Preventing A Conflict Relapse In Croatia
Year(s): 1996 – 2002.
UN Regional Group: Eastern Europe.
Type of Conflict: Risk of a Conflict Relapse.
Type of Initiative: A peacekeeping mission, a monitoring mission, and a transitional international administration.
Main Implementing Organisation(s): The UN and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Summary: The United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation, United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka, and United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja, and Western Sirmium helped to prevent a conflict relapse in Croatia.
Description of Case
The peace agreement that ended the War in Croatia called for the UN to administer the territory that had been held by the Republika Srpska Krajina until it could be peacefully incorporated into the administrative framework of the Croatian state.[i] Initially, peacekeepers of the United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation (UNCRO) monitored the situation while the Security Council developed and planned a more focussed operation.[ii] In January 1996, the United Nations Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) replaced UNCRO, and by May 1996 it was up to its full strength of 5,000 peacekeepers, 450 police, and 650 civilian administrators.[iii] UNTAES was tasked with demilitarising the areas under its control and peacefully bringing them under the jurisdiction of the Croatian government, retaining the multiethnic character of the region, assisting with reconstruction and refugee return, and organising local elections.[iv] Another UN operation, the United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka (UNMOP), was deployed to the Prevlaka Peninsula to support UNCRO and prevent a conflict relapse in that region.[v]
The most urgent task faced by UNTAES was implementing a Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration program. Within thirty days, all heavy weaponry was removed from the area and small arms belonging to the local Serb population were purchased by UNTAES through a buy-back program funded by the Croatian government.[vi] By the end of June 1996, UNTAES was the only military organisation in the region, severely limiting the prospects of renewed conflict. Stability was enhanced further by the establishment of a multiethnic Transitional Police Force in July 1996.[vii] With the post-conflict transition progressing well, UNTAES conducted local elections in the region under its jurisdiction in April 1997. Voter turnout exceeded expectations, no evidence of fraud was found, and there were no eruptions of election violence.[viii] UNTAES began downsizing its operations and handing over responsibilities to local institutions in July 1997 and concluded its mandate in January 1998. The United Nations Civilian Police Support Group remained in the area until October 1998 to ensure the transition continued smoothly, and UNMOP completed its operation in 2002.[ix] An international presence remained in Croatia to monitor developments until 2007, when the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe Mission to Croatia was closed.[x] These efforts helped to ensure that Croatia did not experience a conflict relapse
[i] Basic Agreement on the Region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (Erdut Agreement), 1995.
[ii] UN Peacekeeping. Croatia: United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation – UNCRO. (UN, 2020) Available at: https://peacekeeping.un.org/sites/default/files/past/uncro.htm (Accessed 16/11/2020)
[iii] UN Peacekeeping. Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium: Brief Chronology. (UN, 2020 Available at: https://peacekeeping.un.org/sites/default/files/past/untaes_e.htm (Accessed 16/11/2020)
[v] UN Peacekeeping. UNMOP: United Nations Mission of Observers in Prevlaka. (UN, 2002) Available at: https://peacekeeping.un.org/mission/past/unmop/index.html (Accessed 16/11/2020)
[vi] Jacques Paul Klein. “The United Nations and Administration of Territory: Lessons from the Front Line.” Proceedings of the Annual Meeting (American Society of International Law), Vol. 97. (2003) p.206
[vii] Derek Boothby. “The Political Challenges of Administering Eastern Slavonia.” Global Governance, Vol. 10, No. 1. (2004) p.43
[viii] UN Peacekeeping. Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium: Brief Chronology.
[ix] UN Peacekeeping. Croatia – Danube Region: United Nations Civilian Police Support Group – UNPSG. (UN, 2020) Available at: https://peacekeeping.un.org/mission/past/cropol.htm (Accessed 16/11/2020)