Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

State-Building in Bosnia: The Limits of 'Informal Trusteeship'

Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

State-Building in Bosnia: The Limits of 'Informal Trusteeship'

Article excerpt

Abstract

Many commentators suggest that the transition to Bosnian ownership has been held back by the Dayton framework, which created a weak central state and a country divided into two separate Entities, the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation, with ten cantonal governments, as well as an autonomous region, Brcko. Ten years on, the idea that the post-war transition has been frustrated by a surfeit of Bosnian governing institutions, protected by their Dayton status, could not be further from the truth. Rather, the international powers of administration, under the Office of the High Representative, have been vastly increased, reducing the Bosnian institutions established by Dayton to administrative shells. There has been a transition away from Dayton, but this has been from the ad hoc regulatory controls of the self-selected 'coalition of the willing', the Peace Implementation Council, towards an expanded framework of European Union regulation, covering all aspects of the post-Dayton process. Dayton has created an 'informal trusteeship', with external institutions rewriting their mandates and powers. But despite the transformation in post-Dayton mechanisms, it is still too early to talk of any indications of a shift towards Bosnian 'ownership'.

Introduction

There is a consensus about Dayton--that is repeated so often it is virtually a mantra of international officials--that the 1995 peace agreement was a treaty 'designed to end a war, not to build a state' (for example, Ashdown, 2004; Denitch, 1996). Commentators regularly argue that Dayton was negotiated by the nationalist parties, whose leaders caused the war in the first place, and that it therefore secured the power of these ethnically-based political parties (for example, Kaldor, 1997: 28-30). Essentially, therefore, the political process since Dayton has been seen as 'the continuation of war by other means', in an inversion of Clausewitz's doctrine (Ashdown, 2004). The domestic political process in Bosnia is seen as illegitimate and fundamentally flawed. It is alleged that the numerous annexes and small print of the Dayton agreement have tied the hands of the international community and created a complex set of political institutions which stymie the building of a strong centralised state and continue to enable ethnically-based political parties to dominate the policy-making process. Dayton and, by implication, the Bosnian voters and their representatives, in this reading, bear the responsibility for the weakness and lack of legitimacy of central state institutions and the failure of the state-building aspirations of Bosnia's international benefactors.

This article seeks to establish that this consensus is based on a myth and that the Dayton agreement has, in fact, created an 'informal trusteeship' which has made opaque the relations of authority and accountability. The framework created at Dayton was an extremely flexible one, which has enabled international actors, unaccountable to the people of Bosnia, to shape and reshape the agenda of post-war transition. The Bosnian experience, the ambiguity of the Dayton framework and the confusing 'dual regime' of elected governments and external overseers is highly relevant to current discussions of post-conflict state-building. There are increasingly vocal calls among academics and policy-advisors for the extension of similar forms of external management where, it is asserted, post-conflict state-building 'cannot be adequately addressed within the confines of conventional sovereignty' (Krasner, 2004: 1). For example, Robert Keohane (2002; 2003) suggests that 'regaining sovereignty need not be [the] long-term objective' for external state-builders; Stephen Krasner (2005) argues for experiments in 'shared sovereignty'; James Fearon and David Laitin (2004) have called for the establishment of 'neotrusteeships'; and the International Commission on the Balkans report, led by former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, has suggested new forms of 'guided sovereignty' for Yugoslav successor states such as Kosovo (ICB, 2005). …

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