The Local Government Initiative (LGI) was launched in October 2017. The Initiative is a consultation process with local governments and other stakeholders in BiH to seek to identify common challenges with local government operations that hamper the efficient provision of services to the public.
A Joint Commission on Local Government began work in October of 2017. It was supported by the EUSR, USAID and Swiss Embassy in BiH and tasked with identifying—in consultation with local governments and civil society—systemic problems that impede the operations of local governments. The Report of the Joint Commission has been released on 6 June 2018 and contains a set of concrete observations and recommendations that could be considered by local governments.
The LGI engaged in a comprehensive consultation process that included: all Cantonal prime ministers and many of their ministers; almost all mayors and many of their advisers; as well as representatives from the business sector, local NGOs and public utility companies.
Citizen participation in government begins at the local level. BiH has ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government and is committed to guaranteeing the political, administrative and financial independence of local authorities. The EU principle of subsidiarity recognizes that decisions about people’s lives are best made as close to those people as possible and the EU will become an important supporter of reform in local government in BiH over the next decade.
However, the process of introducing systemic change must be driven by local governments themselves. The Joint Commission identified a set of common challenges across BiH that stem from the fact that the population is declining and aging. There is a growing gap between the capacities of smaller and larger municipalities to provide a full range of services to citizens. And municipalities cannot provide everything on their own. The solution must lie in agreeing on how these tasks should be divided and in coordinating local service delivery across municipal (and Cantonal) boundaries.
There is significant potential for efficiency gains under existing institutional arrangements and these would largely derive from improved vertical coordination between institutions at different levels and the expansion of cooperation and collaboration between governments at the same level (including across entity boundaries). These improvements need to be facilitated and incentivized.
The RS Government adopted a Strategy for the Development of Local Self Government in 2017 that proposes a similar approach and reforms are already underway. In the FBiH, there is large-scale dissatisfaction with the vertical and horizontal allocation of resources. There is an urgent need to address this problem and to undertake a comprehensive review of the equity of the existing system. Significant improvements can be achieved. Moreover, in the FBiH, Cantons, cities and municipalities account for 80% of government wages and they need to be more-actively included in ongoing reform efforts.