Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is still struggling with the legacy of the 1990s war in which almost 100,000 people died and half the population was displaced. Society is deeply divided along ethnic lines and there is an on-going political and economic crisis.
Fifteen years after the conflict ended, the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is much improved. But the country is still struggling to overcome deeply institutionalised ethnic divisions. The nationalist rhetoric and ‘language of fear’ often used by politicians both reflects and reinforces these divisions.
Negotiations to reform the constitution (established under the 1995 Dayton Agreement) have failed to make much progress. The proposed reforms would strengthen state institutions and transform the country into a non-ethnic parliamentary democracy. Without reform a complex political system and continuing political crisis hinders a functional state, and stands in the way of Bosnia’s progress towards EU accession.
The past couple of years have witnessed increasing political deadlock, with observers expressing concern over the hostile exchanges between local leaders and continued overall deterioration. Lady Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, has called Bosnia and Herzegovina the most unstable corner of Europe. The situation has so far frustrated any attempt by the international community to close down the Office of the High Representative – the chief civilian peace implementation agency in the country – and transition to a less powerful EU Special Representative.
The general election in October 2010 was a crucial stage in determining whether the country pursues a course of disintegration, integration or stasis. It was followed by more than a year of stalemate, which has recently deteriorated into another crisis. A coalition government was formed but did not last for long; in May 2012 the coalition ended after a dispute over the budget, exacerbating the sense of crisis. A new coalition government with a new majority, led by the Social Democratic Party, dismissed the president and the vice-president of the parliament in late June 2012.
Saferworld has been working in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2002. In recent years we have focused primarily on community security and community-based policing.
Youth perceptions of peace and security
In 2011 we researched young women and men’s perspectives of peace and security in co-operation with the Nansen Dialogue Center (NDC) Sarajevo. Our report, Leaving the past behind; the perceptions of youth in BiH, shows that the younger generation are willing to question prejudices prevalent in wider society and are eager to break with the past. However, while young people can potentially play a constructive role in building a peaceful future for their country, they face huge challenges. Understanding these obstacles, as well as young people’s concerns and aspirations, is vital to build Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future resilience to conflict. The research formed part of the EU-funded ‘People’s Peacemaking Perspectives’ project.
Deeper drivers of conflict
In 2010, together with NDC Sarajevo, we assessed the impact of the political and economic stalemate on local communities and mapped out the deeper drivers of conflict that remain unaddressed. The report, The missing peace; the need for a long term strategy in BiH encourages the international community to look beyond the immediate deadlock, and ensure that their engagement helps to minimise longer-term threats to stability in the country.
Handbook on community policing
In 2009, together with the Centre for Security Studies, we provided technical support to the Bosnian Government to develop an Operational handbook on police-community cooperation. Based on the principle of local ownership, community-based policing works on the principle that the police and the public have a shared responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment. The handbook is designed to help police officers work with communities to identify and solve safety problems.
This map is intended for illustrative purposes only. Saferworld takes no position on whether this representation is legally or politically valid.
Building safer communities
As a frontline during the Bosnian war in the 1990s, the southern city of Mostar has stood as a vivid symbol for ethnic division. Saferworld devised a community-based policing project in the city to tackle localised security concerns and give residents a greater say in their security provision.