Thanks to multilateral action and the work of the international community, “the spillover of war from Ukraine to Bosnia and Herzegovina has been prevented,” but more caution and determination are needed in order to ensure long-term stability in BiH, the Chairman of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, said at the IX Global Baku Forum on Thursday.
At the forum, entitled “Challenges to the global world order”, Dzaferovic spoke about the way the world should respond to world crises such as migration, the pandemic and the aggression against Ukraine.
“We all bear the consequences of global crises globally, although we are not all equally responsible for them,” he said.
“The answer is logical and simple, but unfortunately because of the world, as it is today, it is difficult to achieve. We all know that the answer lies in greater justice, unity, solidarity, international law, and strong and effective multilateral mechanisms. However, it seems there is no way to achieve that. After every crisis, we say never again, yet they are constantly repeated, and humankind is responsible for that. Therefore, using the authority of the Baku Forum, we must constantly emphasise these things and be persistent in the fight for a better world,” he said.
Dzaferovic said that the Balkans and the South Caucasus are similar in that both are “crossroads – places where different worlds meet.”
“Often these places, being at the crossroads of the great empires, were the scene of conflict. But at the same time, they were places where civilisations and cultures meet. It is thanks to these meetings that new paradigms have been created in these places,” he said.
Dzaferovic argued that an example of this is Bosnia and Hercegovina.
“My country is not one of the great powers of the world, but it is an extremely important country, even in a global context, precisely because of its paradigm. For centuries, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been home to communities belonging to different cultural and civilizational circles: Islamic, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, Jewish, etc. Throughout its history, Bosnia and Herzegovina has developed as a community of diversity, developing special social practices and institutes, unknown to monoethnic societies,” he explained, adding, “knowledge and respect for other people's religious and traditional customs, as well as cultural syncretism and other practices, have over time become an integral part of the Bosnian identity that people in BiH are proud of.”
He argued that “something unexpected happened” throughout the past few decades, through globalization, major economic migrations and other processes.
“Multiethnicity, which to many seemed a deviation specific to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans, has become a feature of developed modern societies. It is now quite normal for people of all races and many cultures to live in one society. The whole world has become a crossroads,” he said.
The BiH Presidency member argued that whether states should be multiethnic is no longer a question, as they already are.
“The only question is how to organise life in them, for the benefit of all their members. The same is true of societies in the world, the same is true of the world as a whole, as a global society,” he said.
“The global order, as we have known it for decades, was founded after the end of World War II, as a counterbalance to the Nazi project which was aimed at destroying multiethnic societies, eradicating or enslaving entire nations, and regulating international relations through the principles of force and domination. The awareness that all parts of the world are interdependent, and that regional crises can turn into world crises, has prompted the international community to establish global institutions and an order based on rules. The mission of the United Nations, defined in its founding acts, is to ensure international peace through dialogue, tolerance and pluralistic awareness,” Dzaferovic said.
However, he argued that today, following the experiences of the pandemic and the aggression against Ukraine, it is often argued that multilateral institutions are unable to respond to the challenges of the era.
“We are witnessing a violation of international law,” he said, noting that “this process has not started now” and that the greatest failure after WWII was experienced by the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, between 1992 to 1995.
“For the first time since the founding of the UN, a war was launched on European soil aimed at forcibly seizing part of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and exterminating the Bosniak people, as a community which was supposed to be protected by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide,” he said, explaining that, at the very beginning of the war in BiH, the UN Security Council “imposed an unjust embargo on arms imports to Bosnia and Herzegovina, preventing us from exercising our right to self-defence under the United Nations Charter.”
Meanwhile, the UN did not protect BiH, one of its members, as it was exposed to “brutal aggression from the neighbourhood,” he said.
“The fact that for more than three and a half years, mass crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina were committed in the presence of the United Nations military force, UNPROFOR, has ruined the credibility of this world organization. Finally, in July 1995, despite the presence of UNPROFOR, the Srebrenica genocide was carried out, the largest massacre on European soil since World War II, in which more than 8,000 people were killed in just a few days,” he said, adding that international institutions were able to prevent this but did not do so due to failure to indecisiveness.
“I see the greatest failure of the United Nations today in the fact that nobody expects them to stop the aggression against Ukraine and crimes against the civilian population. The adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the aggression in Ukraine is an important act, but if it entails all the ability of the UN, then there is no doubt that the system must be reformed. International peace and the inviolability of the borders of sovereign states cannot be held hostage by the vetoes of privileged states,” he said.
Dzaferovic then went on to speak about BiH, explaining that the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the war, was signed after NATO intervention based on a Security Council resolution, and was implemented thanks to the presence of NATO troops and the international community. The civilian aspect of the implementation was conducted primarily through the Office of the High Representative, the international official who has the powers to annul acts contrary to the Dayton Agreement and to sanction officials who violate this agreement, he explained.
Dzaferovic said that “the effectiveness of the international community in BiH has been demonstrated in recent months,” noting that, when the authorities in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity launched “a series of secessionist activities, seeking to overthrow state institutions” that ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, such as the army, justice institutions and tax authority.
“Members of the Peace Implementation Council have imposed sanctions on those responsible for secessionist activities, and the High Representative has used his powers to repeal acts contrary to the Dayton Accords, making a crucial contribution to stabilising the situation. Thanks to multilateral action and the work of the international community, the worst-case scenario has been prevented – the spillover of war from Ukraine to Bosnia and Herzegovina. But to ensure long-term stability we will need much more caution, wisdom and, above all, determination,” he said.
“I spoke about the challenges to the global order mainly through the example of my country, because the example of Bosnia and Herzegovina clearly shows that – when multilateral mechanisms fulfil their mission, things move forward and peace can be protected,” Dzaferovic said.