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Bosnian returns

September 1999

The first ESI report took a close look at international efforts to promote returns in Bosnia. This was the overwhelming problem facing post-war Bosnia: hundreds of thousands of displaced persons living in properties that did not belong to them. Nationalists spread fear and hostility to prevent return. Donors rebuilt houses that were torched in the night, or stood vacant. SFOR was reluctant to provide security across rural areas.

The report analysed how best to promote large scale return. It predicted (as it turned out accurately) a possible success story despite the odds:

"For the first time there are signs of a multiplier effect, where successful returns in one area are encouraging spontaneous returns to the surrounding areas."
"In the past, the arbitrary exercise of public power and widespread discrimination led many individuals to believe that they would never be called to account for taking property that did not belong to them, contributing to the breakdown in the rule of law. Slowly but steadily, that attitude is being eroded."
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