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SSR Country Snapshot: Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina is a post-conflict multi-national state working towards international integration. Reform began after the Dayton Agreement in 1995.


SSR Snapshot: Table of Contents

1. SSR Summary

2. Key Dates

3. Central SSR Programs/Activities

4. Key Funding Commitments

5. Major International Donors

6. Major Civil Society Stakeholders

7. Key Domestic Government Actors

8. Central Challenges

9. For More Information


1. SSR Summary

Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Bosnia for short, is a federal democratic republic in south-eastern Europe, consisting of 51,187 square kilometers of mountains, plains, and valleys. The federation consists of the Bosniak/Croat federation alongside Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska, with the government located in Sarajevo. Officially, the country is home to 3,752,228 among three constituent peoples — Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats — and spread over 10 different administrative cantons. Modern Bosnia declared independence in 1992 after the fall of communist Yugoslavia, which precipitated the Bosnian War between Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats that ended in 1995.

It was the NATO intervention and subsequent Dayton Agreement in 1995 that began SSR programs in the country. The United Nations established a mission in Bosnia (UNMIBH) for peacekeeping after the Dayton Agreement, in addition to support for law enforcement and police reform. It successfully completed its mandate and ended on 31 December 2002. The main challenges in the 20-years after the war included reducing the size of the defense forces, excessive amount of weapons, repairing ethnic cleavages, and reforming police and other law enforcement bodies (Perdan 2006). After stabilizing the country, Bosnia soon set EU integration as a primary political goal as it initiated the Stabilisation and Association Process in 2007. Additionally, Bosnia has taken great lengths to become a member of NATO, receiving the Membership Action Plan in April 2010 with expected full membership in 2014 or 2015.

Overall, the main objectives of the post-war SSR reforms have been achieved. However, there are additional problems that were unmanaged in the initial programs. This includes dangerous weapon caches, organized crime, and a lack of full transparency and ownership (Perdan 2006). The issue of SSR being driven by international stakeholders rather than local persons has tapered since the mid 2000s thanks in part to the end of many international initiatives and the growth of domestic capacity. One particular area of concern is gender: defence forces and police are still overwhelmingly male-dominated in membership and leadership. Additionally, the security effects of the war and its aftermath on women have not been acknowledged (Bećirević, Željka Šulc, and Maja Šoštarić 2011, 11–16). Additionally, some ethnic tensions remain in communities and politics. While these cleavages still strain relationships within the country and often cause political dialogue, they are restricted to politics and have not resulted in violence (Daly, 2012).

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2. Key Dates:

  • 1992-1995 Bosnian War: The ethnic tensions between Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats exploded during referendums in 1992, escalading into violent conflict and mass killings. The conflict ended in 1995 after a NATO intervention.
  • 1995 Dayton peace accords: The end of the Bosnian War came with the peace agreement in Dayton, Ohio in 1995. This also established the current constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina, including the parliament and federal system.
  • 2007 EU Instrument for Pre-accession assistance (IPA): The European Union (EU) shifting from helping in post-conflict reconstruction and reform to a focus on assisting Bosnia join the EU.
  • 2010 NATO Membership Action Plan: NATO officially began the process for Bosnia’s membership in April 2010, with full membership slated in 2014.

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3. Central SSR Programs/Activities:

European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzgovina (EUPM BiH)The EUPM was part of the broad EU support for rule of law in the aftermath of the Bosnian War. In June 2012, the EUPM BiH completed its mission and the EU has since transferred its support efforts and remaining tasks to the instrument for pre-accession assistance (IPA) and the Office of the EU Special Representative, which has a new Law Enforcement Section (EUPM, 2012)

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Mission to Bosia and Herzegovina (OSCE-BiH): The OSCE mission in Bosnia supports various reform efforts within Bosnia, including community engagement, education, parliamentary support, human rights, rule of law, good governance, and security co-operation (OSCE, 2013)

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4. Key Funding Commitments:

€108.84 million as part of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA)from the EU. This fund has two components, transitional assistance  and cross-border cooperation focussed on improving the capacity and efficiency public administration, strengthening the rule of law, and supporting development.

RSD 1.5 billion for the Refugee Commissariat for assisting refugees in the Balkans (UNHCR, 2012; B92, 2012). International donors recently pledged funds to assist displaced persons in the Balkans to their country of origin; a significantly difficult task given the number of years since displacement.

US$45,541,000 Financial Year Request 2013 in Foreign Operations Assistance (US State Department, 2013); tThese funds from the US State Department focus on three areas with approximately 40 percent spent on Peace and Security, 39 percent on Governing Justly and Democratically, and 21 percent focused on spurring and supporting economic growth

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5. Major International Donors:

European Unionvia:Instrument for pre-accession assistance (IPA) 107.8 million Euros for 2012, focusing on transition assistance, institution building, and cross-border cooperation.

European Initiative for Democratisation and Human Rights (EIDHR) that supports civil society organizations through individual grants.

United States of America via Foreign Operations Assistance
The Foreign Operations Assistance program from the US State Department includes funds for economic support, foreign military financing, military education, law enforcement, nonproliferation, and anti-terrorism.

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6. Major Civil Society Stakeholders:

Transparency International BiH (TI): TI is a well known INGO for its anti-corruption efforts around the world. The local branch is active in helping prevent, record, and fight corruption in Bosnia.

Centre for the Promotion of Civil Society (CCSP): The CCSP is network of 15 civil society organizations from 10 countries and territories in South East Europe, including Bosnia. The organization’s focus is empowering civil society and to influence European and national policies towards more enabling environment for civil society development in the Balkans.

Human Rights House: The Human Rights House has made progress on its own initiative, but has seen important work such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that brought together the expertise of hundreds of other local NGOs to report human rights abuses to the UN.

Technical Assistance for Civil Society Organisations (TASCO): TASCO is a EU agency focused on supporting the development of civil society organizations across South Eastern Europe through providing resources and networking opportunities.

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7. Key Domestic Government Actors:


Parliamentary Assembly

Ministry of Defence

Joint Staff of the Armed ForcesOperational Command of the Armed Forces

Armed Forces Support Command

Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which includes:

  •  Border police of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  •  Office for foreigners
  •  State Agency for Protection and Investigation - SIPA
  •  Directorate for Coordination of Law Enforcement Agencies
  •  Agency for Forensics Testing and Expertise
  •  Police Support Agency
  •  Agency for Education and Professional Training, as well as
  •  Bureau for Co-operation with Interpol

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8. Central Challenges:

Ethnic cleavages: The ethnic divides that fuelled the Bosnian war continue to be a basis for political rhetoric. While the federal/canton system does allow for the devolved autonomy of many communities, many politicians cause deadlock in political debates by inciting irreconcilable differences and ethnic discrimination between Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats (The New York Times, 2012).

Refugees: The Bosnian war ended over 15 years ago, but there are still approximately 74,000 internally displaced persons. Many other refugees live in neighboring countries in poor conditions.

Gender inclusion: Gender exclusion is a hurdle that SSR in Bosnia has yet to overcome (Bećirević, Željka Šulc, and Maja Šoštarić 2011). Many of the security institutions have a dearth of female employees, especially at the higher executive levels. Additionally, very few SSR programs focus on the disproportionate security effects on women.

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9. For More Information:

Bećirević, Majda, Željka Šulc, and Maja Šoštarić. 2011. “Gender and Security Sector Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Edited by Kathrin Quesada, Memnuna Zvizdić, and Noemi Helfenstein. Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).

The report details the current state of SSR in Bosnia. It strikingly details the lack of gender awareness in SSR and in the efforts to reconcile the country after the conflict. The conclusions of the report show that there are significant grass-root initiatives for gender inclusion in Bosnia, however institutional support is lacking at the time of writing.

Perdan, Slobodan. 2006. “Security Sector Reform: The Building of Security in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Conflict, Security & Development 6 (2) (June): 179–209. doi:10.1080/14678800600739226.

Perdan accurately summarizes the SSR efforts in Bosnia all the way back to the end of the Bosnian War. The paper concludes that most programs have been successful in resolving the post-conflict issues in the country.

Siebenmann, Elizabeth. 2011. Civil Society in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Seeking the Way Forward. United Nations Volunteers Programme (UNV).

The UN played a major role in assisting Bosnia in SSR and wider post-conflict reconstruction. This report details many of the stories of UN volunteers and CSOs in Bosnia during the 2000s. The recommendations of the report point to the need for continued UN support of CSOs and for government integration of civil society programs.

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