Macedonia 1991-2001 : a case-study of conflict prevention : lessons learned and broader theoretical implications

Ripiloski, S 2009, Macedonia 1991-2001 : a case-study of conflict prevention : lessons learned and broader theoretical implications, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Macedonia 1991-2001 : a case-study of conflict prevention : lessons learned and broader theoretical implications
Author(s) Ripiloski, S
Year 2009
Abstract Notwithstanding a broad range of internal and external stresses, Macedonia was the only republic to attain its independence peacefully from the otherwise violent disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Subject of a timely and sustained international response, it was feted as a rare preventive success for the international community. Whilst not necessarily decisive, this mobilisation helped ensure a non-violent transition to independence. Yet, much to the surprise of outside observers, Macedonia would fall into conflict a decade after independence, when self-styled freedom fighters purporting to represent the local Albanian community launched an eight-month insurgency in the name of political and cultural equality. Triggered by a coalescence of political, nationalist, ideological and criminal interests, the insurgency had complex roots, as much an intra-Al banian putsch as a struggle for greater group rights.

Regardless of their precise genesis, from the perspective of conflict prevention, the events of 2001 challenge popular assumptions of Macedonia as an international success story. Above all, they reinforce the need for external actors to incorporate short-term strategies of prevention targeting immediate sources of instability within a more comprehensive, long-term framework that addresses structural, underlying conflict causes. Indeed, whilst proximate threats to Macedonian stability were addressed, fundamental risk factors remained, namely social polarisation, a large ethnic minority disenfranchised with the state, economic under-development, high levels of organised crime and corruption, a weak rule-of-law and continuing regional uncertainty. These were partly aggravated by the mistakes of a complacent international community, whose engagement in the country, accordingly, receded over time. In particular, the dissertation is critical of the European Union for its initial failure to articulate a genuine pathway to membership for Macedonia and the broader western Balkans, as well as the handling of NATO's military intervention in neighbouring Kosovo. Of course, in any preventive endeavour, the international community can only do so much; in the first instance, responsibility lay with unresponsive Macedonian institutions, who failed to adequately address legitime Albanian demands dating from independence. Be that as it may, the international community was culpable for its failure to sufficiently apply the formidable soft-power leverage it wields over a weak Macedonian state to implement reforms that, conceivably, could have precluded the outbreak of armed conflict. As a case-study of prevention, Macedonia holds instructive lessons for scholars and policymakers. Yet it remains under-researched. Examining the period 1991-2001, this investigation analyses precisely why and how Macedonia avoided violence during the process of Yugoslav dissolution yet ultimately fell into conflict, and extrapolates broader lessons that may be applied to other at-risk societies. Its purpose is to advance understanding of a poorly understood country, and contribute knowledge to key on-going international security debates. Highlighting the inter-connectedness and trans-national character of contemporary security threats, it posits that the major powers have a practical interest in addressing emerging intra-state crises, even when the putative national interest appears marginal. To facilitate more timely multilateral responses, it calls for the de-nationalisation of security, and its conceptualisation in international - as opposed to strictly national - terms.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Macedonia -- Ethnic relations
Macedonia -- Politics and government
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