Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, known as Paddy Ashdown, was the international community’s high representative to Bosnia Herzegovina from 27th May 2002. In May 2006 he stepped down as de facto ruler of Bosnia.
Ashdown was appointed high representative to Bosnia by the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), an association of powers and signatories to the Dayton Peace Accords, in May 2002. Reflecting his long-time advocacy of international intervention in the region, credited with a key role in putting Bosnia on its feet after the war.
A former officer in the Royal Marines and British diplomat, Lord Ashdown made his name in British politics where he led the Liberal Democratic Party from 1988 to 1999. During the Bosnian War, Lord Ashdown was one of the most vocal advocates for decisive international intervention.
The Beginning of Bosnia
Ashdown’s history in Bosnia goes back to the opening months of that war. At the time, in 1992, he was the leader of the Liberal Democrats. He flew to Bosnia to see for himself and remained a frequent visitor to the front lines. Eventually he took the position as High Representative because he felt the West had failed morally.
He accused Douglas Hurd, British foreign secretary, of using humanitarian aid as a way to blackmail the victims of aggression to surrender. Also, he accused John Major, British Prime Minister, of calculated inaction, in reference to the Srebrenica massacre.
The Dayton Agreement
Ashdown supports that the Dayton Peace Accords were the best way to forge the end of the war. But a bad agreement for the foundations to build a state. As High Representative, he strived for a modern democratic state and tried to lay the foundations for it to grow.
Ashdown had many successes during his time as High Representative, including strengthening the central state institutions, bringing in statewide legal bodies such as State Investigation and Protection Agency and bringing the two ethnic armies under a central civilian command. He set out to create a unified state, capable of joining the European Union. This was something the Muslim-Croat Federation were motivated to achieve. Yet the Serbs, identifying with Serbia rather than Bosnia has more separatist aspirations. Regardless, he wanted to do the best thing for the Bosnian people, not the Serbs, Muslims or Croats, but the collective people.
Yet, in all that Ashdown has achieved in Bosnia; he created institutions and foundations, but not a civil society. Bosnia remains a scarred and divided country. Despite all efforts, in many municipalities the people who still hold the power also have serious wartime allegations held over their heads. The corruption has not gone away.
Ashdown is widely respected for his work in the region. But unsurprisingly his work has aroused some hostility among the Bosnian population, not only the hardline Serbs. It was inevitable in country who has seen more than its fair share of emotionally detached internationals.