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The Ohrid Framework Agreement at 20: Professor Paul Williams' Contributions to a Long-Lasting Peace for Macedonia

Professor Williams traveled multiple times to Macedonia for conversations with leaders of various factions in the years following the country’s 1991 declaration of independence and the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement in August 2001. That agreement paved the way towards greater stability as a result of enhanced participation and representation of the Albanian minority population in the government, local institutions and other public bodies. The agreement was brokered by a group of mediators, and involved the country’s four leading political parties at the time. A four-year term was set as a target date to implement the provisions of the agreement.

During a commemorative conference held in Macedonia in August 2021 celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the Ohrid Agreement, Professor Williams highlighted that early on during the development of the Macedonian state, its leaders were already aware of the need for legal solutions to the problems. They also recognized that using international law, including the International Court of Justice, could be a tool to peacefully solve the outstanding issues. He underlined how important it was that the political forces were all united towards the general goal of a peaceful solution. This unity amidst the ethnic tensions that were ongoing in the country is remarkable. At the time, Macedonia was embedded in a context of regional conflicts involving Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo, whose leaders showed less regard for international legal solutions but instead opted for the use of force to settle questions of boundaries and national minorities.

The Ohrid Agreements have become an example for peace processes in many parts of the world, although rarely those processes have been as successful as the Macedonian case. Even today, with the historical perspective of the senseless sufferings during the Balkan wars and the historic conflicts of the Middle East, the world continues to be stricken into local and regional conflict zones in Yemen, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Syria. The Macedonian experience could be a valuable guide for finding a viable solution towards a better future for all, but it seems that for the time being it will be hard to expand this good practice.

View the full recording of Professor Paul Williams’ remarks here.