After Ethnic Conflict: Why Look at Post-conflict Recovery?
Introduction: Post-conflict Ethnically Divided Societies
Wars and conflicts have become a common part of our everyday lives. Traditional and new media alike make the images of suffering and destruction available for daily consumption by the public, who have become versed in conflict terminology and conflict geography beyond what was imaginable several decades ago. The advance of new media outlets, their increased availability and interactive nature, has transformed the 'CNN effect' of a decade ago into a phenomenon more powerful by virtue of its inclusiveness. Today, anyone can contribute to providing information about events taking place across the world, sharing and discussing it with millions of users on social networks, blogs and forums. Inevitably, this accelerated exchange of information has shortened the span of attention that the audience devotes to each of the issues, including wars, featured in media stories. Civil wars and ethnic conflicts slide down the media agenda soon after international diplomats seal a peace agreement between the warring sides. Except for a few protracted cases, such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, they descend into media oblivion, replaced by the latest outburst of hostility at another unstable spot across the globe.
The Balkans, which dominated the media headlines for good part of the 1990s, has suffered a similar fate. Today the occasional story about the Balkans in international media generally talks about the region's success in overcoming its troubled past and the efforts at integrating into the Euro-Atlantic institutional structure of the democratic West. The Balkan states have moved beyond their violent past and the region is recovering from the ethnic conflicts of the 1990s, and racing towards EU and NATO membership.1 Of course, not all are as optimistic about its progress, and persistent problems with ethnic relations, social tensions and unresolved border issues often resurface to remind the international public of the depth and intensity of the problems in the region.2
1 By 2014, Slovenia and Croatia are full EU member states, Montenegro and Serbia have started EU accession negotiations, Macedonia remains an EU candidate state, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidate states.
2 See Soren Jessen-Petersen and Daniel Serwer, 'The Balkans Can Still Be Lost', The New York Times, 10 November 2010; Transitions Online reports on the Balkans: Tihomir
However, almost twenty years have passed since the signing of the Dayton Agreement, which put an end to the most ferocious of the Balkan conflicts, the Bosnian conflict, providing a sufficiently long time period for reflection over what has been achieved. Away from the media spotlight and international attention, there is a need to evaluate the progress of reconciliation between ethnic groups, inter-ethnic political competition and cooperation, and the sustainability of the new political institutions.
Within the region, each of the former Yugoslav countries has had a successful post-conflict recovery on some issues but still struggles to overcome ethnic tensions on others. Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013, has not resolved the process of restitution of property to Croatian Serbs and tensions persist regarding the use of the Cyrillic alphabet. Serbia and Kosovo, despite reaching an agreement to normalise relations in April 2013, still disagree over the ownership of key industrial assets and the design of local Serb administration. Such uneven progress in post-conflict politics remains puzzling for scholars, requiring additional research into the factors driving policy successes and failures in the post-conflict context. In order to better understand what enables political elites to overcome ethnic-conflict legacies and steer politics towards more mutual cooperation and peaceful political competition, this book examines post-conflict ethnic accommodation and resistance at the policy level among political leaders. The discussion in the following chapters addresses the question: Why do political elites in post-conflict ethnically-divided states choose to accommodate or resist each other across ethnic lines? By exploring how power-sharing institutions, informal practices, and cross-cutting political identities affect ethnic accommodation, the book also explores when and under what conditions ethnic accommodation is more likely to take place. It focuses on Bosnia and Herzegovina (henceforth used interchangeably with Bosnia), and Macedonia; these two Balkan countries are analysed and compared in Parts III and IV respectively.