The concept of civil society has acquired an unprecedented worldwide popularity, especially in development programs. This article investigates the international effort to build civil society in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to foster peace and democratization, this in response to disappointment with traditional economic, military, and political strategies. The results of this major investment of resources, however, have been unsatisfactory. The international community's lack of a coherent long-term strategy and the adoption of a conception of civil society that is often at odds with Bosnian context and history hinder the transition to genuine reconciliation among the three ethnic groups. Examining two major areas of intervention - facilitating the advocacy role of local civic groups and fostering citizens' participation - I show that the international community has failed to comprehend both the political and the social meaning of its involvement. Although the focus on civil society is meant to overcome the limits of external regulation and to emphasize indigenous and community-based contributions to peacebuilding, the international community's approach is to make local development dependent upon the international presence. The result is a failure to address the structural problems that affect the country and to hinder, rather than foster, the formation of an open and democratic civil society.