Monitoring the Northern Ireland Ceasefires: Lessons from the Balkans
Monitoring the Northern Ireland Ceasefires: Lessons from the Balkans
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
The Western Balkans: Fragile Majorities
The Western Balkans: Fragile Majorities
Briefing 30 / Europe & Central Asia

Monitoring the Northern Ireland Ceasefires: Lessons from the Balkans

This briefing compares the mandate of the Independent Monitoring Commission for Northern Ireland (IMC) with those of two recent European examples of the monitoring and enforcement of compliance with peace agreements: the unsuccessful Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) of 1998-1999, and the much more fruitful mission of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1995. It attempts to identify lessons from those earlier experiences that may help the IMC carry out its mission in the context of carrying forward the Good Friday peace process.

I. Overview

This briefing compares the mandate of the Independent Monitoring Commission for Northern Ireland (IMC) with those of two recent European examples of the monitoring and enforcement of compliance with peace agreements: the unsuccessful Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) of 1998-1999, and the much more fruitful mission of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 1995. It attempts to identify lessons from those earlier experiences that may help the IMC carry out its mission in the context of carrying forward the Good Friday peace process.

The IMC in Northern Ireland has two significant advantages over the Kosovo mission. The broader range of sanctions available enables it to recommend penalties appropriate to the seriousness of the violation, creating a more sophisticated deterrent, and it enjoys direct links to military and police intelligence on both sides of the Irish border. However, like the KVM, it is not fully accepted by some key local political actors. The IMC should establish lines of communication with all political parties and paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland as a matter of priority.

The Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina has many tasks, but among them is the power to impose sanctions on those local actors it deems to be obstructing the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, including measures similar to those which the IMC in Northern Ireland may recommend. The exercise of OHR’s powers has had a generally positive effect on the Bosnian political situation, and the IMC has similar potential in Northern Ireland. However, it is important that the procedure by which it exercises those powers is as open and transparent as possible.

In both Kosovo and Bosnia, the crucial question was not so much the efficacy of the procedures for monitoring the security guarantees given by the parties, but the presence or absence of the political will to sustain a peace process: lacking in Kosovo in 1998-1999, but increasingly visible in Bosnia. The IMC’s success or failure will depend on the wider political picture in Northern Ireland, over which it has little influence and no control.

Brussels, 23 January 2004

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