Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
More than 20 years after the war (1991-95), Bosnia and Herzegovina is still facing severe political and societal challenges in its post-conflict development. Based on the Dejtonski Mirovni Sporazum – known as Dayton Agreement -, the peace agreement which was meant to end the war, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats became “constitutive people” in the Bosnian state. Abundant administrative and political structures and complex rules defining political representation based on ethnic affiliation are major consequences.
As a further consequence, politics, foremost political discourses as well as political parties are highly ethnicised: For the appointment of administrative and political functions ethnic affiliation is often a defining criteria. Almost any political topic is discussed mainly in reference to alleged Bosniak, Serb and Croats interest: national holidays, but also technicalities of reform processes necessary to access the EU or to access major development funds are looked at and discussed in this way.
Unfeeling and intransigent attitudes of leading politicians, who allegedly are representing the interest of Bosniak, Croats and Serbs, are blocking necessary constitutional reforms, respecting e.g. the Sejdić-Finci-rule of the European Court for Human Rights or e.g. making communal elections in Mostar possible in order to fulfil basic civic rights. Socio-economic development is slowed down and partly blocked by ethnicised politics, such as happened just recently when BiH was the only West Balkan country that was not able to join the Transport Community of the EU.
Reconciliation is in particular challenged by contradictory narratives about the war and pre-war events. War criminals, partly even convicted, are seen to be heroes by Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats for defending “their people” during the war. Separated curricula and schools for Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats in many regions are decisively contributing to maintaining mutually exclusive and contradictory historical records. In many places, civil society organisations, sports and music clubs, bars and restaurants are almost exclusively providing services for one of the three groups. Media, i.e. radio, newspapers and television channels, are known to be Bosniak, Serb or Croatian.
In the southern part of Herzegovina, where CSSP is working at the moment, political struggles and societal organisation are heavily defined by being Bosniak or being Croat. Many Croats see the area as a potential third (Croatian) entity and Mostar as its potential centre. Many Bosniaks, though, want Mostar and the region to stay part of the Bosnian Federation. Flags, religious symbols and culture easily recognisable as Croatian, Bosniak or Bosnian are used to claim the territory. Many villages are easily definable as Bosniak, Croat or mixed villages. Daily life – among others bars, restaurants and sport clubs – is organised along ethnic lines. In Mostar, a de-facto divided city, public transport and health systems are either foremost used by Croats or by Bosniaks, who in great parts are living on different sides of the city.
Since 2007, CSSP has been supporting and promoting political dialogue among political and social stakeholders across ethnic and political lines. CSSP aims at transforming ethnicised political conflicts and reducing the influence of nationalist ideology in selected municipalities and regions. Important objectives of CSSP’s work are reinforcing democratic standards in society and within political parties as well as enhancing supra-ethnic political representation. Therefore, CSSP promotes a culture of negotiation and creative problem-solving amongst selected key actors (local and national politicians, civil society organisations, and students). CSSP considers trust building as well as establishing and deepening of relationship to be important steps and achievements for dialogue and mediation activities.
At the moment, CSSP is implementing its activities in three different municipalities located in South Herzegovina. In Mostar, CSSP is supporting different civil society organisation in their efforts to articulate and represent publicly interests of concern for all citizens living in the divided city. Through trainings in negotiation and advocacy civil society actors get strengthened in their capacities to make them heard as bodies of supra-ethnic interest representation. In Čaplijna, CSSP is stimulating communication and cooperation at the municipality level by organising and facilitating different roundtables among municipality and local representatives (Mjesne Zajednice). Representatives from different levels of local bodies elaborated joint guidelines to improve communication and cooperation through concrete measures. In Stolac, inter-ethnic workshops and activities are conducted with the aim of building trust and establishing working relationships among NGOs and between NGOs and municipality.
CSSP has a long history and connection with the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its methodological foundations and initial commitment stem from the work of Prof. Dr. Christian Schwarz-Schilling as International Mediator from 1996 to 2004 (www.international-mediator.de).
For more information, please contact our Bosnian Team: