Bosnia and Herzegovina returned to international news in recent weeks with the conviction and sentencing of Ratko Mladić. The former Bosnian Serb general was sentenced to life in prison for genocide and other war crimes of the early 1990s. These acts occurred during the wars following the breakup of the former country of Yugoslavia, of which Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged as an independent state in late 1995 following ratification of the Dayton peace accords.
Years of war and refugee crises in the early 1990s left the new country in need of extensive assistance from the international community. Despite considerable success in rebuilding and integration, many development efforts continue to be needed there today. Below is a summary of five ongoing development projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Banking Sector Strengthening Project
The World Bank is currently leading a $60 million initiative to increase the resilience of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s banking sector. The project comprises five phases and is set to be complete in December 2020. The project’s objective is to enhance the supervision, regulation and resolution capacity of the banking agencies already present in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s federal government.
Modernizing the banking sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina and bringing it to current international standards is an essential result for any future attempt by Bosnia and Herzegovina to apply for admission to the European Union (EU), an eventuality that could accelerate improvements in the Balkan nation’s quality of life.
Employment Support Program
Parallel to the banking sector project, the World Bank is also funding a program to combat persistent unemployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The program began in early 2017 and will last through 2021. The program will focus on increasing the effectiveness and scale of governmental programs to place citizens into matching private sector employment. The program will include wage subsidies, job training and support for self-employment. It also has a component to improve management systems and information technology related to employment efforts.
EU-Sponsored Development Programs
Germany and the EU recently awarded $1.2 million in grants to a collection of development projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Among other objectives, these grants will fund technical support for entrepreneurs, particularly in metallurgy and agribusiness. According to the EU delegation to Bosnia, the grants are specifically intended to bring the nation closer to the European Union.
USAID Flood Relief Programs
Steep mountainous terrain covers the majority of Bosnia and Herzegovina, making the country vulnerable to torrential rains that caused extensive damage from landslides and flooding in 2014. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) responded to the disasters with dozens of small-scale grants for development projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
These projects included both infrastructure repair and direct assistance grants to affected farmers and communities. Repairs and upgrades included numerous drainage system projects and the rebuilding of municipal buildings that were damaged in the flooding.
Road Connectivity and Safety Initiative
Finally, the World Bank is also involved in an extensive $64 million program to improve road safety and the continuity of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s transportation network. The European Investment Bank co-financed the program, and it is also directed towards the eventual accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the EU.
The funds will finance the rehabilitation of a planned 178 km of roads, including tunnels and bridges. World Bank officials expect these projects to improve employment and commercial opportunities and to stimulate tourism and exports through the country’s access to the Adriatic coast.
These five, coupled with other development projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are helping to bring stability to this diverse nation after a war that started nearly a generation ago. If progress continues as expected, Bosnia and Herzegovina will meet their goal to join the EU and be fully integrated into the mainstream of Western Europe in a few short years.
– Paul Robertson