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Changing the Discourse Around the Unchangeable Status of the Bosnian Peace Agreement

1 March 2016
Click on the image to read the report.

The initiative Women Organising for Change in Syria and Bosnia and Herzegovina, led and facilitated by WILPF in Bosnia and Herzegovina, finalised at the end of last year its ground-breaking work on a framework for development of a gender sensitive reparations programme for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The four month long effort in looking at different aspects of the harms suffered by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1992-1995 war was complemented by a feminist dialogue on how societies transit from war to peace, and how feminist approach to peacebuilding can create sustainable peace. Both efforts used Bosnia and Herzegovina as the primary example but tried to elevate the feminist analysis of the Dayton Peace Agreement to an understanding of what lessons can be taken to the international level, and what crucial elements any peace agreement must contain in order to ensure the post-war recovery to be more than just “the absence of war.”

Towards a gender-sensitive reparations programme

The starting point of the initiatives work on reparations was the recognition of the unsustainability of the current Bosnia and Herzegovina system, in which material and non-material compensations for harms suffered by civilian victims of war is based on the social welfare system. The system makes the international defined obligations of the state towards the victims susceptible to significant changes within the Bosnia and Herzegovina Reform Agenda. Poor economic growth and a dependency on loans from international creditors have led to Bosnia entering into structural reforms directed by IMF. Although it is clear that Bosnia indeed needs to go through comprehensive reforms, the current neoliberal agenda, under which the reforms are being conducted, does not recognise the vulnerabilities of victims of war and the overall need to satisfy the quest for social justice.

The initiative believe that a comprehensive and gender-sensitive reparations programme can ensure access to reparations to all civilian victims of war without discrimination or mutual competition came together in a comprehensive document that sets out the path for how restorative justice can look like. The initiative looks forward furthering its work on this matter by developing a political economy approach that can complement individual reparations to victims of war with benefits for the entire society.

What can Dayton Peace Agreement teach us about peace?

The initiative Women Organising for Change in Syria and Bosnia and Herzegovina has since 2013 been looking into different aspects of the consequences of the Bosnian peace agreement – the Dayton Peace Agreement. Bearing in mind the 20th anniversary of the signing of the agreement, and the continuous search for proper and sustainable mechanism for building gender-just peace, the timing seemed excellent to broaden our understanding of how sustainable peace is built, based on the experiences of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Click on the image to read the document.

For that purpose the initiative organised a dialogue between a small number of local and international feminists from various disciplines, looking for possible ways to (re)interpretate the Dayton Peace Agreement. What do we need to do post-conflict, which gives effect to the concept of transitional justice, and what do we need to do in terms of system, which recognises economic and social rights of the broad mass of society? How do we start thinking in terms of transformative gender justice and how do we act? The initiative approached these discussions by looking into different elements and consequences of the Dayton Peace Agreement, deconstructing how and why the transition from war to peace as foreseen by the agreement has not worked, and by identifying elements that must be in place for that transition to work.

One of the conclusions that came out of the dialogue was that the work in Bosnia and Herzegovina and other post-conflict contexts must move away from the ‘war box’, where the starting point for all the analysis and the work is the war period. Instead we must look at the militarisation of the society prior to war, analyse the effects of war, followed by the analysis of the post-war period. Militarisation as an analytical tool can be very useful, as it does not have a start and an end date, and it allows us to describe a more genuine social justice as opposed to formal processes of justice. It does so by looking at who was brought into that process and how, as well as the impact it had on communities. female wrestling

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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