UN-peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the failure of Srebrenica. Bureaucratic Culture in International Organizations

An analysis with the constructivist approach of Pathologies of International Organizations

Term Paper, 2019

16 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Constructivism and Pathologies in International Relations

3. The Bosnia War
3.1 Overview
3.2 UN-mission UNPROFOR
3.3 Massacre of Srebrenica

4. Analysis

5. Conclusion


Internet register

1. Introduction

“After Srebenica fell to besieging Serbian forces in July 1995, [...]: thousands of men executed and buried in mass graves, hundreds of men buried alive, men and women mutilated and slaughtered, children killed before their mothers' eyes, a grandfather forced to eat the liver of his own grandson. These are truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history” (United Nations, 1995).

In a globalised world, harmonious coexistence is hardly possible any more. Conflicting interests, lack of resources, resource power or similar lead to differences all over the world. Different world views, religious or ethnic differences or territorial conflicts are often the order of the day. In this context, communities of states or organisations help to avoid differences. Humanitarian aid is provided, states "interfere" in other state affairs in order to end struggles there or to create order as passive intervening forces. This work deals explicitly with the United Nations and its peacekeeping policy in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The United Nations is a very important and powerful International Organisation. The central tasks of the UN are, for example, dispute settlement, promotion of international cooperation, peace missions, respect for human rights and international security. Other important topics are climate change, terrorism, gender equality and more. The UN has 193 Member States and the guideline and principles are written down in the UN Charter (“United Nations”, n.d.- a). The UN was founded in 1942 during World War II. The number of founding members was 26, the cooperating goal was to fight together against the Axis Powers (United Nations, n.d.-b).

One of the main types of UN missions are the peacekeeping missions. Peacekeeping missions are a multilateral intervention with different goals like peacemaking, humanitarian aid, nation building or the restoration of government. The interventions are designed to strengthen political and social relationships and to rehabilitate conditions (Talentino, 2006: 53). Although the UN is quite powerful on paper and has very many member states of its own, it happens again and again that UN missions fail. Examples of failed UN peacekeeping missions include missions in the DR Congo in 1999, Somalia in 1993, Rwanda in 1994 and, of course, the mission in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, which was focused in this work (Jacobsen, 2012: 3-4).

The failure in Bosnia led to one of the worst massacres in the post-war period. 8000 people were cruelly executed in Srebrenica, although the zone was a specially established safe are and was guarded under the directions of the UN Blue Helmets. Soldiers specially trained for UN missions.

Basically, the focus of this work is on the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the failure of the UN to defend the safe area Srebrenica. As an aid to analysis, I will use the constructivist approach of Barnett's and Finnemore's study “Pathologies of International Organizations, published in 1999.

This work deals with the bureaucratic organization of UN peacekeeping missions. It is tested whether bureaucratic misunderstanding can lead to failure and whether this is the case in Srebrenica. It is assumed that discrepancies between the perception of the bureaucrats and the current situation on the ground can be risky with regard to the successful completion of the mission. A further question is also whether bureaucratic hurdles can hinder the successful completion of a mission and whether the Srebrenica massacre could have been prevented with a more flexible bureaucratic interpretation of the rules.

The structure of this work will be as follows: After this introduction, constructivism is explained in principles, followed by a more detailed view of the bureaucratic approach of Barnett and Finnemore. After completion of the theoretical part, the emphasis will be on Bosnia. Chapter three is divided into three parts. The first part is a little overview about the beginning of the Bosnia War, second part gives an overview about the UNPROFOR UN mission in Bosnia and the last section of chapter three deals with the massacre in Srebrenica in 1995. Chapter four will review the case of Srebrenica, the Bosnia mission in general and the UN's failure with the abovementioned constructivist approach.

The clearly formulated research question is: How can the failure of the UN in Srebrenica be explained with the help of the constructivist approach of the Pathologies of International Organizations?

This work will deal with the following hypothesis: Inefficient bureaucratic regulations for peacekeeping operations led to the inadequate protection of the security zones in Bosnia and ultimately to the Srebrenica massacre.

The analysis will be purely qualitative and will include technical literature and direct UN reports. The independent variable is UN peacekeeping, the dependent is the massacre of Srebrenica respectively the UN failure. The used theoretical approach is the constructivist Pathologies of International Organizations concept, published by Michael Barnett and Martha Finnemore in 1999 in their work with the name “The Politics, and Pathologies of International Organizations”.

The last part of this paper focuses the conclusion of the Srebrenica case. The chapter discusses finally the research question, evaluates the hypothesis, and then takes a critical look at the future and current discussion examples about peacekeeping.

2. Constructivism and Pathologies in International Organizations

In this paper, the focus will be on a constructivism theory of International Relations. At first, the constructivism was published to act like an alternative method for explaining the acting of states and organizations simply because of shared ideas, norms and other behaviours and not only as a result of power factors or material interests like the sights of the realists and neorealists.

The main ideas of the constructivism as a social theory in international relations according Alexander Wendt are shortly summarized in two principles: The first principle is the idea­sharing between states which are often results in the creation of structures in human association (Wendt, 1999: 1). The second principle is, that the identities and interests of actors are constructed by shared ideas and not by the state of nature (Wendt, 1999: ib.). Wendt uses two different explanations for these principles. He describes the first as “idealistic” and the second as a “holist” or “structuralist” concept (Wendt, 1999: ib.).

The constructivism is a counterpart of the neorealism and neoliberalism, which are based on power factors and material interests. Wendt's social theory shares the main assumptions with Mearsheimer's offensive neorealism theory. Mearsheimer's main conjectures are the archaic state of the world in international politics, the states wish to survive and rationality, also the precariousness about other states intentions and that they have offensive capabilities (Wendt, 1995: 72).

In this paper, a focus is on the bureaucratic politics and culture of the organisation. The point of view is on the bureaucratisation of the UN and the theory of international organisation dysfunction (pathologies of International Organizations) to find a solution for the UN-failure in Srebrenica.

The premise of this constructivist approach is, to research dysfunctional behaviour from international organisations by means of the bureaucratic structures and cultures. The theory refers to the external culture to understand dysfunctional behaviour of an IO. This approach assumed, that International Organisations are rather searching for symbolic legitimacy (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 717-719). In other words, the first goal of an IOs is not to be efficient, but to reach symbolic legitimacy, of course the goal to reach legitimacy can help to be efficient, for example with the multilateral character of IOs (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 717).

To understand the search of legitimacy as the main goal of IOs, it needs to understand the definition of bureaucratic culture particularly for IOs. IOs are controlled by bureaucrats and office searchers. Bureaucrats implement rules which are constructed after rationality and established norms and rules. Also, bureaucracies are a pool of power which include information-control, knowledge and specialisations (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 708). All in all, the features of bureaucratic leads to an independent and neutral actor, which follows rationality and regulation maintenance, that means it is hard for politicians within the IO to follow his own interests. Bureaucracies are some kind of “depoliticalized” places (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: ib.). They are established as rationalized and neutral.

Further, bureaucracies are an effective instrument for generate a homogenous framework and to regulate arbitrariness. The strictly following of rules and frames leads to an effective and legitimate Organisation with power and a homogenous structural base. Bureaucracies are conceptualised to create rules for rational decision-making processes and to create rules to define allowed acting in different cases (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 718). Notwithstanding this, IOs are rarely prone for dysfunctional behaviour. To explain this dysfunctional behaviour, at first, we must accept, that all IOs own her own bureaucratic culture, which should be different from other bureaucracies of other IOs (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 719). The second part is, to analyse the mechanisms of the dysfunctional behaviour which often results in pathologies in IOs. This paper continues with the five mechanisms of breeding pathologies in International Organisations (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 719).

The first mechanism is the irrationality of rationalization. That mechanism means, that bureaucracies often try to match their missions with their existing “rulebook”. That signifies not only, that rules and standard procedure determine the ending of the mission but also the definition of the organisation’s goals. The rules and procedures are powerful already at the design stage (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 720-721).

Mechanism number two is called Bureaucratic Universalism. The problem here is, that bureaucrats are creating rules and categories for universalistic use but not for specific contexts. Bureaucrats try to transfer the created universalistic rules and procedures to specific fields of application (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 721).

The third mechanism according to Barnett and Finnemore is the Normalization of deviance. This mechanism simply means, that the changing of institutional or environmental development leads to small and calculated deviations from established rules. About time, the exceptions transform into the common procedure. They leave the exception status. Deviance become normalized and institutionalized (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 722).

The second last mechanism in this theory part of the paper is the mechanism of Insulation. Organizations often got feedback from internals about the performance. Problematic is, that they often fail to promote the expectations and the efficiency rating of the individuals outside the organisation. Often, IOs failing to get feedback from externals, from people, who are creators of the IO or people who are concerned by the goals of the IO. This problem can guide to pathological behaviour. For example, if the definition of reality becomes incorrect because of limited points of view (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 722-723). They distinguish between two causes of insulation. Professionalism on the one hand (professional training does more than technical knowledge), and on the other hand the difficulty to measure success in IOs. Often, an IO is valued for what the IO represent, not for what they do (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 723).

Finally, Barnett and Finnemore describe the mechanism of cultural contestation. Bureaucracies are always incomplete, because of the organized worksharing. This fact creates pockets of autonomy and political battles within the bureaucracy (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 724). Different divisions lead to misunderstandings because budgets or material resources, also they can lead to different ways of seeing the world within the IO. The clash of perspectives within the Organization is problematic, and the generating of pathological behaviour is possible (Barnett and Finnemore, 1999: 724).

In the next part, this paper will analyse the UN-peacekeeping mission in Bosnia 1995 and the failure to protect the safe area Srebrenica in use of the constructivism approach of the pathological mechanisms.

3. The Bosnia War

The next part of this paper gives a little overview of the Bosnia War, the conditions and the UN-peacekeeping mission UNPROFOR. Part three also ends with a little overview about the massacre and ethnical cleansing in Srebrenica. Afterwards at chapter four, it will begin with the analysis of the failure and the theoretical application of the constructivist bureaucratic approach.

3.1 Overview

The Bosnia War started in 1992 and was the result of the declaration of independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnian Serbs were against it and started to boycott the referendum. Bosnian-Serbian politicians called out the Serbian Republic and Bosnian- Croatians began to start with a partition of the country. More than 100.000 people were killed by the fights, also raping, ethnical cleansing and other forms of violence were on the daily agenda (Fischer, 2017: 1). In 1993, Bosnian peace endeavours failed and disembogued in a war between Muslims and Croats. These groups were allied previously against the Serbs. In 1995, Bosnian Serbs troops conquered the UN safe area Srebrenica under the command of General Ratko Mladic (“CHRONOLOGY-What happened during the war in Bosnia?”, 2008) and killed 8000 male Muslims. In November 1995, Izetbegovic (Bosnian Muslims Leader), Tudjam (President of Croatia) and Milosevic (Serbian President) agreed to the Dayton peace deal in Paris which included the implementation of the IFOR (NATO peacekeeping Implementation Force) in Bosnia - a group of 66000 soldiers. The implementation was the beginning of the end of the Bosnia war (“CHRONOLOGY-What happened during the war in Bosnia?”, 2008).


The United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was founded for peacekeeping in Croatia and Bosnia. UNPROFOR was formed to create peace in Yugoslavia in the year 1992 and the mission ended by the year 1995. 1991 was the beginning of instability and problematic civil commotions because of the declaration of independence of Croatia and Slovenia. In 1991 the UNO approved the resolution 713 (United Nations Security Council, 1991) which included an embargo of delivering weapons and military equipment to Yugoslavia and setting up cease-fire (United Nations, n.d.-c). In the year 1992, the resolution 743 (United Nations Security Council, 1992a) permitted UNPROFOR for a period of twelve months to create peace and security in Croatia to vanquish the Yugoslavia crisis. Once, Croatia was recognized, the shifting to Bosnia was in process.

The independence of Bosnia was confirmed in the year 1992 with supporting votes of 99.4 percent. Fighting continues near Sarajevo and in regions near the borders (Boulden, 2001: 87). On the 30 May of 1992, the Security Council resolved sanctions against Yugoslavia (Resolution 757) to establish peace and an ending of the conflict. Officially the acting was under the Chapter VII of the UN-Charter, to permit humanitarian aid to Sarajevo and provinces in Bosnia (United Nations, n.d.-c).

UNPROFOR and NATO adopted a no-flight-zone above Bosnia in March 1993 with the resolution 816. The first use of force was one year later in 1994. NATO aircrafts shot down overall four military aircrafts (Boulden, 2001: 87-88).

Further, the UNPROFOR created six safe areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zepa, Gorazde, Bihac and Srebrenica (which will be analysed later in this work). The safe areas were established to facilitate humanitarian aid, protect the people from the Bosnian- Serbs, create symbolic peace, for distribution of relief goods and curb new refugee flows (Simon 2005: 23).

3.3 Massacre of Srebrenica

The Srebrenica Massacre was a new low-point in the Bosnia War and the reason for the failure of the UNPROFOR mission in Bosnia. Srebrenica which was declared as a safe area by the UN, was fallen on the 12. July 1995. Bosnian-Serbs assumed control over Srebrenica and the safe zone, thousands of people were in fear of their life and fled. Thousands of boys and men were killed by the Bosnian-Serbs (Boulden, 2001: 108-109), although the blue helmets were stationed there (Boulden, 2001: 108). Women were raped and assaulted (Augustin, 2008). The approximate number of deaths in the massacre of Srebrenica is about 8000 people (“Bosnia-Herzegovina”, n.d.). The stationed Dutch blue helmets named Dutchbat were insufficiently armed to strike back effectively. Without question it was one of the worst crimes since the Holocaust. The conquer of the safe zone Srebrenica and the helplessness of the UN was the tragic climax of the Bosnia War. The next chapter will detailed scrutinize the Srebrenica massacre and the failure of the UN by the constructivism approach of the pathologies of IOs from Barnett and Finnemore, presented in chapter two.


Excerpt out of 16 pages


UN-peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the failure of Srebrenica. Bureaucratic Culture in International Organizations
An analysis with the constructivist approach of Pathologies of International Organizations
University of Bamberg
International Relations
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
un-peacekeeping, bosnia-herzegovina, srebrenica, bureaucratic, culture, international, organizations, pathologies
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Julian Apel (Author), 2019, UN-peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the failure of Srebrenica. Bureaucratic Culture in International Organizations, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/950822


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