Ambassador Swanee Hunt: 20 Years After Bosnian Peace Accords, Women Still Give Me Hope

   •    May 21, 2015


To mark the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords—which ended the Bosnian war—The Institute for Inclusive Security’s Founder and Chair, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, moderated a discussion by senior diplomats reflecting on the international community’s responses to the conflict.

As US envoy to Austria from 1993-1997, Ambassador Hunt hosted negotiations and international symposia focused on ending the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has spent many years interviewing women affected by the conflict and documenting their efforts to heal the wounds of their country.

In her remarks, Ambassador Hunt recalled flying to Sarajevo in 1994 and finding 40 women’s groups organizing across ethnic and religious lines to end the war. She noted that the internationally mediated peace negotiations did not include a single woman, a major reason why the Dayton Accords were not as effective as they could have been.

Ambassador Hunt cited a stirring example of how women from all sides of the conflict pushed for forgiveness and reconciliation. In 1996, the year after the massacre of 8,000 Bosniak civilians in Srebrenica, she helped organize an event for mothers of the victims. The event’s funder told her that, out of fairness, they must also invite Serbian women. Though she was reluctant to ask her Bosniak co-organizers if they could invite their presumed enemies, she was floored by the response: “We’re all mothers.”

While the panel discussion focused on the many weaknesses of the Dayton Peace Accords and ongoing challenges for stability and peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ambassador Hunt ended on a positive note, stating that Bosnian women like those she’s worked with for the last two decades give her hope for the future.

The panel was co-hosted by the Center for Transatlantic Relations, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced and International Studies, and the Embassy of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Joining Ambassador Hunt were Richard Kauzlarich, former US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina; Jacques Paul Klein, former UN Special Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Edward Joseph, former senior UN and OSCE official in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Watch video of the event below (Ambassador Hunt’s remarks start at 38:38):

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