Bosnia-Herzegovina Case Study

Wise, L. (April 2017)

Key points:
• The Bosnia-Herzegovina case highlights tension between power-sharing ‘solutions’ based on proscribed identities, and international human rights norms of equality, political participation, and non-discrimination.
• Initial proposals for a power-sharing arrangement based on national identities became the principle around which subsequent peace plans were designed.
• Mechanisms for wider inclusion of non-aligned minorities were agreed on at various points in the peace process, but were subject to mediators’ expectations and changing conflict dynamics.
• Attempts to reform institutional structures have been difficult to implement if agreed, or would violate the constitution, and key court judgements on equality issues remain unenforced. They also raise the spectre of further state fragmentation.

Abstract: During the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1992-1995, issues of inclusion and protection of ethno-national groups were key sticking points throughout the peace process. Over twenty years since the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed in 1995, questions of equality and stability continue to challenge attempts to reform Bosnia-Herzegovina’s institutional configuration. This case study traces how ethno-national group inclusion was negotiated both during and after the peace process, and how the complex power-sharing system agreed on in 1995 continues to pose a barrier to wider participation of non-aligned or local minorities. It concludes that the fundamental contradiction between constitutional provisions for institutional discrimination based on proscribed ethno-national identities, and human rights guarantees of equality leaves potential reforms for wider social inclusion at an impasse.

Keywords: Bosnia-Herzegovina; Inclusion


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