Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Gradual Emergence of Second Generation Security Sector Reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Originally published


Executive Summary

Bosnia’s security sector reform (SSR) has largely been shaped by dominant approaches to peacebuilding and statebuilding. Orthodox approaches have contributed to the important rebuilding of Bosnia’s security framework, but have fallen short of fully transforming the security governance in the country. Importantly, given the imposing international presence in designing and carrying out the SSR agenda, there are concerns about the sustainability of the reforms given the lack of local ownership. In response, local and international SSR experts suggest there is a need to move away from state-centric, top-down orthodox approaches to the more flexible, bottom-up approaches of the second generation SSR model. However, second generation approaches to SSR remain nascent in Bosnia. This is, in part, a result of the lack of political will of local and international actors to undertake ambitious reforms given Bosnia’s relative stability and maturity as a post-conflict country. But it is also due to continuing tension between the decentralizing model of security governance resulting from the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement and the centralizing model favoured by the international community over the last 15 years. Indeed, a key criticism of SSR in Bosnia has been the politicization of SSR and its uses as an instrument of statebuilding. This paper points to some possible entry points for the development of second generation SSR, such as community policing and wider civil society engagement; however, it acknowledges that empowering local actors is no simple task as there are great power imbalances and little incentive for senior officials to accept these changes in approach. In addition, the top-down nature of the peacebuilding process in Bosnia has served to disempower local actors. Ultimately, the paper suggests that a second generation approach to addressing remaining gaps in SSR in Bosnia might involve working within existing political frameworks rather than using SSR as a political tool.