Ending the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina


The Government of the USA successfully mediated a series of peace agreements which ended the multifaceted armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

The Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia on 1 March 1992, following the secession of Slovenia and Croatia the previous year. Much like the those former Yugoslav republics, Bosnia and Herzegovina soon fell into armed conflict as the President of Serbia and de facto leader of rump Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milošević, orchestrated a campaign with parts of the Serb communities in Croatia and Bosnia to seize as much territory as was possible and ultimately build a “Greater Serbia” from the ashes of Yugoslavia.1 A complex conflict ensued, initially between Bosnian Serb forces backed by Yugoslavia and a broad coalition of armed groups serving under the banner of the Bosnian government. In 1993, this coalition fractured, with a predominantly Croat armed group, the Croat Defence Council, coming into conflict with the Bosnian government, making the war a three-sided struggle.2

A succession of peace processes led by the European Community failed to halt the fighting or resolve the conflict.3 In 1994, the US government took the lead in efforts to bring peace to Western Balkans. Its first success was mediating talks between the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its former ally turned adversary, the Croat Defence Council. In March 1994, this initiative culminated with the Washington Framework Agreement for the Federation, which not only ended one facet of the war, but also renewed the former alliance between them.4 The war continued into 1995, when atrocities and acts of genocide carried out by Bosnian Serb forces inspired a much more forceful response from the international community. Following an extensive bombing campaign by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and a Croatian offensive into the Bosnian theatre, Milošević attended peace talks hosted by the Government of the USA in Dayton, Ohio.5 Richard Holbrook led negotiations alongside representatives from the US, EU, and Russia.6 After three weeks of talks, Milošević agreed to sign the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the presidents of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.7 A formal ceremony was held in Paris on 14 December 1995, marking the official end to a conflict in which 100,000 people were killed and millions were displaced from their homes.

1 James Gow. The Serbian Project and its Adversaries. (London: Hurst, 2003)

2 UCDP. Bosnia-Herzegovina: Serb. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/389 (Accessed 13/12/2020)

3 The Vance-Owen Plan, 1993. Available at: https://www.peaceagreements.org/wview/606/The%20Vance-Owen%20Plan (Accessed 13/12/2020)

4 Framework Agreement for the Federation (Washington Agreement), 1994. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/bosniawashingtonagreement94 (Accessed 27/10/2020)

5 Gow. The Serbian Project and its Adversaries. p.192

6 Richard Holbrooke. To End A War. (New York: Modern Library, 1999)

7 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1995. Available at: https://www.osce.org/bih/126173 (Accessed 27/10/2020)

Start Year


End Year



Bosnia and Herzegovina

UN Regional Group

Eastern Europe

Type of Conflict

Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict with foreign involvement

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Government of the USA




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