Two people walking toward a wall with 'don't forget' spray-painted on it (© Darko Bandic/AP Images)
Pedestrians pass near the site of a historic bridge that was destroyed in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (© Darko Bandic/AP Images)

Twenty-five years ago, U.S. negotiators helped forge a landmark peace agreement that ended 3 1/2 years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Dayton Accords, reached near Dayton, Ohio, on November 21, 1995, among Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, instituted protections for minorities and laid a foundation for the voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons. The war, following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced millions.

“The Dayton peace agreement stands as a major accomplishment of American diplomacy, and the principles of that agreement will continue to guide us,” former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in 1997, 17 months after the signing of the Accords.

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher led the peace conference in Dayton, which included leaders from Europe and Russia. American diplomat Richard Holbrooke served as lead negotiator.

Group of men in business suits standing indoors, two men shaking hands (© Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images)
Serbian President Slobodan Milošević shakes hands with Croatian President Franjo Tuđjman while President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Alija Izetbegović watches, just after the three signed the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995 in Paris. (© Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images)

The Dayton Accords focused on ending violence, rebuilding society and forging a path toward a peaceful future. The Accords administratively divided Bosnia and Herzegovina into the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska, and they also instituted a power-sharing agreement to ensure that no minority could be at the mercy of the majority. Annex 4 of the peace agreement provided the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which the country still uses today.

Woman crying in cemetery (© Enric Marti/AP Images)
A Serbian woman weeps at the grave of her husband at the Vlakovo cemetery on December 31, 1995. The war killed more than 100,000 people. (© Enric Marti/AP Images)

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union have played crucial roles in implementing and overseeing the security and development of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since the 1990s, the United States has provided approximately $2 billion to help rebuild the region, the U.S. Department of State said in a November 2019 fact sheet. The funding, for humanitarian aid and economic development, has supported refugees in returning home and rebuilding their lives.

“The United States supports Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path toward full integration into Western institutions,” the State Department says in the fact sheet.