Bosnia and Herzegovina

Current Situation

More than 20 years after the war (1991-95), Bosnia i Herzegovina (BiH) is still facing severe political and societal challenges in its post-conflict development. Based on the Dayton Agreement (Dejtonski Mirovni Sporazum), which has ended the war, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats became “constitutive people” in the Bosnia and Herzegovinian state. Abundant administrative and political structures as well as complex rules defining political representation based on ethnic affiliation represent major consequences.

Furthermore, politics – political discourses as well as political parties – are highly ethnicised. For the appointment of administrative, political and often professional functions, ethnic affiliation is frequently a decisive criteria. Almost any political topic is discussed in reference to alleged Bosniak, Serb and Croats interest: politicians look at and argue about national holidays, technicalities of reform processes necessary to access the EU or technicalities to access major development funds in this way.

Insensitive and uncompromising attitudes of leading politicians, who by putting in front alleged national interest, block necessary constitutional reforms and the fulfilment of basic civil rights. Amongst others, neither Sejdić-Finci-rule of the European Court for Human Rights nor local elections in Mostar have yet been implemented. Socio-economic development is also slowed down and partly blocked by ethnicised politics that result in BiH being left out of many international economic, financial and other initiatives. The most recent example has been BiH failing to join the Transport Community of the EU as the only Western Balkan country.

Reconciliation is particularly challenged by contradictory narratives about war and pre-war events. War criminals, even those convicted in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), 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 many parts of the Herzegovina, where CSSP is mainly working at the moment, political struggles and societal organisation are heavily defined by either being Bosniak or being Croat. Many Croats see these areas 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 referred to as Bosniak, Croat or mixed villages. Daily life is mostly organised along ethnic lines. In Mostar, a de-facto divided city, public transport, communal services and health systems are foremost used by either Croats or Bosniaks, who in great parts are living on different sides of the city. Stolac and Prozor Rama are also seperated into areas where foremost Bosniaks or Croats are living.

CSSP Approach

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. Trust building as well as establishing and deepening of relationship are considered to be important steps for and achievements of dialogue and mediation activities.

CSSP implements activities in different, mostly multi-ethnic municipalities located in the Herzegovina. In Mostar, CSSP in cooperation with the Association of Mediators of B&H promotes (community) mediation through training and capacity building of (already registred as well as new) mediators, offering free of charge mediation services and sensitisation of the broader public as well as of specific stakeholders through social and traditional media and public events. In Stolac, inter-ethnic workshops and activities are conducted with the aim of building trust and establishing working relationships among NGOs. Roundtables and dialogues contribute to a positive relationship between NGOs and municipality. In Prozor Rama, civil society actors and relevant stakeholders with multi-ethnic backgrounds are supported in confronting and discussing sensitive and political issues. Within a long-term, already concluded process in Čaplijna, CSSP has been stimulating communication and cooperation at the level of municipality by organising and facilitating roundtables, during which representatives from different levels of local bodies elaborated joint guidelines to improve communication and cooperation through concrete measures.

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).

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