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Socio-cultural viability of international intervention in war-torn societies: a case study of Bosnia Herzegovina
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Political Science.
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation explores the ‘socio-cultural dilemma’ facing international peacebuilders in war-torn societies through a case study of the post-conflict process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is done with the help of a typological approach of the grid-group Cultural Theory framework, which defines four social solidarities – or ideal type cultures – of individualism, egalitarianism, fatalism and hierarchy. A central argument in the thesis is that international intervention is culturally individualistic and/or egalitarian, thus socio-culturally unviable in war-torn societies, which are usually dominated by hierarchical and fatalist social solidarities.

This underlying socio-cultural conflict is used to trace the Bosnian post-war process, where the relationship between the managing international institution – the Office of the High Representative of the International Community – and the local nationalist elites repeatedly changed in response to the failure of international policies to produce the desired result, namely broad socio-cultural change in the local politics and society. Four different periods in the process are identified: 1) ’economic conditionality’, 2) ‘Bonn Powers’, 3) ‘the concept of ownership’ and 4) ‘Euro-Atlantic integration’. Each period is defined by different culturally biased policies, supported by corresponding social relations and strategic behaviours.

The individualistic and egalitarian biased approaches usually resulted in failures, as they were not viable in the local socio-cultural context. After adapting to the local context, new viable approaches produced results in specific policy areas, but at the cost of unwanted side-effects in the form of reinforcement of dominant social solidarities. The result was therefore contrary to the broad goal of the process, which was to transform the local political culture.

In other words, the defining and re-defining of the OHR’s role in the Bosnian process was a consequence of the dilemma of having to make an unsatisfactory choice: either to adapt to the way the political game is played in the Bosnian socio-cultural context in order to achieve effectiveness in the policy process, or to stay true to the peacebuilders’ own cultural biases and attempt to change the local socio-cultural accordingly. In essence, it is argued, this is the socio-cultural viability dilemma that is inherent in international peacebuilding.

In unveiling of the socio-cultural viability dilemma, the dissertation explores central problems in the Bosnian post-conflict process. It provides a credible explanation to a number of hitherto unexplained difficulties and paradoxes experienced in Bosnia. It concludes that the international intervention in this particular case was neither a success story nor a failure per se, but one which failed to properly address the dilemma of socio-cultural viability. The key conclusions regarding peacebuilding in general are that there should be a greater under¬¬standing of socio-cultural issues in peacebuilding in order to better manage the socio-cultural viability dilemma. Practically, this means that international peacebuilders need to adapt to local context and strive towards the goal of local ownership of the process. The aim should be to make the intervention as viable as possible, as quickly as possible, to boldly implement policies that promote changes in the local socio-cultural context, and to withdraw only after the necessary conditions for local ownership are in place.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Statsvetenskap , 2007. , 341 p.
Statsvetenskapliga institutionens skriftserie, ISSN 0349-0831 ; 2007:1
Keyword [en]
Bosnia Herzegovina, peacebuilding, war-torn societies, High Representative, cultural theory, socio-cultural viability, conditionality, Bonn powers, local ownership
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1001ISBN: 978-91-7264-253-9OAI: diva2:139949
Public defence
2007-03-09, Hörsal D, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2007-02-12 Created: 2007-02-12Bibliographically approved

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