Bosnia, once considered the poster child for international reconstruction efforts offering proof that under the right conditions the international community could successfully rebuild conflict ridden countries, "now stands on the brink of collapse" says Jon Western and Patrice C. McMahon in their report "The Death of Dayton:How to stop Bosnia from Falling Apart".
Between 1996 and 2007, Bosnia received 14 Billion USD in international aid from 17 foreign governments, 18 U.N. agencies, 27 intergovernmental organizations and approximately 200 nongovernmental organizations, including 60,000 troops from 36 countries.
Today, the centrifugal forces of the rival ethnic nationalisms of Bosnia's Muslims, Croats and Serbs have stalled reform and the economy -- unemployment is 27 percent; 25 percent of Bosnians live in poverty; and the public sector, with a ludicrous 160 ministers, swallows almost half the gross domestic product, says Jon Western and Patrice C. McMahon in their report "The Death of Dayton:How to stop Bosnia from Falling Apart". International organizations, suffering Balkan fatigue and eager to declare "mission accomplished," are withdrawing, leaving Muslims isolated and vulnerable, and, as Bosnia is, McMahon and Western say, "drifting toward chaos."
In July, William Hague, shadow foreign secretary for Britain's Conservative Party, which probably will be in power a year from now, endorsed the view that "Bosnia is on the edge again." McMahon and Western warn: "Unless checked, the current trends toward fragmentation will almost certainly lead to a resumption of violence." And history suggests that what happens is Bosnia does not stay in Bosnia.
So I propose this question: If Bosnia -- situated in placid and prosperous Europe; recipient of abundant aid and attention from the United States, the European Union, NATO and the United Nations -- is so resistant to nation-building, what are sensible expectations for a similar project in remote, mountainous, tribal Afghanistan?
After 14 years of intense international efforts to stabilize and rebuild Bosnia, the country now stands on the brink of collapse. For the first time since November 1995 -- when the Dayton accord ended three and a half years of bloody ethnic strife -- Bosnians are once again talking about the potential for war.
Bosnia was once the poster child for international reconstruction efforts. It was routinely touted by U.S. and European leaders as proof that under the right conditions the international community could successfully rebuild conflict-ridden countries. The 1995 Dayton peace agreement divided Bosnia into two semi-independent entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, inhabited mainly by Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (Serb Republic, or RS), each with its own government, controlling taxation, educational policy, and even foreign policy. Soon after the war's end, the country was flooded with attention and over $14 billion in international aid, making it a laboratory for what was arguably the most extensive and innovative democratization experiment in history. By the end of 1996, 17 different foreign governments, 18 UN agencies, 27 intergovernmental organizations, and about 200 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) -- not to mention tens of thousands of troops from across the globe -- were involved in reconstruction efforts. On a per capita basis, the reconstruction of Bosnia -- with less than four million citizens -- made the post-World War II rebuilding of Germany and Japan look modest.
As successful as Dayton was at ending the violence, it also sowed the seeds of instability by creating a decentralized political system that undermined the state's authority. In the past three years, ethnic nationalist rhetoric from leaders of the country's three constituent ethnic groups -- Muslims, Croats, and Serbs -- has intensified, bringing reform to a standstill. The economy has stalled, unemployment is over 27 percent, about 25 percent of the population lives in poverty, and Bosnia remains near the bottom of World Bank rankings for business development.