Citizens in five municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina have a chance to choose initiatives that will improve quality of life in their communities. In Bijeljina, Brod, Rudo, Trebinje and Vitez, newly formed Forums for citizens’ initiatives detect issues and needs within the community. They then suggest initiatives, which are further decided by public vote, based on what citizens recognize as the most needed in their community. The goal is to inspire citizens’ participation and to encourage citizens to be proactive community members.
Forum members application process was transparent and open for public, as these working bodies consist of representatives of municipalities, public institutions, business sector, civil society and citizens.
In each municipality, chosen initiative will be funded by the European Union through Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans – ReLOaD, which is implemented By United Nations Development Programe (UNDP). Each municipality will co-fund the chosen initiative.
Community tailor-made initiatives
In each municipality, based on the needs, initiatives differ. For example, the Forum in Brod focused on activities related to children, while the Forum in Bijeljina identified the need for an outdoor gym.
„Forum members suggested three citizens initiatives based on what was identified as urging matter in Bijeljina. These initiatives were presented to broader public, inviting as many citizens as possible to vote and help in decision making process. Citizens voted for the outdoor gym (in a city park) with accompanying sports and recreational facilities (yoga, aerobics, fitness etc). In addition to the gym, there will also be access for people with disabilities and baby strollers to ensure equal access to the park for all citizens. The outdoor gym is designed for people of all ages“, says Olga Tmušić from Bijeljina City Administration.
Opportunities for all
Each of the suggested initiatives is designed to improve quality of life in the community. The Forum in Brod municipality sought to include marginalized groups in the proposals, thus one concrete initiative aimed at promoting equal access to the public surface through the renovation of a children’s playground adapted to children with disabilities. “The playground is located near a kindergarten, where the existing one does not provide complete safety for children, therefore this initiative promotes unity, friendship, equality and inclusion of all. Another initiative that the Forum suggested promotes physical activity, focusing on supplementing an existing modest outdoor gym. This also seeks to engage the older population with a focus on healthy aging, aiming to increase awareness of the importance of physical activity in preventing illness and overweight problems.
One of the initiatives that would accompany both of aforementioned is a theatre play by a volunteer drama section of high school students whose theme would be the social inclusion of children with disabilities and persons with disabilities in order to offer a model that will seek to influence the society’s attitude towards this group” points out Mihaela Malešević, expert advisor for work with international organizations, accession to the European Union, cross-border cooperation and promotion of the potential of the municipality of Brod.
After voting concluded, citizens of Brod chose children’s playground. In Rudo, Forum is counting the votes, while citizens of Trebinje and Vitez will have their chance to choose during September. In addition to the online form, anyone interested to make change in their communities will also be able to vote in the municipalities’ premises.