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Conceptual Background

Aid Agencies

The Yugoslav Case

The Yugoslav Case

After the outbreak of large-scale violence in Yugoslavia in 1991-2, international agencies operated humanitarian, reconstruction and democracy aid programs in Croatia and Bosnia, both victims of Serbian military action. Designed to overcome the perceived socialist legacy as well as respond to immediate crises, such programs provided a template for ensuing intervention in the southern Balkans. Since the Dayton agreements of 1995, Bosnia has been described as a case of "maximal" intervention, in which the United Nations and NATO constitute a civilian and military presence aimed to rebuild a shattered society, and where a host of non-governmental actors implement programs ranging from financial sector reform to psychotherapy for individuals and families traumatized by the experiences of war.

Over the period since 1991, then, international organizations, Western governments and private funders made significant investments of aid in the region. Much of their efforts focused on diplomatic and military initiatives to restore regional security, and large-scale humanitarian relief missions in the wake of violence and displacement of populations. But drawing on precedents in Latin America and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, various donors and organizations devoted energy and resources to lower-profile goals such as privatization, democratization and human rights. These were seen as vital to the transition from one-party socialism in which communal needs were paramount, towards the Western ideal of free market, multi-party states in which individuals could choose how they lived their lives.

Differences nonetheless surfaced in how donors, intermediary organizations, and local populations envisaged the best route toward the shared goal of societal development, and these differences have led to uneven cooperation. Private donors, which have made significant investments in local level programming, have had limited opportunity to share insights with large public donors. Locally-based organizations often see one another as rivals for the same, finite resources, and so often appear to compete more than they collaborate. As a result, despite considerable commitment and expenditure, it remains easier for critics to locate failure than for supporters to indicate and explain success. In the aftermath of the Dayton accords, which ended the fighting in 1995, academics like David Chandler, and Keith Doubt and policy analysts Gerald Knaus and Felix Martin. have accused the international community respectively of faking democracy, failing to recover justice, or setting up a "European Raj" in Bosnia.

The "Bosnia template" has impacted interventions in Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia. So too has international experience elsewhere - notably, for USAID in particular, in Latin America and the Middle East. As well as military intervention, and the varieties of democracy assistance listed above, additional emphasis has been placed on programs which promote community-based cooperative activism - that is, that seek to foster civic community. It is these programs - and in particular, USAID's Serbia-based Community Revitalization through Democratic Action, or CRDA - on which the Muabet project's research focuses. Drawing on the conceptual literature, the project examines the origins, implementation, and evaluation of CRDA, and other programs which similarly aimed at the community level.