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.
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.