The Dayton Accords
On Nov. 21, 1995, the Dayton Accords were completed in Dayton, Ohio. The peace agreement ended a four-year war in the Balkans that claimed the lives of an estimated 100,000 people. The deal has been declared brilliant, insufficient, crucial and shortsighted. A former Bosnian energy minister described it as, “diplomatic and political butchery,” while simultaneously stating, “it was by far the best option available at that particular moment in history.”

These juxtaposed opinions are commonplace for the Dayton Accords, as it managed to end a horrific, genocidal war while enshrining a political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina that some believed was nothing more than, “a house of cards about to come tumbling down.” As similar wars driven by territorial conflict and ethnic tension continue to haunt people around the world, it bears consideration what lessons in conflict resolution can be taken from this peace agreement.

Bringing Enemies to the Table

The agreement itself was negotiated in just 21 days from within the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. U.S. Diplomat Richard Holbrooke served as the chief negotiator between the Presidents of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Additionally, a contingency of Russian, French, British and German negotiators was present at Wright Patterson, though the U.S. took the lead in the proceedings.

One of the more notable aspects of the negotiation process was Holbrooke’s care. He sought to create an environment that forced an agreement among representatives who appeared reluctant to come to one. Representatives were not allowed to discuss the negotiations with the press. They were each given their own floor of the building so that Holbrooke could work separately with each party. He went from floor to floor, slowly hammering out an agreement to end the conflict for good. The result created one country composed of two parts. It was complex, but the preceding nightmare that brought them all there was worse.

Ending a War

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina had raged for four years, with “Serb and Croat forces aiming to carve the country up into a Greater Serbia and a Greater Croatia, respectively.” Bosnia’s four million citizens belonged primarily to three main ethnic groups: Bosniak or Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats which made up roughly 44%, 31% and 17% of the population, respectively. The remaining 8% was Yugoslav.

The war began in 1992 when Bosnia declared its independence from Yugoslavia and was met with a swift military assault from Bosnian Serbs seeking to gain territory and commit ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population. During the genocidal conflict, 80% of the fatalities were Bosniaks. Additionally, numerous atrocities and war crimes were committed across the conflict. One U.N. report discussing artillery attacks on Sarajevo in 1994 stated that 200 to 300 impacts were a “quiet day” in contrast to an “active day” which could see 800 to 1,000 impacts from shelling by Serb forces.

In February 1994, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began its first combat operation in history, shooting down Bosnian Serb aircraft to enforce a U.N.-declared no-fly zone. This would be followed up with later bombing raids that would eventually force Presidents Milošević, Tudjman and Izetbegović to the negotiating table.

A New Nation

The Dayton Accords cut Bosnia almost exactly in half. The predominantly Bosniak-Croat Federation took 51%, and 49% went to the Bosnian Serbs as the Republika Srpska. There the simplicity stopped. According to The Guardian, “Dayton spawned a political system that is a cash cow for politicians. It is among the most complex in the world.” Rather than solving ethnic tensions, it froze them in time with a constitution that allocated key government posts to Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. All other ethnic groups would remain barred from political positions throughout the government.

Beyond the issues of complexity, many view the Accords as having rewarded genocide and numerous other war crimes, as the original aggressors walked away with major territorial gains. President Milosevic of Yugoslavia, President Karadzic of Bosnian Serbia and General Mladić (known as “The Butcher of Bosnia”), all went on to be tried for international war crimes. Dayton’s harshest critics see the peace agreement as having been a strategic win for those men. It is believed that NATO forces would eventually have been able to roll back the incursions they made.

25 Years of Hindsight

The flaws that the Dayton Accords both perpetuated and created are numerous and frequently pointed to amid calls for its reform or complete scrapping. However, its legacy lives far more as a mixed bag than as an outright cautionary tale. The peace created, while fragile, has lasted longer than many experts dared hope. The Accords brought an end to a genocide, the likes of which had not been seen in Europe since the Holocaust. Yet conversely, it trapped the split nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in unending ethnic discontent and a political system predisposed to corruption. Looking at Dayton as a future peace negotiation model will require reconciliation with each of these conflicting narratives.

Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: U.S. National Archives

Examining The Ukrainian Path ForwardIn 2013, tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens took to the streets to protest the government’s decision to abandon an agreement with the European Union. Ukrainians saw this move as a political realignment with Russia after years of economic and political grudges had nearly pushed the country in the opposite direction towards the E.U. and the West. There did not seem to be a Ukrainian path forward; for many, this was a step backward. The protests sent a clear message of the Ukrainian people’s deep-seated frustration with their government. This frustration compounded with Ukraine’s choice to remain more closely tied to Russia than with its western neighbors. By February 2014, then-President Yanukovych had fled to Russia and the opposition government stepped in. Then, in March 2014, the fate of Ukrainians turned irrevocably grim as Russia began a thinly-veiled invasion.

Invasion, Annexation and Occupation

Many still regard Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a breach of international law according to its membership of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its signing of the Budapest Memorandum in 1994. It met with harsh sanctions from the U.S., E.U. and several other nations, many of which targeted Russia’s lucrative oil and gas exports. Despite international condemnation, Russia was at it again the next month.

Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence from Ukraine. They soon received military assistance in their fight against the Ukrainian military. Support came in the form of what has become widely known as “little green men.” Russian troops had already occupied Crimea, but they were also assisting the separatist movements in the newly-declared autonomous zones in the Donbass region. They supplied light and heavy arms, troops and tactical assistance. All this has led to a conflict that remains unresolved to this day. The conflict remains frozen in constantly-violated ceasefires without a clear end in sight. Russia still receives much of the blame from the international community.

The Kremlin Strategy

The war claimed 14,000 lives since 2014, displaced millions of Ukrainians and sent Ukraine’s economy in turmoil, begging the question of why Russia has been willing to commit to this volatile conflict. The answer lies in defense. Ukraine is one of the key former Soviet states that form a buffer zone around Russia’s eastern border. The border has seen numerous invasions throughout history and, according to “The Red Line” podcast, “after World War II, Russia decided that it never again wanted to be only 1,200 kilometers from [its] enemy’s position.”

The Ukrainian path forward is currently at a crossroads. If the country aligns itself with the West, Russia would face a major geopolitical loss. Russia maintains the conflict largely because it provides for the existence of three territorial disputes within Ukraine. This bars it from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a country cannot join the Western alliance if it has any outstanding territorial disputes or conflicts. A similar strategy has worked for Russia in Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan. This does not, however, mean that there is no hope for an end to the violence.

Peace by Any Means

In the seven years following the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, a long brigade of ceasefires, peace agreements and mounting international pressure to end the violence have occurred. Perhaps the most notable successes were the Minsk Protocol of 2014 and the subsequent Minsk II Agreement in 2015. The Minsk II Agreement included steps towards a ceasefire, monitoring from the OSCE and the assertion that economic recovery was necessary in the regions the conflict affected the most. The latter attempted to build upon limited successes from the past year, but the ceasefires have followed a consistent pattern of violations along the so-called “security zone.” Aside from two prisoner swaps, increased humanitarian assistance and successive ceasefires in the past two years, a clear Ukrainian path forward to lasting peace still appears blocked.

A Shift in Foreign Engagement

The leaders of Germany and France have spearheaded the majority of peace talks and negotiations. However, the Biden Administration brings hope to the international community that the U.S. will become more involved in negotiations. Increased involvement would help the Ukrainian path forward, rather than Ukraine continuing to rely on defensive aid to its government. Antony Blinken’s nomination to Secretary of State has garnered even more speculation about the possible benefits for the Ukrainian people. The Atlantic Council maintained that “Blinken played an influential role in the imposition of sanctions against Russia over the 2014 invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.” It is true that the ratcheting up of economic sanctions could force Russia back to the negotiating table. Hopefully this time with genuine aspirations of cooling the conflict down.

Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr

Psychiatric hospital Skopje, Macedonia
Healthcare in Macedonia utilizes a mixture of a public and private healthcare system. All residents are eligible to receive free state-funded healthcare and have the option of receiving private healthcare for treatments that the public system does not cover. Public healthcare in Macedonia often comes with long wait times and although public hospitals have basic medical supplies, they do not have specialized treatments. For these specialized treatments, residents typically seek private treatment where they must pay out of pocket or buy private insurance on top of their free healthcare.

Improvements in Overall Health

North Macedonia did not become a part of NATO until 2019, and still has not received admission into the E.U. As a result, its healthcare system has developed slower than member countries. Despite this, North Macedonia has shown growth in overall health. The introduction of private healthcare allowed residents to seek a wider range of treatments and cut down wait times. Life expectancy has grown from 71.7 years in 1991 to 75.1 years in 2010. However, this is still lower than the E.U.’s average life expectancy which is 80.2.  Although life expectancy has grown, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate is still above average.

North Macedonia reached a European record of 14.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. To compare, the average mortality rate in Europe for 2015 was 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. The high infant mortality rate is likely the result of outdated equipment at public health facilities and a shortage of qualified health workers. Only 6.5% of North Macedonia’s GDP goes towards healthcare, and therefore healthcare in Macedonia is often reliant on outside donations. These conditions have caused health workers to leave the Macedonian healthcare system in search of better working conditions. The health ministry has worked to purchase new equipment as well as increase the amount of qualified staff in public hospitals by hiring more workers. Today, the infant mortality rate in North Macedonia is 10.102 deaths per 1,000 births. This is an improvement, and hopefully, with continued programs, the numbers will continue to decrease. Organizations such as Project HOPE and WHO have already made a direct impact on Macedonia’s healthcare system.

Organizations Combating Infant Mortality

Project HOPE has donated over $80 million worth of medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment to hospitals throughout North Macedonia since 2007. Starting in 2017, most of these donations went to hospitals specializing in infant care. Project HOPE also provides training for healthcare workers so they can adapt to the updated equipment. The current drop in the infant mortality rate is due to these donations that allow hospitals to buy updated equipment and retain healthcare workers through training. There is only one hospital in North Macedonia that accepts low birth-rate and premature babies, University Clinical Center at Mother Theresa. Therefore, Project HOPE’s donation has greatly lessened the burden on this hospital to care for infants. Since Project HOPE implemented this program, the number of deliveries at Mother Theresa has increased by 40%.

WHO has also assisted North Macedonia in developing a new 2020 healthcare plan for infants and mothers. This plan would link healthcare facilities in the country and classify them by level of service to ensure everyone is receiving the appropriate care. It should also improve transportation between hospitals to increase the continuity of care between locations. This shared communication and learning between healthcare facilities is imperative since there are only nine hospitals in Macedonia for 2.08 million people and seven of those hospitals are in the country’s capital, Skopje. Increasing transportation and communication will ensure that those living outside of the capital are receiving quality healthcare. Slowly but surely with these new policies in place, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate will continue to drop.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

North MacedoniaThe historical town of Skopje, North Macedonia (pictured above) may soon see an economic boom. The recently named North Macedonia commits to achieving the economic goals set in place to join the European Union. Furthermore, a recent parliamentary majority win by the Social Democratic Union Party promises to open trade throughout the country and improve the lives of North Macedonia’s diverse population.

Historical Disputes & Political Corruption

Skopje shares a long-standing history with the bordering country of Bulgaria and celebrates the same national heroes as well. Bulgaria, a current EU member, seeks to compromise on these issues before North Macedonia is allowed to enter the EU, claiming, “… [Bulgaria] has been piling pressure on Skopje for concessions with regard to what the two sides now call ‘shared history.”’

Since the Social Democratic Party’s majority win, the leftist party known as Levica promises to fight against the recognition of Kosovo and new trade agreements with Greece. Levica is asserting pressure on the majority party with claims of political corruption and embezzlement from former leader Nikola Gruevski. However, new laws adopted as preconditions to enter the EU include a crackdown on corrupt politicians and practices — ensuring that public prosecution and ethical legislation will remain protected in government spaces. Albanians represent the second largest ethnic group in North Macedonia but lack proper representation in government. Although the Democratic Union for Integration is largely Albanian, this ethnic population holds little power in parliament but great influence in public spaces as a majority vote.

North Macedonia Joins NATO

The goal of the Social Democratic Union Party, broadly speaking, is to improve the lives of citizens in North Macedonia. The party aims to achieve this through new agreements and membership with NATO. With their induction in late March 2020, the flag of North Macedonia now sways high in Mons, Belgium and Norfolk, Virginia — two Allied Command Headquarters. Jens Stolenberg, Secretary-General stated, “North Macedonia is now part of the NATO family, a family of thirty nations and almost one billion people. A family based on the certainty that, no matter what challenges we face, we are all stronger and safer together.”

The Peace Corps in North Macedonia

International relations in North Macedonia continue to improve through a partnership with the Peace Corps. Since 2015, the population living on less than $5.50 per day has reduced by 8%. As a result of foreign investment through educational programs, improved housing infrastructure and healthcare — only 4% of North Macedonia’s population live on less than $1.90 per day.

Grant writing, funding from the E.U. and other independent organizations act as a liaison when government funding is not provided to rural towns. Through the Peace Corps, Northern Macedonians have the opportunity to learn English and engage in community-building activities. Some of these activities include business administration skills and special events, geared towards learning. The Peace Corps is not only interested in providing relief but also space for communities to incentivize growth and opportunity — with the ultimate goal being increasing education and employment rates.

The Macedonia Country Fund is another example of a Peace Corps initiative that supports sustainable projects for Northern Macedonia. “These projects focus on youth, education, community development, and people with disabilities.” Through partnership initiatives and foreign support, North Macedonia seems to be headed on an upward trajectory.

Natalie Williams
Photo: Flickr

parliamentary governmentsA parliamentary government is a system of governance that ensures democratic ideals. National parliamentary governments create laws for its citizens, while international parliamentary institutions govern globalization.

What is the Difference Between the Two?

National parliamentary governments create laws for their nation that applies to citizens. International parliamentary institutions are organizations that allow officials to represent their country in worldly discussions and bring awareness to global problems.

A parliament is a democratic system of government. A national parliament is a means in which a country governs its people and creates laws. More countries have started actively participating in international parliaments due to globalization. An international parliament does not have the power to govern countries but instead uses diplomacy to influence world governments.

What is a Parliamentary Government?

Great Britain laid the groundwork for a parliamentary system in the 1200s, and today more than 51 countries use parliamentary governments to represent citizens and pass laws.

A select number of parliamentary governments, such as Great Britain, are aligned with a monarchy. In a constitutional monarchy, a king or queen is the head of state but retains no political power. A few governments, such as France, are a hybrid of both a presidential system and a parliamentary system.

The main feature of parliamentary governments is the power of the legislative branch and the inclusion of the executive branch. Most parliamentary governments have a two-chamber or bicameral procedure to pass laws, although some may have a unicameral parliament. Citizens directly elect members of parliament; however, citizens do not elect the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is voted into office by the party who obtains the majority of members of parliament. The Prime Minister is the executive leader, who also participates in legislative lawmaking activities. This is different from a presidential system, in which the legislative branch and the executive branch are separate.

A parliamentary system is known to be effective due to its accountability and responsiveness. If the majority party becomes disliked, the Prime Minister can instantly be removed with a vote. This holds members of parliament responsible for their actions. Within a presidency, the system of checks and balances may result in gridlock. The power of the legislative branch in a parliamentary system results in a faster way to pass laws.

Growth of International Parliamentary Institutions

The number of international parliamentary institutions is growing, as the world becomes more interconnected. The first international parliament, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, was established in 1889. Later, the aftermath of World War II resulted in the need to resolve conflicts peacefully. The idea of international parliamentary institutions became a means to represent a country and its concerns, on a world stage. Currently, there are around 70 International Parliamentary Systems.

As globalization becomes more prevalent, international parliamentary institutions play a greater role in global affairs. It can be challenging for an ordinary citizen to voice their concerns to other countries. With international parliamentary institutions, parliamentarians represent their citizens globally.

International parliamentary institutions create awareness of global issues. Global issues include “environmental problems, nuclear disarmament, corruption, women’s rights, and population growth”. When these universal problems produce national concerns, countries collaborate with one another or with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) through international parliamentary institutions. This builds new relationships to solve matters, and country representatives then counsel their national governments. Although most international parliamentary institutions cannot enforce laws on nations, creating awareness brings societal change. Citizens who acknowledge these international issues can advocate for new laws within their own government.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the European Union Parliament are examples of highly influential international parliamentary institutions. Currently, the United Nations is proposing the idea of an international parliamentary assembly, so all countries can participate in policymaking with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

This article highlights why national governments and international institutions favor a parliamentary system. National parliaments are successful in promoting democracy in governments. As the world becomes more connected, international parliamentary institutions serve as a forum between governments to solve global problems and ensure peacekeeping.

– Hannah Nelson 
Photo: Flickr