Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is an egregious example of how flawed this approach is. To bring to light the shortcomings of peacebuilding efforts in BiH, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has joined forces with two Bosnian and Herzegovinian feminist researchers on a wide-ranging analysis and discourse project, culminating in the publication of nine essays.
The essays, entitled “The Peace That is Not: 25 years of Experimenting with Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina” and authored by feminist researchers Nela Porobić and Gorana Mlinarević, challenge the misconception that BiH is destined for dysfunction and internal tensions and highlight that the problems facing BiH today are global and systemic in nature, easily repeated on sites of other conflicts. The authors argue that the failures of peacebuilding efforts in BiH are reflective of the wider problems inherent to the way international multilateral organisations, including the United Nations and the European Union, understand peace.
The research reveals the peace process in BiH as an unsuccessful experiment in neoliberal peacebuilding driven by the General Framework Agreement for Peace, known as the 1995 Dayton Accords, which has shaped and reshaped the country’s political and economic realities.
Starting today, the nine essays will be accessible through a new microsite where activists and practitioners, local and international communities, academics and interested parties can read about peacebuilding efforts in BiH and use it as a platform for discussions about peacebuilding in general.
The essays will form the basis for an in-depth discussion between the authors and renowned feminist writer, theorist, and professor, Cynthia Enloe. The event will be moderated by Secretary General of WILPF Madeleine Rees.
The event titled “The Peace That is Not: 25 years of Experimenting with Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina” will take place live on Facebook on 5 July 2022 at 18:00 CEST/17:00 BST/12:00 ET. All those interested in attending the event can register here.
Commenting on the essays, Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of WILPF, said,
“As the world grapples with large-scale warfare in Ukraine, the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia, and many others teetering on the brink of escalation, it is clearer than ever that building peace is a skill that the international community is yet to perfect. For any society in the throes of conflict to achieve long-term sustainable peace, we need to put people at the centre of the process.
“Ordinary people, and especially women, suffer most in war and benefit most from a long-term sustainable peace and recovery. We should be asking them what they need to establish peace and putting them at the centre of any ongoing social, political, and economic process. Peace should centre on them and their needs – not power, not political institutions, not political parties.”
According to activist, researcher and co-author of the “The Peace That is Not” essays, Nela Porobić,
“Bosnians and Herzegovinians have suffered the consequences of a flawed peace agreement for more than 25 years, impeding progress, economic growth and positive social transformation. We must insist on a change in narrative and a different approach to peacebuilding in BiH and elsewhere around the world. Without it, we cannot start repairing the social fabric of countries torn apart by the war and its consequences.”
Independent researcher and co-author of the essays, Gorana Mlinarević, added,
“Bosnia and Herzegovina is a mirror reflecting back to the world where the processes of peacebuilding lead when the international community consults elites and experts while ignoring ordinary people and communities.”
“Over the past 26 years, we have seen that prioritising the influence of international actors and political agents over the people who experience the trauma of conflict leads to agreements that do not benefit communities and do not stand the test of time. We have to stop repeating this mistake in every conflict and in every country.”