Between partition and pluralism: The Bosnian jigsaw and an 'ambivalent peace'

Oliver P. Richmond, Jason Franks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This article argues that the attempted creation of a liberal state in Bosnia and Herzegovina by various international actors has failed to generate legitimacy among the local population. While the Dayton agreements institutionalized ethnic divisions, the post-Dayton reconstruction process was dominated by Western liberal discourses that have tended to marginalize local voices. Thereby, a conservative version of the liberal peace has been institutionalized, based on top-down mechanisms that mobilized public support only when war elites could co-opt the international agendas. Instead of creating inclusive structures within society, international authorities have become central mechanisms of governance in Bosnia without being accountable to the population. Alongside further fragmentation of society, this has undermined the development of democratic structures and a true engagement with the historical and societal context in which peace-building programmes are deployed. Both civil society development and economic liberalization have been externally driven, hence provoking local resistance and undermining a sustainable peace process. The authors argue that such an approach is not conducive to an emancipatory version of the liberal peace, which would be based on local consent and would genuinely engage with people's welfare.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-38
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Southeast European and Black Sea
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is part of a broader research project, run by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of St. Andrews, which critically examines ‘liberal peace transitions’ in a number of different peace-building contexts. It is funded by the Carnegie Trust, to whom we are grateful. See for more details. We would like to thank a number of individuals who contributed or helped during the research necessary for this article, including our interviewees and assistants in Kosovo, as well as Stefanie Kappler. This essay represents our own views, and any errors are our responsibility.


  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Civil society
  • Democratization
  • Liberal peace-building
  • The liberal peace


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