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Life after Dayton Peace Agreement – Bitter life in the absence of war

20th anniversary of signing General Framework for Peace in BiH

If you go to United States of America and ask any American ask about the Dayton I am not sure that their citizens will be able to find it on map. But if you come to Bosnia and Herzegovina citizens of all generations will know exactly which place you are talking about. Some will mention it will blessing, some with cursing, but that city became the most mentioned term in war torn Bosnia and Herzegovina for the past 20 years. Nowadays, it is a synonym for misery, poverty and boiling nationalism.

The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina was reached in Dayton on 21 November 1995, and although it was signed on December 14th same year in Paris it was symbolically called Dayton Peace Agreement. After four years of brutal violence, killing and murders, orchestrated by Serbian authority’s international community (while those cruelties were happening in front of their eyes and behind closed doors as done in Srebrenica by United Nations) finally decided to stop the worst atrocities and genocide happened at the ground of Europe after Second World War. Price that was payed was counted in numerous number of lost lives, wasted years, destroyed childhoods and bloody memories. Mine childhood was also counted.

Although, initially, Dayton was key to stopping the conflict, what Bosnia and Herzegovina got out of it is just dysfunctional state and one of the most complicated political structures in the world. After Dayton, peace in my country was just bitter life in the absence of war.

Far from the expectations what we got nowadays is simple but bitter reality: rigid divisions between entity of Bosnian Serbs, in Republic of Srpska, and Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats, in Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with political elites that are using nationalism as the mobilization tool for people categorized in one of those three ethnic groups. What is even worse, Annex 4 of Dayton Peace Agreement, which is Constitution of present day Bosnia and Herzegovina, enables the violation of basic human rights and discrimination against Others (everybody that does not or doesn’t want to classify as one of three constituent people) as demonstrated by the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement in the Sejdić-Finci case.

Stability in the country is shattered daily by calls and threads of Serbian demagogical leader, Milorad Dodik, for referendum and new divisions of already devastated country on one side, while Islamic state on the other one is recruiting their warriors and soldiers among Bosniak youth as nowhere else in the Europe. Corruption, inefficient state government and unstable economic and socio-political issues are drowning this society deeper and deeper.

Progress Report on Bosnia and Herzegovina by the European Commission for 2015 was adopted last month. According to The Commission the country is back on the ‘reform track’ and that the priorities identified in the Reform Agenda from July 2015 are finally in the focus of political leaders and elites. World leaders, such as Ban Ki Moon, are congratulating to citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina on consolidation of peace and political stability, as well as on the socio-economic progress achieved during the past twenty years. However, other indicators and statistic from all around the world as same as the actual state are claims the opposite. The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has never been the worse.

Recent research of the Legatum Institute out of 142 countries ranked Bosnia and Herzegovina on 86th place with no prosperity. That makes it the worst ranked country in this part of Europe. Neighbours such as Serbia, Croatia and Albania are listed better while worse are countries such as Chad, Syria or the Central African Republic.

Those people who could and should bring the chance are not remaining at Bosnian and Herzegovinian soil even for a day longer. At the moment Bosnia and Herzegovina is ranked as one of the countries with the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, according to World Bank statistics. Youth unemployment rate here reaches a whopping 60 percent. Holding the gold medal, only worse country in Greece with 65 percent. According to the 2012 UNDP Youth Voices Survey , around 65,6% of Bosnian youth would say ‘yes’ for leaving the country which is extremely discouraging if compared to 55,1% from 2008. From 2013 until now, around 68,000 people or 5% of the total population left the country, according to the report by Union for sustainable return and integration in Bosnia and Herzegovina, placing young and very educated Bosnians and Herzegovinians leaving first.

Among the whole machinery of international community, Bosnia and Herzegovina is similarly hosting Office of High Representative theoretically the most important institution ever since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, responsible for overseeing implementation of civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement. The position of High Representative was created under the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a person who can use Bonn powers (basically to do whatever they find is appropriate to do for proper implementation of aspects of Peace Agreement) and at any particular moment when they estimate that security, stabilty and life of citizens is endangered say „That’s enough“. But what they practically did, especially in the last mandate of Mr. Valentin Inzko, is just a Diplomatic Miss Bosnia and Herzegovina pageant selection and rhetorical shoting in the dark. At the moment when powers of Bonn privileges could give a touch of positive hope to all the Bosnian and Herzegovinian citizens (all three constituent people and others), OHR is doing nothing. And again, whole international community is sitting and watching. With popcorns.

In the last twenty years the international community has invested enormous diplomatic and financial resources in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a single, unwavering purpose, and that is functional and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina, a state that works in the interests of its citizens, as a fully integrated member of the Euro-Atlantic family. That is the fact. But do we actually enjoy such a state? Do we have a state? Is this the promised peace and prosperity? As a matter of fact, is anybody going to stay on this land to enjoy such prosperity in the following years or politicians are just gradually making cultivated graveyard?

Although I am eternal optimist on 20th anniversary of Dayton Peace Agreement I must admit that for us, Bosnians and Herzegovinians, future is uncertain. Fact that we are the most hygienic country in the world, with 96 percent people washing the hands after using the bathroom, is the only positive statistic that I red in 2015 and that, definitely, is not promising the present and the future that I wanted for myself neither for my descendants.

My dear Bosnian and Herzegovinians, I wish you a happy 20th anniversary of Dayton Peace Agreement.


Author: Senad Alibegović, member of Youth Advisory Group for OSCE in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is holding two master degrees, Master of Science in Architecture and Master of Arts in Political Sciences. As a Pat Cox Senior Fellow he worked in European Parliament in Brussels, with MEP Cristian Dan Preda. He is also Humanity in Action Senior Fellow and Fellow of European Forum Alpbach.

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