Mostar's Election
More than 25 years ago, the Bosnian War ended. Today, the country is still working to repair the damage the divisions of people within its borders caused. In 2008, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitutional court declared that the city of Mostar’s election rules were discriminatory toward more than half of its population. In the past 12 years, no elections occurred within the city. The two major political parties of the country, the Bosniak and Croat parties, have not agreed on new election rules. As a result, the same mayor did not run Mostar for the period. He has had no local council and has been solely responsible for allocating the city’s budget of 230 million euros.

With little accountability, the institutions of the city have slowly disbanded. As a result, the city has been crumbling, with trash piling up in the streets. Both the Croats and the Bosniaks started to leave the country to find better opportunities abroad.

The Efforts of Irma Baralija

Realizing that the city was only worsening, while the division amongst political officials was never going to result in a proper democratic vote, Irma Baralija sued the government through the European Court of Human Rights. Barajila, a local philosophy teacher, sued because the country had deprived her and the other 100,000 citizens of the right of voting in her district.

In October 2019, Barajila won her case. This resulted in the European Union and the United States officials working with Bosniak and Croats to set election rules by June 2020. With the rules specified in time, the first democratic vote occurred in December 2020, where the citizens had a say in local policies and officials for the first time in more than a decade.

Barajila is proud of the accomplishment within her home city. She stated that hopefully, other citizens would see the impact individuals can have in seemingly party-driven and group-oriented politics. She hoped that people followed her lead by voting in Mostar’s election on December 20, 2020.

The Outcome of Mostar’s Election

The results of the election caused different feelings. On the one hand, citizens were able to express their opinions. On the other, the two parties that have divided the country still are heavily running the show and causing conflict. In particular, both parties have claimed fraud and asked for a recount in specific districts.

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to express one’s opinion is as important as ever. How a country decides different issues regarding healthcare and economic openings can have a significant impact on individuals’ lives. Regardless of the controversial outcome of the election, the realization of Mostar’s election can be a major achievement in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s development.

– Aidan Farr
Photo: Flickr

Conditions Improving in Lipa Migrant Camp
Deep in the snow in Bosnia’s Lipa migrant camp, hundreds of refugees huddle in wind-blown tents without food, water or heat. A fire outbreak destroyed the refugee camp in December 2020. The 1,700 inhabitants of the camp evacuated but, with nowhere else to go, 900 migrants returned to the remnants of the camp where they are now living in tents along steep wintery slopes.

Migrants Face Struggles

Many of the migrants in Lipa are coming from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. Since the European Union shut its doors to new members in 2015, the migrants’ goal was to reach Croatia, which many see as a “gateway to the E[.]U.” According to The International Organization for Migration (IOM), 8,500 migrants are currently living in Bosnia with hopes of someday getting farther into Northern Europe.

The United Nations explains that thousands of migrants who have spent innumerable weeks outside in negative temperatures are in desperate need of viable shelters. Many migrants, according to The New York Times, live in tattered tents, have exhorted to washing themselves with snow and stand in line barefoot for food and supplies.

In October 2020, authorities in Bihać, Bosnia, closed its migrant reception center, the biggest in the area. Those living there underwent relocation to the Lipa, Bosnia, camp 75 kilometers away. Bosnia’s central government then ordered local enforcement to reopen the reception center in Bihać, Bosnia, but the local enforcement refused. Therefore, approximately 2,500 people currently live on the outskirts, suffering exposure to the elements.

Migrants’ Struggles Amid COVID-19

Due to the threat of the novel coronavirus, the IOM quickly established the camp in Lipa, Bosnia, in summer 2020 when the country had to close its borders.  Even before the fire, the camp did not prepare itself for winter. Migrants would usually have received thermal floor mats, insulation for shelters and tents, new blankets, stoves and fuel. But now, lacking amenities such as power, water, winter clothes and tents, the camp was virtually unsustainable.

On December 11, 2020, the IOM stopped funding the migrant camp due to the failure of authorities to make conditions sustainable through winter. Aid agencies left later that month. As of January 6, 2021, 700 people remained in the camp, finding shelter in abandoned shipping containers and the devastated remnants of tents. Bihać, Bosnia’s mayor apparently agreed to reopen the Bihać Reception Center and even sent buses to relocate the migrants. However, the buses left Lipa, Bosnia, completely empty. Migrants experienced outrage at the heating and sanitation conditions and went on a hunger strike to protest the issues.

Raising the Alarm

The approaching threat of harsh winter brought to light the migrants’ predicament. The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic raised alarm over the growing danger in December 2020. Conditions seem to be looking up for refugees in both Lipa and Bihać, Bosnia. Peter Van der Auweraert, chief of mission in Bosnia for the IOM, says that aid groups distributed winter sleeping bags, apparel and food. The army has begun to bring in heated tents for migrants living in the Lipa migrant camp in Bosnia in what Van der Auweraert calls an “important step forward.”

The Danish Refugee Council

The Danish Refugee Council has provided protection, shelter, food security, community infrastructure as well as water, sanitation and hygiene supplies. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, currently, 82 staff members from the Danish Refugee Council are caring for a total of 8,500 displaced peoples. Working alongside the Red Cross and the IOM, the Danish Refugee Council had distributed food, winter clothes, sleeping bags and hygiene kits to more than 1,500 displaced peoples. The Bosnian local officials agreed to relocate migrants from the Bosnian Lipa migrant camp to the reception center in Bihać, Bosnia, while reparations to the Lipa Emergency Reception Centre are taking place. The center will also have water and electrical services ready for occupants come April 2021.

Mijatovic continues to advocate for better conditions for migrants in Bosnia, including rapid procedures for asylum-seekers, ending the anti-migrant rhetoric of Bosnia, as well as better care for the approximately 500 unescorted migrant children. Currently, the European Union has provided Bosnia with €60 million, approximately $70 million, for emergency funding, including migrant centers. This response to the crisis is not uncommon. According to Nicola Bay, the country director for the Danish Refugee Council, “Every year we have this winter crisis and an emergency response is crafted at the last minute.”

Looking Forward

For the future, refugees hope that conditions will continue to improve, with further services and supplies going to those living in dangerous conditions. The Danish Refugee Council is focusing its efforts on improving human health and emergency response in regards to the migrant crisis. The organization is also currently working on improving the availability of primary healthcare services in reception facilities, providing mental and psychosocial support for refugees and documenting human rights violations experienced at the Bosnia-Croatia border. The humanitarian group supplied the migrants with doctors beginning in January 2021 when the migrants at the Lipa camp in Bosnia underwent screening for respiratory and skin infections, as well as other health conditions.

The Danish Refugee Council Secretary-General Charlotte Slente believes that the fault lies in the inherently flawed immigration policy of the European Union: “We believe it is necessary for the European Commission to move beyond the current crisis mode approach to migration and ensuring that there is sufficient long-term and predictable financial support made available, in this case to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to ensure that a dignified reception capacity can be put in place.” Hopefully, with the reopening of the Lipa Emergency Reception Centre in Spring 2021, those from the migrant camp currently bracing the cold will have shelter and safety.

– Nina Eddinger
Photo: U.S. National Archives

Homelessness in BosniaHomelessness in Bosnia is a multinational emergency. Recent snowfalls in Bosnia’s Northwest region threaten the lives of thousands of migrants. The region, a de facto landing ground for thousands of migrants, is the site of a mounting humanitarian crisis. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which functions as a buffer state between the Eurozone and parts of eastern Europe, have served as holding grounds for migrants. Even more worrying, the COVID-19 pandemic has further strained these communities.

COVID-19 Emergency Shelters

At the beginning of the pandemic, close to 2,500 migrants struggled without access to shelter. As a result, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) established a facility that could serve as living quarters for 1,000 migrants in Bihac, one of Bosnia’s major northern cities. The facility provided “basic humanitarian aid, including accommodation, food, hygiene, sanitation and medical care.” Previously, IOM increased the capacity of a shelter in the Bosnian capital city of Sarajevo.

Both measures were taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between and among homeless migrant and civilian populations. To say the least, homelessness in Bosnia is a complicated subject. In addition, for Bosnia’s civilian population, it’s a source of ongoing tension. By mitigating interactions between migrant and civilian populations, IOM interventions were designed to resolve tensions.

Tensions between migrants and local authorities haven’t been quelled, however. Reports of looting and vagrancy led local authorities to close migrant camps around the country. In late September, after local authorities evicted hundreds of migrants from a migrant camp in Bihac, Peter Van der Auweraert, an IOM official, called on state authorities to take control of the situation.

Homelessness in Bosnia

At least 2,500 of the 10,000 migrants who are held up in Bosnia, in limbo between the Eurozone and the countries they fled, live outside without proper shelter. They are exposed to the elements, and seasonal weather conditions will make their situation much worse. IOM tent camps have served as temporary shelters, but they are inadequate solutions for the winter.

An estimated 25% of rural Bosnians live in poverty. This statistic doesn’t include the rate of poverty among migrants who live in the country. A variety of reasons have been cited for Bosnia’s poor economy. However, the fact of the matter is that Bosnia lacks the resources to provide safe facilities for migrants.  

Appeals for Additional Support

There is no clear solution to the dangerous conditions that migrants in Bosnia will have to endure this winter. However, one could come from a collaboration of the Bosnian government with governments in the Eurozone and international organizations. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on the Bosnian government to construct emergency facilities. In addition, it cited international law as the basis for its demand. In an effort to ensure that international law is upheld, Amnesty International filed a complaint against local authorities after reports of violence against migrants were reported.

To that end, Euro-Med Monitor underlined the role of the European Union to “establish a monitoring mechanism in Croatia to ensure that the authorities deployed at the borders respect migrants’ fundamental rights and European law, including their safe access to asylum procedures.” Additionally, IOM began to distribute winter kits, including food and sleeping bags, to thousands of migrants in October. Future funding may come as a result of the United Nation’s appeal for $455 million to address the global refugee crisis.

A concerted effort between advocacy groups and governments is required. So long as the world decides that Bosnia’s marginalized populations deserve the world’s support, then there is hope.

Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Bosnia and Herzegovina
During the Bosnian War, a bloody conflict centered in the Bosnian capital city of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995 and thousands of citizens experienced immense hunger in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the war, Sarajevo did not have a connection to the rest of the world, resulting in immediate shortages of food, medicine, water and electricity. Lacking these basic necessities and in constant danger of violence, nearly 12,000 civilians died by the end of the war. Unable to survive on what remained in the country, humanitarian aid efforts saved many citizens through the United Nations, bringing in 160,000 tons of food and other essential goods to Sarajevo.

Challenges in Recovery

The end of the war in 1995 brought necessary relief, as well as a new set of challenges as the nation recovered. Unemployment rates rose for the next 10 years, peaking at 31.1% and then steadily decreasing until the worldwide economic crisis in 2008, after which unemployment numbers spiked back to upwards of 28%. This percentage began to fall in 2015, and in 2019, the unemployment rate was 18.4%. This decline has not been without setbacks, however. In 2014, protests and riots broke out in response to the government insisting that there was no hunger in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This statement angered citizens, which followed the closure of several factories which laid off many citizens. They responded by setting fire to multiple government buildings, a scene reminiscent of the Bosnian War just years before.

Although the recent civil unrest indicates otherwise, levels of hunger in Bosnia and Herzegovina have slowly declined over the past 20 years, with only 2.5% of the population currently experiencing undernourishment. Although undernourishment levels are low, the prevalence of stunting in children under the age of 5 is over 8%, a result of poor nutrition. In addition, approximately 20% of the population are children, one-third of which are experiencing poverty and subsequent hunger and malnutrition.

The Effects of Refugees

Although levels of unemployment and hunger are now relatively low, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and an influx in refugees entering the country have placed an additional strain on an already fragile system. As of May 2020, over 7,000 refugees live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, presenting the challenge of providing food and shelter for more than the capacity of existing camps. The ability to provide for refugees and migrants is essential not only for refugee safety and welfare but for the economic stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina as they seek to meet the needs of their own citizens. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina are familiar with the realities of what it means to be a refugee, as many of them experienced displacement during the war. However, local authorities were not prepared for the number of refugees they received, resulting in the need for new plans and structures, while simultaneously addressing their own economic and political needs.

Following the first influx of refugees and migrants entering Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2017, the International Organization for Migration, which had previously established a presence in the country as a result of the 2015 refugee crisis, has been providing support for national authorities and civil society. The organization has established mobile protection teams to assist migrants in vulnerable situations and also provided transportation, food, shelter and other basic necessities as necessary.

The United Nations Development Program

Assistance with the current refugee population allows Bosnia and Herzegovina to focus on reducing unemployment and hunger in the nation through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations Development Program proposed. The goals act as a blueprint for nations across the world to end poverty by 2030. The second of these goals focus on eradicating hunger through international cooperation and the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices. Recently, the European Union, in partnership with the United Nations Development Program, allocated 20 million euros to the development and modernization of the agri-food sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the program is positioned to independently assist countries in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, strong partnerships with entities such as the European Union are crucial for the goals’ success.

As the fight against hunger in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues, the country must develop additional solutions in order to increase employment rates and promote economic stability. Challenges and unprecedented setbacks may present themselves, but to continue a pattern of success, the nation must search for systems and solutions that will continually strengthen its government and citizens.

Kalicia Bateman
Photo: Unsplash

Facts About the Bosnian War
Bosnia has a varied and long history full of interesting facts, such as how it used to be part of the Republic of Yugoslavia. A fascinating event of this country was the Bosnian War. These 15 facts about the Bosnian War highlight essential parts of one of the most intriguing periods in the country’s history.

15 Facts About the Bosnian War

  1. After declaring its independence, Bosnia was multiethnic. Its most prominent groups were Muslim Bosniaks (44 percent), Orthodox Serbs (31 percent) and Catholic Croats (17 percent). However, a four-year war followed the country’s independence, when the Bosnian Serbs attacked Sarajevo, targeting mainly the Muslims. They also carried out ethnic cleansing across the countryside.
  2. The United Nations helped both parties agree to a peace treaty in 1995 called the Dayton Peace Agreement. This agreement preserves Bosnia as a single state conformed by the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. To date, the U.N. has also convicted more than 70 men of war crimes.
  3. Bosnian Croat soldiers became prisoners during the war after their surrender on Vlasic, a central Bosnian mountain. Approximately 700 of them, as well as 7,000 Croat civilians, fled to Serb-held territories after the massacre that occurred on this mountain.
  4. In 1993, Miss Besieged Sarajevo stood up against war by unfolding a banner that read, “Don’t let them kill us.” Her name is Inela Nogic, and she was 17 years old at the time. The song “Eve of Destruction” was playing when she and 12 other teenagers got on the pageant stage and unfolded the banner. This demonstration served as a representation for 380,000 people living in Sarajevo during that time and their wish to continue their normal lives despite the war and conflict.
  5. Goran Jelisic was a Serb police officer who the U.N. and International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia convicted of murder, cruel treatment, plunder and inhumane acts. He even called himself the “Serb Adolf” in 1992. He systematically killed Muslims, hurt women and stole from prisoners, amongst other things. He finally received a sentence of 40 years in prison for his war crimes.
  6. Srebrenica Memorial Cemetery buried more than 6,500 bodies after the bodies received identification from mass graves in Eastern Bosnia. In 2012, the mass burial re-grouped 615 bodies in that year alone. Even though it is a memorial now, it began as a cemetery that former president Bill Clinton opened in 2003. The cemetery initially buried 600 sets of remains.
  7. Even 20 years after the start of the Bosnian War, there is still a deep division between ethnicities. Mostar is an excellent example, where Croats hold the west bank and Muslim Bosniaks hold the east. Co-existence is uncomfortable to the point where they resist international efforts of reintegration. They even have two different fire brigades for each side, and all divisions are obvious.
  8. An appeal court sentenced Radovan Karadzic, a former Bosnian Serb leader, to life in prison for his role in the Bosnian War. It charged him with genocide and the killing of over 7,000 Muslims. Even though they were originally only going to convict him for 40 years, the judges increased it to a life sentence. They claimed the tribunal chamber had initially “abused its discretion,” and the chief prosecutor said that finally, his victims saw a consequence for Karadzic’s actions.
  9. In April 2012, Sarajevo lined over 11,000 red chairs on its main avenue, Titova Street. These chairs symbolized the victims on the 20th anniversary of the War. There was also a choir and a classical orchestra that performed songs that were mostly from wartime.
  10. Even though this was the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II, the U.N. barely interfered. Its only interference was that occasionally the U.N. Protection Force sent troops.
  11. The War had devastating effects on people’s health, mostly because of a lack of food and supplies as well as displacement. Ethnic cleansing led to significant shifts and movements, which increased people’s vulnerability to illness and even death. By September 1993, the War resulted in the killing, wounding or displacement of over half a million people. Bosnia’s health system was not capable of attending to these issues or even basic needs.
  12. Bosnia’s demographic structure is in constant flux, including more and more vulnerable populations, such as those that are either too young, old or weak to escape. During the War, studies suggested that the proportion of children and the elderly increased, affecting public health since these individuals were more susceptible to external factors.
  13. As a result of ethnic cleansing among other things, the war forced 21 to 76 percent of the population to move. Many of these shifts were towards communities with significant refugee populations. In places such as Banjaluka and the Eastern Bosnian enclaves, displaced people amounted to over 50 percent of the population.
  14. In addition to food, there was also water scarcity. Before the war, Sarajevo’s water consumption was approximately 200 liters per person per day. The water pumping stations used an electrical system for power. However, during the war, electricity was only available intermittently, if at all. This occurrence, in turn, severely impacted water distribution. In July 1993, Sarajevo rationed water to between two and three liters per person per day.
  15. Before the War, Bosnia mostly relied on natural gas to heat buildings. However, during the War, the pipelines shut down. Fortunately, a project supported by foreign aid was able to reconnect 20,000 people in Sarajevo with the natural gas pipeline, restoring the minimum pressure of one bar by November 1993.

Even though the war is over, Bosnia still experiences deep ethnic divisions. These 15 facts about the Bosnian War highlight the main takeaways and lessons from the war to avoid a similar conflict in the future.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a sovereign state in the southeastern region of Europe, found on the Balkan Peninsula and borders Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. This nation has been through a multitude of financial struggles, yet there has been continued growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina. The country is now on the path to stable economic development.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Rates continue to improve substantially. For example, the unemployment rate among adults decreased from 25.4 percent in 2016 to about 20.5 percent in the first six months of 2017. This is a meaningful advancement for the country.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is also a candidate nation, which signifies that it could potentially be a partner within the European Union. This is a great opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina as it could accelerate the country’s economic and political systems even more quickly.

In addition to this hopeful alliance, the World Bank assists Bosnia and Herzegovina by both funding initiatives and formulating a new growth model.

Projects for Growth

Growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina begins with foreign aid from international organizations, particularly the World Bank, which will implement advanced infrastructural and economic structures within the country.

There are now 11 active projects within Bosnia and Herzegovina that will hasten reforms, and the World Bank will lend an overall $521.63 million to the nation.

Better Than Before

“Better than Before — Rebuilding Bosnia and Herzegovina” is one of the many projects that are currently active. The country witnessed devastating floods that impacted 25 percent of the population. Since the economy is agriculturally-based, they lost approximately 15 percent of the country’s GDP. This initiative salvaged 248 infrastructure facilities and helped 580,000 individuals.

“Banking Sector Strengthening Project” improves “banking regulation, supervision and resolution capacity and by enhancing the governance of the Entity development banks.” This will better banking among every sector since they plan to replace obsolete banking styles with improved strategies that will promote economic development.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina Employment Support Program” will increase private sector opportunities and jobs for citizens. It will allow better interaction and discourse for employers, employees, public policy makers, etc. It will also allow the government to expand active labor market programs.

There are eight more projects that will accelerate growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina. They address public health programs, transportation systems and energy efficiency.

New Model for Growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina

Growth within Bosnia and Herzegovina also starts with a new economic strategy. The new framework consists of structural reforms within the public and private sector.

The World Bank will:

  • Encourage public policies that better public efficacy
  • Create and implement initiatives that hasten private sector advancement
  • Implement new strategies to counteract natural disasters/emergency crises

The World Bank will guide and fund this new growth model for Bosnia and Herzegovina and will continually advise the financing so economic growth occurs more rapidly.

Conclusion

The World Bank’s robust presence within Bosnia and Herzegovina is vital to its development as a sovereign state. This nation represents countries’ ability and capacity to progress and change economically.

Its history is sad and unfortunate, yet thankfully, Bosnia and Herzegovina is recovering and growing. The country has earned the right to be an E.U. candidate country.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Historically, Bosnia and Herzegovina was made up of two countries — the first, Bosnia, and the second, Herzegovina. Bosnia was controlled by the Ottoman Empire from 1463 until approximately 1978. At that time, Bosnia was taken over by Great Britain who implemented new schools and further nuanced the governmental structure of Bosnia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina traditionally maintained a sort of strict patriarchal society throughout its history, particularly while under Ottoman rule when the official religious structure was Islam (patriarchy is one of the most distinctive traits of a Muslim society). Currently, over half of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina adheres to the Islamic religion, followed closely by adherents of Christianity.  

It seems to be no stretch that the patriarchal heritage is present, although it is slowly weakening. Its presence is still making large impacts on the opinions of girls’ education in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the way it is implemented.

A Cultural Problem

The gender traditions held in a patriarchal society dictate the types as well as the quality of education that different genders receive. In some cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, banning females from completing elementary school is an existing and acceptable roadblock to male/female equality that is based on Bosnian societal values. One such example is in the capital city of Sarajevo, where girls’ education is not permitted past third grade.

This lack of gender equality not only alienates a large portion of the society but also contributes to large cracks in the nation’s weakened economy. The population demographics in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 60 percent female and 40 percent male. By limiting girls’ education in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the nation is effectively depriving well over half of its citizens from gaining the knowledge and skills that could contribute to the country’s financial prosperity.

Gendered Education

Despite the gender disparity in formal education, a different type of schooling is employed for females that do not complete secondary or even primary education.

The roles of housewife and mother are extremely valued in Bosnian culture, so much so that some females transfer from the mainstream schooling system in order to focus on acquiring the “necessary” skills that Bosnians revere in society for females. This education is typically received at home where the girls learn cooking, housekeeping and demeanor expectations.  

Even though the gender disparity in Bosnian educational systems is alive and present, initiatives have been implemented to dissolve the disparity, opening up avenues for cultural change. In 2003, the Bosnian government issued a law on gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina that covers equality in all areas of society, most significantly the workplace and educational institutions.

Literacy Rates, Family Values and the Future

Although girls’ education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is sometimes neglected in favor of male education (as tradition dictates), female literacy rates still remain almost as high as males’. This is positive news as such figures mean that more and more girls are continuing their education on into adulthood.

Further, despite city educational bans for females and oftentimes protests from fathers, an increasing amount of mothers are recognizing the need to educate their daughters in order to set them up for future success. Consequently, this shift in perspective has increased female enrollment in schooling over the last several decades.

This provides a hopeful future for girls’ education in the country, one that hopefully sparks a new tradition of female education, literacy and self-empowerment.

– Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Balkan country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, most commonly known as Bosnia, is infamous for ethnic wars that ripped Yugoslavia apart in the mid-1990s, peaking in the country with the massacre at Srebrenica. Although the country has made several improvements since the end of the war, 20 years later, Bosnia still struggles with poverty. In order to gain a better understanding of the issue, below are the top 10 facts about poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country with a population of only 3.8 million people. Despite its small size, however, about 18.56 percent, or 640,000 people, live in absolute poverty in Bosnia. Aside from the nearly one-fifth of the population already in poverty, approximately 50 percent of the country is vulnerable to becoming poor. This vulnerability is largely due to factors including lack of education, economic opportunity and recovery after the war.
  2. Poverty between rural and urban areas is prevalent at unequal rates. In rural areas, 19 percent of rural citizens live in poverty while the poverty rate in urban areas is only 9 percent. Despite higher poverty rates and lower wages in rural areas, 60 percent of people continue to live in rural areas. This is largely due to the “agricultural safety net” of higher social protection payments, a healthier environment and more overall job security than in urban cities.
  3. The level of poverty in children is also disproportionate to the national poverty rate. Around 22 percent of children are part of poor families, making them more likely than adults to be poor. This also means that large families in Bosnia are poorer than smaller families in the country. Risks for high poverty levels in children include lack of education as well as intergenerational poverty transfer, which–particularly in rural areas–perpetuates poverty in these larger families.
  4. The life expectancy at birth in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 76.6 years. For females, this number is higher with a life expectancy of 79.2 years. For males, life expectancy is 74.1 years. Death rates, on the other hand, are significantly higher for males than females, likely due to war and its aftermath. Males had a death rate of 130 per 1,000 inhabitants while that of females is only 66 per 1,000 inhabitants.
  5. Gender inequality is also prevalent in Bosnia and Herzegovina with female employment significantly lower than male employment. Among the poorest 40 percent in the country, only 15 percent of females are in the labor market, compared to 42 percent for males. Female employment rates are different among the wealthiest 60 percent, of which 32 percent of women are active in the labor force.
  6. Despite improved economic growth in Bosnia, the unemployment rate is still alarmingly high with almost a third of working-class citizens unemployed. Youth unemployment is even higher, ranking first in the world with 62.3 percent of youth ages 15-24 unemployed. The high levels of youth unemployment are driven by corruption, nepotism in the workforce and overall economic stagnation.
  7. Bosnia’s war left almost one million people displaced after it ended in 1995. The country went from having a population of 4.3 million in 1990 to an estimated population of 3.8 million in 2018. Even 15 years after the end of the war, approximately 115,000 people were internally displaced. The number of internally displaced people, or IDPs, has decreased to 99,000 people in 2017 along with about 18,000 refugees in the country.
  8. Poverty levels are higher for IDPs and other minorities in Bosnia. Children with disabilities, Romany and other ethnic minorities and IDPs have the highest vulnerability to poverty in Bosnia. The aftermath of war, as well as lack of education and stigma against minorities, has only increased the likelihood of poverty for them.
  9. Bosnia and Herzegovina has an Humand Development Index (HDI) of .75, which is considered high when compared globally. Better infrastructure, more stability and economic opportunity after the end of the war contribute to the increase in development. Despite this growth, the country’s HDI is one of the lowest in Europe, only higher than that of Armenia, Macedonia, Ukraine and Moldova.
  10. Bosnia’s economy has continued to grow since its independence, offering citizens a hope of better living conditions and decreased poverty in the long-term. In recent years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has maintained over 2 percent GDP growth since 2015 and has gone from a GDP of USD $16.9 billion to one of USD $18.17 billion.

Bosnia and Herzegovina struggles to fully overcome the tragedy of its recent past. Despite this, economic and developmental growth have offered Bosnians more, albeit limited, opportunities. Poverty, however, continues to be the main issue for many Bosnians, particularly those in rural areas and minorities. With better education and increased work opportunities for youth and rural citizens alike, Bosnia will continue to improve the standard of life for its people.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Google

How the Media Misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautifully scenic country filled with small towns, cultural experiences and long-standing traditions. However, it is also a country with a history of genocide, poverty and weak government and oftentimes, the media zeros in the most on the latter aspects. The following is a discussion on how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Facts

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a relatively high crime rate due to petty thefts, violent crimes and even organized crime — a normalized idea in the country. Since the Bosnian War, the country experienced divisiveness and a near 20 percent of Bosnians live in poverty. The destruction of homes, buildings and infrastructure from the Bosnian War served as a large contributor to these societal occurrences. For context, these numbers compare to a United States poverty rate of 12.7 percent in 2016.

A once thriving country, how much has this really changed? What is Bosnia and Herzegovina like beneath the shadow of its most recent war? Below are a few key ways of how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Crime, Community and Division

Like all countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina experience crime; however, despite media attention to the issue, the overall crime rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina has dropped by over nine percent from 2016 to 2017.

Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina experience residual ethnic tensions leftover from the Bosnian War. This has, at times, filled the country with a great amount of division, especially regarding the current elections which brought ethnic divisions to the surface. To add fuel to this fire, refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have started entering Bosnia and Herzegovina in droves. This has rocked the balance of the country’s seemingly low ethnic tolerance.

However, despite these facts and how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country prides itself on its religious and ethnic diversity. This is most apparent when speaking with everyday citizens, as opposed to conversing with extremists or minority members.

In an interview with a native to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sanela Hotic, whose family was not only displaced by the Bosnian war but experienced the loss of both her father and brother, expresses memories of her hometown of Bratunac. She recalls it being, “very peaceful and quiet,” saying, “everyone got along and were unified by a sense of community; all parents were everyone’s parents, all kids, everyone’s kids. We were all one.”

She goes on to say that religion did not play a factor in determining whether people got along. In her words, “they just did.” The sense of community spread further than the surface, Sanela explains, citing memories of celebrating both Eid, an Islamic holiday signifying the end the fasting period of Ramadan as well as Christmas with her Christian neighbors.

Government Structure

Since the Bosnian War, Bosnia and Herzegovina has dedicated attention to the restructuring and rebuilding of a functioning government. While this task proved difficult, the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina loyally dedicated themselves to seeing this goal through.

There have been several failed attempts at structuring a new government, and none without criticism from media outlets who often fault the nation for its failed attempts. But despite how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina for government failures, citizens have not given up on their country and continue to push for better representatives and new laws.

Tradition

Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to the city of Mostar and its long-standing tradition of bridge diving. This annual event has been a method used for males to impress females for centuries. Within the last few years, the diving tradition has turned into a competition that thousands of people gather to watch.

A “cliff diving” competition, sponsored by Red Bull, will host cliff diving competition finals in Mostar. One can only assume this contest is due to the intense challenge provided by the newly rebuilt bridge of 2003. 

Sightseeing

If someone is looking for things to do on a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, an interesting stop might include the Sarajevo Olympic Stadium. In 1984, the country hosted the Winter Olympics in the capital city of Sarajevo, and the Olympic stadium is still around today and is available for tours that include not only the stadium but also the Olympic mountains.

Further in the sightseeing category is a visit to Guber water in Srebrenica which is said to possess healing effects. This fact is likely due to the high iron content of the water which can be helpful for those dealing with iron deficiency or anemia.

Cuisine

Bosnia and Herzegovina is also known for its Ottoman-Empire-influenced cuisine. Some more famous cuisine items in the country include Turkish coffee and chevap, a pita stuffed with sausages. Bosnia and Herzegovina is also well-known for its variety and quality of desserts, one of which includes baklava, which also exists in Greek cuisine.

Despite how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is a culturally flourishing nation home to many religions, ethnicities and communities bound together by a sense of unity. In the coming years, Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to rebuild itself while the world watches their continued progress.

– Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) signed the Dayton Accords twenty-three years ago to ensure peace throughout the country. However, Bosnians were left picking up the pieces from the war and many still deal with the mental, emotional and economic effects today. According to The World Bank, as of 2015,
16.9 percent of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population lives below the poverty line.

Complicated Government

The Dayton agreement split Bosnia and Herzegovina into two parts: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republika Srpska. The Dayton Accords ended conflict but put a hold on ethnic disputes within the country, thereby leaving a complex system of governance.

According to an article by The Guardian, “Since the end of the war, political allegiance has been usually based on ethnic identity.” Many people throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina want an end to corrupt politicians and want their leaders to focus on the country’s economic stagnation and unemployment.

Why is Unemployment So High?

As stated above, the political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina is anything but simple. Due to ethnic and political divides, the country still deals with constant tension.

Many companies and investors were hurt by the war; therefore, investors are hesitant to invest in the country. This absence leaves Bosnia and Herzegovina to rely on its domestic companies. The government’s partition widely affects the security of the job market, placing a major hindrance on the people.

Inequality

One major cause of poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina is inequality in the workforce between men and women. Not only do women have unequal opportunities in the workforce, but there are a lack of women who participate in the workforce in the first place. In addition, women’s incomes are usually less than their male counterparts.

However, the country’s efforts to transform its workforce cannot be ignored. The country has implemented laws to increase women’s participation in the labor market, and have even enforced laws to ensure representation in politics. According to a report by the World Bank, “The Election Law of BiH stresses that election candidates’ list must include both male and female candidates. The number of candidates of the less represented sex must be at least equal to a third of the total number of candidates on the list.”

Further Progress

There have been numerous programs implemented towards addressing poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina — for instance, the 2017 Bosnia and Herzegovina Support Employment Program. The goal of this program is to “increase formal private sector employment among targeted groups of registered job seekers.”

In this way, the program will reach out to help the government improve the effectiveness of labor market programs and implement an effective communication strategy to help job seekers. Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also made efforts to help alleviate poverty, such as through a program run by UNICEF. UNICEF’s program helps Roma, one of the largest minorities in BiH), mothers by holding classes on nutrition, breastfeeding and raising healthy children in hopes of breaking the cycle of child poverty throughout the country.

Although efforts have been made, it is crucial that the country continues to work to end corruption, ensure gender equality in the workforce, work towards improving ethnic divides in order to address poverty in Bosnia and Herzegovina and secure a better quality of life for all its people.

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr