Governing Human Rights for Peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Civil Society Organizations' Perceptions on the Role of Human Rights in Conflict
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AbstractThis thesis investigates local civil society organizations in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) and their perceptions on what human rights are, what causes human rights abuses and human rights violations in BiH, and what role they perceive themselves to have in transforming the current human rights situation. The methodology used was semi-structured interviews collected in the field and later explored with Thematic Content Analysis. In order to analyze the data collected, an analytical framework was created with three main strands in the nexus of conflict transformation, human rights and the role of civil society in peacebuilding. The analytical framework concludes that human rights have to stretch beyond laws to be a lived, day-to-day experience and that civil society should function as a channel between the state and the citizen. In the analysis it became ostensible that the CSOs define human rights as laws and that both abuses and violations are side effects caused by deficits of the state. For them, the human rights problems can be traced back to a shortage of political will and/or a lack of political ability, as they perceive that the state was the perpetrator of both violations and abuses. Since the root cause of the problem is seen to lie within the state, they see themselves as having a limited role in changing the situation. They instead focus to some extent on strengthening capacities and influencing laws and policy through informal relationships with state-actors. Instead, they see the government, and to some extent the EU, as the actors who could transform the current situation by enforcing and implementing laws and policy. In the thesis, this is suggested to be a problematic approach since the CSOs currently lack legitimacy from society and are generally unknown. The conclusion of this thesis raises concern about the CSOs’ perceptions of human rights and work methods. Since their engagement with governance and the outcome thereof can be seen as illegitimate by the general population, this hinders a credible and sustainable solution. Instead, this thesis encourages the CSOs to have a more inclusive perspective on human rights and to work in a more transparent way.