Massachusets Institute of Technology
Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning

Fall 2023 Seminar on


Conflict resolution in Bosnia: Was it achieved almost twenty years after Dayton?

A Conversation with Major-General Carlos Branco, NATO (retired)

The Dayton peace agreed upon by the leaders of the three Bosnian warring factions (Serbs, Croats, and Muslims), on 21 November 1995, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, United States, and formally signed in Paris, on 14 December 1995, finalised a complex and raging mediation process led by Richard Holbrooke on behalf of the United States.

That agreement ambitioned to go beyond stopping violence. It aimed to promote reconciliation of the three communities and to sow the seeds of conflict resolution, a goal to be achieved in the long term. Dayton was not supposed to be a mere act of conflict management and mitigation of violent-related forms of dealing with the Bosnian conflict.

It was believed that the Dayton agreement was going to stimulate and provoke conflict transformation, i.e., replacing parties' animosity and antipathy with positive interactions, such as satisfaction, cooperation, empathy, and interdependence. But the present turbulent relations within the Bosnian society and among factions' leaders suggest a disappointing and frustrating answer to that expectation. We must admit that there was no conflict transformation. Therefore, it is important to understand what went wrong in almost two decades and so many resources (financial and political) spent by the international community on the promotion of societal development and reconciliation to avoid the repetition of future mistakes.

It is not enough to be complacent with the widely accepted idea that removing the causes of a conflict, its manifestations, and sources of incompatibility it's a long-term exercise, as mentioned above. It is crucial to question whether Dayton effectively laid down the seeds for that and whether the country was able to move from a negative to a positive peace.

Carlos Branco Bio note

Carlos Branco is a retired Major General (MG) with the Portuguese Army. He has extensive experience in political-military matters and international relations gained in 10 years serving in various international organizations, such as the UN, NATO, EU and OSCE. In the first two, he worked both in missions and headquarters, in the latter, he served as elections monitor; with the EU, he worked in close cooperation with EU Military Staff on military cooperation matters.

Within the framework of the UN, he served in the Balkans before Dayton as military observer, and in New York, at the UN Headquarters, as desk officer for the UN missions in the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Iraq/Kuwait border). In the former function, he liaised and negotiated with the warring parties (Bosnian Serbs, Muslims, and Croats) to ensure the conclusion of the separation of forces, and to diffuse any incidents that could lead to the reopening of hostilities; and with other accredited NGO's in their humanitarian effort, most notably with ICRC and MSF in Krajina. In the latter function, he provided advice to the heads of the military components of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)-led operations on technical aspects of military operations, such as contingency planning, force rotations, and operational reporting, in coordination with the integrated operational teams, to ensure that military aspects of the missions are properly integrated or coordinated. Still with the UN, he served as senior consultant to the UN mission in the Central African Republic with the task of reviewing, evaluating, and consulting the policies and procedures to all mission components (military and police).

With NATO, MG Branco served in Afghanistan as spokesperson for the Commander of the NATO Force, and as director of ISAF Strategic Communication; and at the NATO Headquarters (Brussels), as Director of Cooperation & Regional Security, in which capacity he was responsible for the strategic planning of NATO military cooperation with its 41 partners countries located in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, Central Asia, South-Eastern Asia, North Africa and Middle East (included in the Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and Partners Across the Globe). This includes Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia. He also supported NATO Defense Sector Reform activities and democratic control of armed forces of former communist States.

MG Branco was still deployed to EUROFOR, in Florence (Italy), as Chief of the Intelligence Section and in that capacity monitored the political, security and humanitarian situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

He was also assigned as National Defence Institute (IDN) Deputy Director, War College Deputy Director, and Army Director of Doctrine. Currently, MG Branco writes for various Portuguese newspapers, has an opinion column in "Jornal Econ—mico", and is a daily presence in CNN Portugal as military specialist on conflict issues. He also lectures in several higher education institutions Conflict Resolution, Peace Operations, and International Relations; and coordinated/participated in various research projects. Among others, he was member of a consulting team that prepared a study on industrial policy for the Angolan's government; was scientific co-coordinator of the research project on the "Portuguese Participation in Peace Operations"; he was responsible for the project led by the IDN "Peace-making and Conflict Resolution in Africa: Portugal and CPLP; and was scientific co-coordinator of the post-graduate studies in Communication and Crises Management.

Moreover, he authored more than 100 articles on technical-military, management, conflict resolution, and security and defence matters, four books and co-edited six. The last co-edited is entitled "The geopolitics of Iran" (Palgrave, 2021), and the last authored is entitled "Afghanistan - episodes of a Lost War" (2021).

Among other higher education, MG Branco attended an MBA in management (Specialization on International Management) and attends a Ph.D. program on Conflict Resolution. He is Member of the Editorial Councils of the "Military Sciences Review" (War College) and "NaŤ‹o & Defesa" (National Defence Institute).