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The Public Has No Right to Know: Is Transperancy Good for Reaching Peace?

Marko Savković

‚ Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, Serbia


When Neil Barnard, who led South Africa’s National Intelligence Service in the 1980s, was asked in 1995 how negotiations to end apartheid were successfully concluded, he replied that “each and every side had to give so much that you can never do it under the public eye”. It is an old decision-makers’ fear—that public opinion, prone to manipulation and once informed of the more sensitive terms of a peace agreement, will discard it completely. Yet in a multiethnic context, this is a presumption that goes against the very essence of consensus-based democracy. And it is repeating. For instance, the Middle East region recently witnessed a “WikiLeaks”-styled affair of its own, with 11 years of otherwise secret transcripts of Arab-Israeli communication being posted online. The Palestinian public was immediately outraged, but the world media failed to notice why. Negotiators were criticized not because they were prepared to compromise heavily with the Israelis (even abandoning the Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem) but for presenting themselves as hardliners and thus misleading the general public. Citizens of Macedonia went through a similar experience. The Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA), which brought the 2001 civil conflict to an end, was met with great acclaim. The OFA represented a road map for transforming Macedonia into a bi-national state. It was preceded by long negotiations, heavily influenced by international actors, of which the public was kept generally unaware. From the moment it was signed, the OFA was bound to set off controversy, simply because of the scope of the changes it proposed. Nevertheless, its core messages were diligently communicated to citizens. In our paper, we critically re-examine the motivation of decision-makers in Macedonia by shedding light on those terms of the OFA that were – and continue to be today – among the most difficult to implement. By doing so we will answer the simple question of whether or not transparency is a general precondition to the successful implementation of a peace agreement.


About author:


Marko Savković is a researcher (since 2006) and PR (since 2009) at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy. His work has been published in the academic journals Western Balkans Security Observer, Vojno delo (Military Papers), Revija za bezbednost (The Security Review) and Međunarodna politika (International Politics), as well as magazines Odbrana (Defence) and Evropske sveske (European Papers). He has written a chapter on Kosovo-Serbia relations in „Panorama of Global Security Environment“of Slovakia’s CENAA. Moreover, Marko coordinated the project „School for European Security“ from November 2008 until November 2009 and co-authored the Pojmovnik evropske bezbednosti (Glossary of European Security). Marko’s areas of research interest include accountability and transparency in the security sector, peace support operations, the politics of EU security and defence in the Western Balkans. He is also the editor of web sites and Contact: