UN Resolution on the Balkans would be a mistake

Ujedinjene nacije
Source: rtklive

Written by Marko Djuric, Serbia's Ambassador to the US

A draft U.N. resolution, proposed by Germany, Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and supported by a group of countries including the U.S., France and Türkiye, that declares July 11 the International Day of Reflection and Remembrance of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide threatens to undermine our collective understanding of reconciliation and the decades-long effort to bring justice to the Balkans.

The resolution is ill-advised. It would undermine the delicate peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and threatens to derail essential reconciliation efforts that have been painstakingly advanced by all parties. In addition, the opaque and unilateral manner the resolution was proposed raises serious concerns about the integrity of the process.

Serbia’s position on the resolution has been misrepresented. As a guarantor of the Dayton Agreement – the treaty that ended the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Serbia is firmly committed to preserving peace and promoting reconciliation in the Balkans. Serbia’s devotion to this ideal has been proven by its actions. It has reliably supported the Dayton Agreement over the past three decades. That’s why Serbia sounds the alarm whenever peace is undermined by unilateral actions outside the scope of the Dayton Agreement. Anything that stokes ethnic tensions is anathema to Serbia and that, unfortunately, is the case with this proposed resolution.

The process leading to the draft resolution was deeply flawed. Unlike the inclusive approach taken in formulating the U.N. resolution on the genocide in Rwanda in which regional consultations were conducted through the African Union, the Srebrenica resolution was advanced without sufficient dialogue with all stakeholders in the region, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For example, Bosnia and Herzegovina's Permanent Representative to the U.N. took unilateral action by advancing the resolution without obtaining authorization from the three-member Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as required by the nation's constitution. This breach of protocol sidestepped the established procedures meant to ensure consensus among the members of the Presidency, which represents the Bosniak, Serb, and Croat populations. By bypassing the established protocols, the Permanent Representative disregarded the essential checks and balances designed to protect the interests of all of those concerned.

Worse yet, the proposed resolution directly challenges the framework of the Dayton Agreement, which ended the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina by recognizing the equal status and rights of the three peoples — Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. By focusing solely on the tragedy in Srebrenica, the resolution undermines the agreement’s tenets aimed at maintaining balance and peace among the ethnic groups.

Even the resolution’s path through the U.N. is flawed. By advancing the resolution in the General Assembly rather than the Security Council, the process contravenes the U.N. Charter, which explicitly assigns the Security Council exclusive jurisdiction over matters of peace and security in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The resolution's unilateral and, frankly, abnormal, movement as well as its singular focus on Bosniak victims in Srebrenica seems almost tailor-made to stoke ethnic tensions. This is not a threat, as some have claimed. By advancing a resolution that focuses exclusively on one ethnic group's tragedy, its initiators would signal a lack of impartiality, straining the fragile threads of trust that have been slowly woven between the Bosniak, Serb, and Croat communities over the years.

For victims of the tragic war, the resolution’s exclusive focus on one ethnic group’s tragedy while ignoring the suffering endured by everyone involved is insulting and a terrible example of selective memory. In a region still healing from the wounds of a brutal conflict, prioritizing the suffering of one group over others jeopardizes decades of peacebuilding efforts. All 100,000 victims of the civil war in Bosnia should have equal and fair treatment. The U.N. would make a mistake to establish a hierarchy of victims.

Even if procedural and consultative inadequacies of advancing the proposed resolution were rectified, the relevant UN body would have to reconsider it through a lens of broader inclusivity and consultation. A more balanced approach to history, one that respects and recognizes the complexities of the Bosnian War and honors the dignity of all its victims, is imperative.

In its current form, the proposed UN resolution on Srebrenica, while well-intentioned in its aim to honor victims, risks undermining the complex peace and reconciliation processes that have been carefully nurtured in the region since the Dayton Agreement. Serbia is committed to promoting lasting peace in the Balkans and continues to work towards resolving historical disputes and misunderstandings to prevent conflicts that could destabilize the region. As such, we ask that the UN reassess the broader implications of this resolution before irreparable damage is done to the region’s reconciliation efforts.