After years of war, Bosnians are struggling to rebuild their lives, their communities, and their country. Large-scale efforts are being implemented to assist the process. NATO troops have been deployed to enforce the terms of the Dayton peace agreement, and the European community and the United States are financing millions of dollars into reconstructing Bosnia and Hercegovina's infrastructure and economy. Just as important, however, is the need for creating an environment for peace at the grassroots, community level.

One way of beginning to build this kind of positive environment is to encourage and support the development of Bosnian organizations working on peace and reconciliation issues, community building, and citizen empowerment. It is crucial during the time of consolidation of peace, that the international community supports the empowerment of Bosnians to create non-violent alternatives for resolving differences, increase effectiveness in addressing the needs of the community, and work for the long-term development of a culture of peace and democracy.

The research questions are: What are the means of securing sustainable peace within a war-torn divided society, and what is the role and responsibility of the international community in that peace process? The literature review includes theory and factual findings based on case studies. Field data collection and analysis was carried out in Bosnia and Hercegovina. The research includes examining the work of two international agencies and two local Bosnian organizations in their efforts to build peace in the divided community of Gornji Vakuf, located in Central Bosnia.

The principle conclusion of this paper is in a country divided by ethnic warfare there does exist a positive and beneficial purpose for an international presence in reconciliation and peacebuilding. However, in order for peacebuilding to be sustainable it must use participatory programming to strengthen the community, empower community leaders to create their own solutions, work through partnerships within a community, and incorporate long-term community-building strategies with the support of the international community. It is vital to apply an overall approach of participatory community development specifically tailored to the conditions and needs of the community. These actions will reinforce sustainable peace in a divided society that is emerging from a top-down driven war. The exploration of common interests and mutual groups by civilians themselves, to normalize their post-war existence, presents a strategy that may prove to be the most successful in determining what kind of multi-ethnic society Bosnia and Hercegovina will become.


Peace and Conflict Studies