens.’ The majority of its troops were supplied by the European Union’s largest military powers, France and Britain. In spite of this, warring factions repeatedly overwhelmed peacekeeping forces. UNPROFOR’s failings culminated in the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995, that killed over 8000 civilians, later deemed a genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Peacekeepers were also unable to prevent other regional actors from influencing the conflict. Slobodan Milošević’s Serbian government and the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) provided troops and weapons to the Bosnian Serbs which  further escalated the conflict. Various peace treaties were proposed by the UN, EC and the Contract Group, all of which failed because of “spoilers” in  the negotiation process. 

Commander General Ratko Mladic, Srebrenica 1995

Peacekeeping After Dayton 
The Dayton Agreement of 1995 was a major achievement for conflict mediation in Bosnia. The issue of spoilers was resolved, following an escalation in the use of force by the international community. Stronger engagement by the United States was key to the success of these efforts. Following the destruction of the Sarajevo market in 1995, an ultimatum was issued to General Mladić, who was leading the Bosnian Serbs. When Mladić refused to comply, NATO launched a series of air strikes  which caused enough devastation to get the Serbians to the negotiating table. The bombardment created a “mutually hurting stalemate” for all parties, which meant that the mere threat of withdrawal of peacekeeping forces was enough to prevent any further attempts of spoilers to stall negotiations. The agreement also called on  the parties to accept the NATO led implementation force’s (IFOR) continued presence, accept the new boundaries (51/49 split for Muslims and Serbs respectively), and support an election program and the creation of a new constitution. While these measures did not resolve all of the tensions between the ethnic groups it is important to acknowledge the successes of Dayton in achieving core peacekeeping goals. Crucially, it prevented further violence in BiH. The UN Preventative Deployment Force (UNPREDEP), which replaced UNPROFOR succeeded in preventing the spread of the conflict to Macedonia. Finally, while many Muslims criticized the agreement for essentially rewarding war criminals, there was consensus that the agreement was better than continuing the war, thereby settling the conflict. 

Lessons Learned 
  1. If the international community is going to intervene in a conflict, they must do so decisively. Peacekeeping forces must have enough manpower and supplies to be effective. 
  2. Prevent the escalation of conflict by impeding external support from reaching combatants. Securing borders should be a critical priority to prevent the diffusion of conflict. 
  3. Efforts to manage similar conflicts in the future should focus on managing spoilers. Persistent spoilers extended the duration of conflicts; using coercion to get the actors to the negotiating table is sometimes the best course of action.
For more information: 
  • Evaluating Peace Operations. By: Paul Diehl and Daniel Druckman 
  • EU Foreign Policy and Crisis Management Operations. By: Benjamin Pohl 
  • Challenges to Peacebuilding. Edited by: Edward Newman and Oliver Richmond 
  • Ending Wars. By: Feargal Cochrane 


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