Implementing Community-Based Security in Bosnia and Herzegovina

By: Kaitlyn Lynes

Inherent in the second generation of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programming is the focus on development objectives and caseloads beyond the scope of ex-combatants. All aspects of society negatively affected by conflict, including women, children, the elderly, and disabled ex-combatants, must be considered to engender sustainable reintegration and peace. The ultimate goal of successful reintegration is the return of ex-combatants to a community, whether the community they originated from or a new one. However, before a return can be achieved, prior conditions must exist. At a minimum, there must be an adequate absorption capacity for ex-combatants. This means there are economic opportunities for both people living in the community and the arriving ex-combatants. An additional complication often includes the return of internally displaced peoples and refugees, all of whom expect a job when they return. Beyond socio-economic reintegration, critical psychosocial issues must be addressed. Intensive community sensitization is the process of dealing with the traumas of war, often in the form of transitional justice and reconciliation mechanisms.  At times ex-combatants are reintegrated into communities which they attacked during the conflict. In essence, victims are expected to live in the same small towns and villages as their former aggressors, causing an extremely fragile security situation that can be improved with targeted psychosocial reintegration approaches. Most importantly, there must be strong local ownership of reintegration processes, ensuring a credible, context-appropriate program designed and implemented by those directly affected.

Community-based security is most effective in weak or failed states, yet has not been implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the end of the war with Serbia following the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in December 1995, the country has been primarily governed by several international organizations. Many post-conflict initiatives—meant to solve immediate security issues at the local level—are still implemented today. The most well-known example is the two-in-one schools, school buildings across the country that have separate classrooms, administrations, offices, and recess hours based on ethnicity. Students and teachers of different ethnic identities never cross paths, even while occupying the same building at the same time. Recent protests against this system by students highlights the urgent need for community ownership over security considerations. The Bosnian government continues to struggle with a lack of authority and reach, as well as widespread corruption, both strong indicators that a bottom-up approach linking security and community development would positively benefit Bosnia and Herzegovina. Community-based security across the country will allow for efficient and effective governance structures to take hold and provide better mechanisms for finally dealing with psychosocial grievances experienced during the war.

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