Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Ultimately, what Dayton at 20: An Impact Assessment hopes to accomplish is to answer the question, “Did the Dayton Accords work?”

Twenty Years After the Dayton Accords, a Workshop Examines the Agreement’s Impact

December 8th, 2015

Twenty years ago, the Dayton Accords, or the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was formally signed in Paris on December 14. Negotiations between the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia took place in November at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton, Ohio, where Richard Holbrooke ‘62 was the chief U.S. peace negotiator. The accords ended years of fighting between the three ethnic groups in Bosnia, in which at least 100,000 people were killed and some 2 million displaced.

To mark the 20th anniversary of that historic agreement, the Watson Institute is holding a workshop, Dayton at 20: An impact Assessment, on Thursday, December 10, and Friday, December 11, in the Joukowsky Forum. “Given Watson’s interest in the former Yugoslavia and the end of the Cold War in particular, we thought it made sense to mark this anniversary, especially because of the role that Ambassador Richard Holbrooke played in Dayton,” said professor Keith Brown, one of the organizers of the event along with Watson fellows Sue Eckert and Anthony Levitas. “We actually have extraordinary resources in-house and then through scholarly networks realized that a lot of people felt that they had something to say about Dayton.” 

On Thursday at 4:30 p.m., Ambassador Christopher Hill, who was part of Holbrooke’s negotiating team in Dayton, will deliver the keynote address, On Diplomacy, Seizing the Moment, and Talking to Liars. (According to Brown, that title was inspired by the way that Hill’s work as one of the lead negotiators with Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was described by Holbrooke in his book on Dayton, To End a War). Friday’s workshop includes four panel discussions and lunch.

The event will bring together both scholars and participants in the Dayton peace process. “One of the exciting things about Watson has always been that we face academia and the policy world simultaneously and so we thought this was another opportunity to convene a conversation,” said Brown. “We’ve got scholars who write very critically about the Dayton Agreement and its impact and we’ve got a group of practitioners who were either part of the team that negotiated Dayton in the first place or part of the team that then faced the challenge of implementing Dayton.”

The first panel (War by Other Means: Dayton and Ethnicization, in Bosnia and Beyond) pulls together four scholars, Philippe Leroux-Martin, Azra Hromadzic, Anna Ohanyan, and Aida Hozic, who have followed events closely in Bosnia since Dayton, with a special focus on ethnicity. They’ll discuss the framework that was created, the assumptions behind it, and a sense of what’s happened in the last 20 years. “Has anything about this framework helped people feel more secure,” asked Brown, “so that they become less invested in their ethnic identities?”

A group of practitioners, Ambassador Rod Moore, Col (retired) U.S. Army Gregory Fontenot, Chris Engels, and David Rohde ‘90, makes up the second panel (Justice and Accountability: On Implementing the Unpalatable). Rohde, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, broke the story of the Srebrenica Massacre and subsequently was held captive by Serbian paramilitary forces during the start of the peace negotiations. Engels was involved in reforming the legal structure, while Moore and Fontenot were part of the system that used an international presence to provide security. 

A third panel (Bosnia and the Birth of the IGO/NGO Complex) made up of scholars Chip Gagnon, Kimberley Coles, and Erica Haskell, will discuss the ways in which organizations became entrepreneurial after Dayton, going from small, humanitarian groups to multimillion dollar organizations, as they became involved in activities like rebuilding. 

In the final panel (Whither “Never Again: The Future of Coercive Diplomacy), Ambassador Richard Boucher and Brian Atwood, both part of Watson, with commentary from Hill, will focus on Dayton as representative of the rebirth of coercive diplomacy and what’s happened to that form of diplomacy since.

Ultimately, what Dayton at 20: An Impact Assessment hopes to accomplish is to answer the question, “Did the Dayton Accords work?” Or at least come up with a set of ways to answer that question. In April, 2008, Holbrooke wrote a report card op-ed column for the Washington Post in in which he grades the Dayton Accords on various criteria (the core objective, A+; economic integration, C+; follow-up by international community, C-). “One of the things we’re hoping to do in the workshop, “ said Brown, “is take a look at that report card and say, okay, is this a good format, is this the criteria that we would want to assess this by?”

—Leslie Weeden