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Crisis Governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia

The Study of Floods in 2014


Edited By Vedran Džihić and Magdalena Solska

This comparative study at hand has been the result of a two-year research project on floods in 2014 in the Western Balkans engaging eight research teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia. Representing quite different disciplines, the authors of this volume have analysed diverse aspects of the crisis governance and its ramifications. This publication’s goals are twofold. Firstly, it pins down the characteristics of the crisis responses during the floods of 2014 in three affected countries, preconditioned by the existing institutions, crisis leadership, the role of media and the social capital as well as the foreign financial aid. On the other hand, through the lenses of the crisis governance we conclude on the state capacities and the nature of political regime of the cases under study. The flood megacrisis did not constitute a "window of opportunity" for individual or institutional learning. On the contrary, it did unveil some authoritarian tendencies in Serbia and Bosnia, and thus stalled the hitherto ongoing democratization process.

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Appendix 2: Flood Protection Systems in the Precrisis Phase: The Cases of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dušan Pavlović / Damir Kapidžić / Gordan Bosanac)


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Appendix 2: Flood Protection Systems in the Precrisis Phase: The Cases of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Is a water crisis at least partly an institutional crisis? If natural disasters such as floods are unavoidable, can societal institutions, if acting in a timely manner, diminish the damage? What prevented the institutions from acting when a massive flood wave hit Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia in May 2014? We claim that institutional causes were partly responsible for the damage, especially the systemic neglect of water management and prevention mechanisms that were unprepared for an appropriate and timely reaction. We look into the three institutional designs and find several causes for the flawed institutional arrangement: clientelism and underinvestment in flood prevention system, the detachment of civil and military protection systems and the complexity of institutional design.

Keywords: disaster response, flood control, institutional design


The May floods were a natural disaster, a result of a cyclone formed over approximately 40 000 km2 of European territory. River torrents, its most disastrous consequence, were strong but predictable. Floods are common in the Balkan territory. It has 11 500 registered torrential streams (Ristić, 2014, p. 23). It is, however, a commonplace to state that floods cannot be stopped and protection can never be total.1 Nevertheless, could some of the damage have been lessened or avoided? Yes, but only if the prevention system was...

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