New Local Governance Project in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s two independent Associations of Municipalities and Cities (AMCs) and Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) are developing a joint project to advance local governance and the country’s EU integration process.
Following the signing of agreements between all parties, a kick-off workshop took place in Sarajevo on the 23rd of January. In mid-February a second workshop took place where the local government associations came together to plan project outcomes.
– The Associations of Municipalities and Cities are important actors to invest in for successful local governance reforms, says Denisa Sarajlic, the project’s Sarajevo-based Team Leader. In this project, we are focusing on their main roles, enhancing the knowledge of municipalities on EU policies, representing them vis-à-vis higher levels of government, and improving services to their members.
The initiative is implemented with the expertise of SALAR’s subsidiary SKL International, and aims to strengthen the Associations of Municipalities’ ability to provide much-needed support to the local governments of the country. A key element of this support is to channel the voices of local authorities upwards.
– Our associations receive a lot of information and input from the local level but often fail to affect improvements at the higher level. To be effective we must be more proactive than reactive, said Šejla Hasić from the AMC of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressing the importance of evidence-based advocacy.
Aco Pantić, General Secretary for the AMC of Republika Srpska, underscored the benefits of supporting networks of practitioners and experts from different municipalities, organising according to sector:
– This favours exchange of best practices and increases the ownership and commitment of municipalities in the issues we drive.
The project also strengthens cooperation between the two local government Associations, in a Bosnia and Herzegovina where the main administrative entities are divided roughly along ethno-political lines. The country suffered a violent conflict in the 1990s, which ended after the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed. The Peace Agreement establishes a highly decentralized and complex administrative structure, including the two main Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and the Republika Srpska (RS).
– During this initial phase it has become clear that the Associations face similar challenges and it feels great that SALAR’s experiences can contribute to some of the solutions. I also particularly like that the initiative boosts interaction between the Federation and Republika Srpska and the working climate has been very positive! says Annakarin Lindberg, Project Manager with SKL International.
Legislative and executive bodies exist on both state and sub-national levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country comprises of 145 local self-government units, 80 of which are located in FBiH and 64 in the RS, as well as the autonomous Brčko District.