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En librairie

Transformation de conflit, de Karine Gatelier, Claske Dijkema et Herrick Mouafo

Aux Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer (ECLM)


Fiche d’expérience Dossier : Conflict Transformation

, Grenoble, juin 2009

An agreement without peace

The example of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Dayton accords.

Mots clefs : Défis dans la gestion de conflits locaux et internationaux | Médiation internationale pour la paix | Intervention étrangère pour la paix | Accord de Paix | Accords de Dayton | Gouvernement national et paix | Gouvernement provisoire | Institutions internationales | OTAN | Signer un Accord de Paix | Bosnie-Herzegovine

In a peace process, and the creation of a peace agreement it is important to maintain a proper balance between the involvement of internal and external actors. External actors are undoubtedly important in the creation of a peace agreement in the capacity of negotiators, mediators and in order to monitor and aid the implementation process. However though their role is important, it cannot achieve anything without the proper involvement of internal parties in the agreement in the process. The extreme of external actor involvement is the imposed peace agreement, which is extremely likely to fail through lack of support, and reluctance in its implementation. An example where such balance is lost are the Dayton Accords.

The Dayton Accords, signed in November/December 1995 are a good example of a peace process conducted under external pressure, and not addressing the roots of the conflict, therefore lacking the basis on which to build a durable peace.

If we look at the Dayton Agreement using the checklist of indicators suggested we see that though clear provisions are made for transitional arrangements, for example there is a clear timetable for the cessation of hostilities in Article 1 of the Agreement, and includes provisions for the monitoring of human rights standards.

Gaps in the agreement

However there are significant gaps in the agreement, the result being a continuing state of tension and instability within Bosnia today, more than 10 years after the agreement being signed. The two main factors within the peace agreement that have contributed to this stagnation of the peace process, mainly to do with the way that the agreement was made rather than actual content. These two factors are that the core conflict issues were not adequately addressed, and the balance of internal and external actors in the process.

Starting with the second of these, the balance of internal and external actors: the Dayton Accords are a very good example of an imposed peace agreement, where the actors were brought to the table by coercion rather than as a result of impulses for change coming from within [link to fiche notion: constructive use of power].

The Dayton Accords were the latest in a series of peace plans drawn up by diplomats from the international community between 1992 and 1995. The negotiations were set up by the Contact Group (made up of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia). Part of the reason that all the parties finally came to the table in November 1995 was that NATO had taken military action against Bosnian-Serb positions. The agreement was created by the international community in an attempt to prevent further killing, and because of the increasing problems that the international troops were facing (being taken hostage etc). An important aspect of these negotiations is that the Bosnian-Serbs, after having been forced to the table, were represented by Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president of the time and therefore not a very good representative of Bosnian-Serbs as he was not accountable or answerable to them or their interests. The reason that he acted as the Bosnian-Serb representative rather than any of their own leaders, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, is that they had been indicted for war crimes in the summer of 1995.

This meant that there was no effective inclusion of all parties in the creation of the agreement, and due to the continuing situation of conflict within the country the negotiations were carried out in a very closed manner and for these two reasons little local input was possible.

The other major factor to be mentioned here is that the core issues of the conflict were not actually addressed. Though it is bad and wrong to generalize about such a complex conflict that was region wide, the conflict though expressed in terms of “ethnic” difference was more about the economic and political problems associated with the post-socialist transition after Tito: economic disparities and rural poverty created tension between groups, especially as the Muslims were historically considered to be the land-owning class. The Dayton Accords are not about this at all, and deal with the “ethnic” dimension of the conflict through a separation of territory rather than an attempt to genuinely re-unify the country. It means that the Dayton Accords, through drawing borders have spacialized the separation of the Bosnian communities (Serbian, Muslim and Croatian), which is in effect a continuation of the strategies espoused by the warring parties.

Due to the context of the conflict at the time of the accords this issue was difficult to address, and due to the international interest in preventing a break up of Bosnia and Herzegovina the path was taken of creating the two entities within a single state. Rather than looking at the mutual benefits for the conflict parties in a single state, a bargaining approach was used allowing the parties to retain power for themselves. The result has been that the accords, rather than an initial step on the way to a positive peace have been used as the definitive document, each entity determine to hold onto power, even if it is to the detriment of the whole.

This has been expressed in the manipulation of the provisions of the accords, the best example being the provisions for refugee return and voting in annex 3, article 4:

« A citizen who no longer lives in the municipality in which he or she resided in 1991 shall, as a general rule, be expected to vote, in person or by absentee ballot, in that municipality, provided that the person is determined to have been registered in that municipality as confirmed by the local election commission and the Provisional Election Commission. Such a citizen may, however, apply to the Commission to cast his or her ballot elsewhere."

Though written with the reversal of ethnic cleansing in mind, the result of this was intimidation on the one hand, and incentives on the other in order to try and consolidate the lines drawn by the war in the first post-war elections.


Our analysis of the Accords is that rather than solving the problems that led to the war, they created new ones, or more precisely, entrenched the effects of the war by setting up a division between the communities on the land. These accords included a sharing of power between the communities by multiplying the positions rather than through co-operation, with separate representation for each of the communities. Rather than paving the way to unity, these accords allow the results of the war to be maintained.


  • This file is an adaptation of a case study developed for the online course on “Post-conflict politics: state and society relations”. For more information, have a look at or contact Modus Operandi directly at or