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The Peace That is Not: Understanding Why Peacebuilding Has Failed in Bosnia and Herzegovina  

Worldwide militarisation, ever more visible with the invasion of Ukraine, is putting the importance of effective peacebuilding squarely at the top of the global agenda. However, current international peacebuilding efforts are a product of the uncontested spread of neoliberal capitalism, in which the rise and development of an international peacebuilding industry has played a significant role.

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WILPF International Secretariat
28 June 2022

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.” 

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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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. 

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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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