TRIP REPORT 2003-2 - 11-17 MAY 2003

Since last year there have been several developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BaH) that have had an effect on the mediation process. Firstly, a consensus has been building that it is time for local leaders to take control of the peace process. After the streamlining process of the international community (IC), it has become much clearer to all parties that the international community, in its present form, will not last for much longer. Therefore, there has been pressure from all sides for reforms to be implemented and for international actors to develop transition and hand-over strategies. The other side of the coin is that local leaders are also under pressure to develop plans for assuming the new responsibilities. While they should have been doing this in previous years, the reality of the IC withdrawal in the medium term and the diminishing resources have become the main issue affecting all aspects of policy.

Secondly, the Constitutional Court decision on constituent peoples (CoC) has ordered that all levels of government and public institutions need to be proportional to the 1991 census. This was one of the underlying principles of the peace process but was more a political issue than a constitutional issue until the Constitutional Court handed down its decision. With regard to the municipal level, mayors are under the legal obligations to develop plans to reintegrate the returnee population into the municipal administration, public companies, the healthcare institutions and any other public body. At a time when resources are becoming less evident and development is not as promising as one might hope, the task is challenging and in some cases extremely difficult to implement without a backlash from those negatively affected by this decision. There is a growing unease within local communities about the uncertainty of how to implement all of the changes and reforms. Moreover, the international organisations are moving away from micromanaging problems, and local leaders are being asked to solve these problems on their own.

As a result of less international aid and increasing demands on local institutions, there is a quiet unease about the capacity of local institutions to assume effectively the new responsibilities. For example, the State Commission on Returns is to assume the monitoring of the return process by the end of 2003, yet in May of 2003 it was unclear if it would have the technical capacity to ensure proper supervision. It is essential that international organisations undertake a review of the institutions assuming substantial responsibilities to evaluate what resources might be needed by the IC to ensure a success to the peace process. If international contributions continue to be based on national calculations made in capitals far away, there is a danger that Bosnia will not meet the challenge and remain an underdeveloped country with weak institutions and a disillusioned population. Such a situation will further hinder the process towards European Union membership and leave a security risk for the whole of Europe.

Thirdly, the Mediator has observed that there is a structural factor in the way the peace process has developed that deserves some more reflection. The relationship between the international community and the local parties has been based on authority of the former to guide the peace process. However, most of the important reforms have been, out of necessity, imposed by the international community in recent years and the return process has moved forward only with robust urging by the international organisations. The fact that the war parties were in power and not convinced of the peace process at the local level has been one of the main obstacles to quicker implementation. They have been quite content to let the international community impose politically difficult solutions at the state and entity levels. The difficult situation created a peace process based mainly on technical implementation of laws. As the international community begins to hand over more responsibility to local institutions, it would be good to strengthen this pillar of the peace process. Mechanisms at the municipal level for debate and dialogue among the various peoples should be established to deal with problems that might arise in future. One such example is the local citizens return commissions established is some of the eastern Republika Srpska (RS) municipalities that bring together elected officials with returnee and DP associations to find local solutions to local problems through consensus building. There is a potential for further international initiatives in non-traditional conflict resolution methods.

Lastly, the latest changes in the structure of the peace process has also had some effect on the role of the Mediator. While the Mediator strongly believes there is much space for mediation, he also feels that the continuation of mediation might be better served by developing domestic institutional mediation in BaH. He has announced to the international community and the BaH leaders that he will conclude his operational work by summer 2004. In this regard he has presented a "Concluding Strategy" outlining how he will bring mediation to a close. Most significantly, he will visit the main municipalities still involved in mediation to make final conclusions and recommendations. Furthermore, there will be a final report on the contribution of mediation to the peace process.

Given that the Mediator will conclude this level of mediation, he urges the international community to explore the possibility of developing domestic institutional mediation, perhaps under the aegis of the Judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman. In this regard, the Mediator will undertake consultations with the various stakeholders and international organisations and will make some proposals. In the absence of institutional mediation, the Mediator suggest that institutions and public bodies at the local level be given in-depth training on mediation and conflict resolution. He is worried that the local level may be overwhelmed with new tasks possibly creating bureaucratic and political instability which could slow the peace process.

On this visit, the Mediator visited Canton 10 and met with the mayors of the three northern municipalities Glamoc, Bosansko Grahovo and Drvar. He also met with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Agriculture and Forestry. He also visited Zvornik to follow up on previous agreements. The rest of the time was spent in Sarajevo consulting the IC on the Concluding Strategy and at the fifth anniversary of the Rudolf-Walther-Stiftung Friedensdorf in Lukavac. Dr. Christian Schwarz-Schilling was accompanied by Amela Curkovic, Juan Diaz and Dieter Wolkewitz. He met with H.E. Peter Bas Backer (Deputy High Representative), H.E. Robert Beecroft (OSCE Chief of Mission), Mr. Ahmet Hadzipasic (Prime Minister of FBiH), Mr. Udo Janz (UNHCR Acting Head of Mission) Mr. Mirsad Kebo (Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of BaH), the EU Ambassadors at the invitation of H.E. Michchail Koukakis (Greek Ambassador), Mr. Edin Music (FBiH Minister for Refugees and DPs), Mr. Mirsad Paravac (Chair of the BaH Presidency), H.E. Hans Jochen Peters (German Ambassador), Mr. Adnan Tersic (Chair of the Council of Ministers).

During his visit, the Mediator was accompanied by representatives of the Office of the Federation Ministry for Refugees, DPs and Social Policy; and the Office of the Ombudsman. The delegation would like to express its special gratitude to OSCE Operations in BaH, OHR/RRTF (BaH) and the German Embassy in Sarajevo for their logistical support. Special appreciation also goes to the OHR, OSCE, RRTF, SFOR, EUPM and UNHCR officers in Livno and Zvornik for providing briefings, additional translation, input and organisational support and for participating in the meetings with the local authorities.

Trip Report 2003-2 - 11-17 May 2003
(WORD, 232KB)