An empowered civil society is a crucial component of any democratic system and should be recognised and treated as such by the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As was outlined in the European Commission’s Bosnia and Herzegovina 2016 report, “there was some progress in establishing institutional mechanisms for cooperation between governments and civil society organisations (CSOs), as well as for public financing of CSOs. However, a strategic framework for cooperation with civil society needs to be developed and full use should be made of the e-consultation web platform. Transparent procedures are needed for allocating public funding to CSOs at all governance levels.”
Commissioner Johannes Hahn also repeatedly stresses the importance of civil society: “…Civil society remains the key partner in advancing reforms; and the EU remains civil society’s valuable partner; our ‘fundamentals first’ policy will work if societies commit to change. Civil society organisations are a crucial link between governments and citizens; strengthening this link would give hope to ordinary men and women” (speech at the 8th Annual Assembly of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, 28– 29 November 2016).
The EU’s policy on civil society is based on the Guidelines for EU support to civil society in enlargement countries. These contain a set of objectives, results and indicators which were developed for EU support to civil society. They allow the measurement of progress at country level as well as across the enlargement region. The Guidelines are developed for the period of 2014 – 2020.
Some further details on civil society organisations in BiH:
• According to the records there are 22,601 registered associations and foundations.
• The official data obtained from entity statistics bureaus and tax offices related to full time employees vary from 3,063 to 4,247 employees. It represents some 3.5% of the total number of employees outside of the agricultural sector in BiH.
• Civil society in Bosnia and Herzegovina has all characteristics of civil society in a transitional country dominated by sport-recreational associations and associations that represent interests of specific social groups.
Some key findings and recommendations from the EU financed 2016 Mapping Study of CSOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina are:
• The general assessment of the civil society in Bosnia and Herzegovina corresponds to a general assessment of state and society – fragmented, institutionally very weak, financially unsustainable and greatly dependent on political and financial support of the international community;
• The public sector still does not regard civil society, as well as private capital, as a relevant partner in social and economic development of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Therefore the financing of activities of civil society organisations is treated exclusively as an expense, rather than as a social investment, which should encourage the social development of communities and contribute to the articulation and implementation of policy priorities.
Some of the key recommendations of the study are:
• Guidelines for EU support to civil society in enlargement countries, 2014 2020
• Mapping Study of CSOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina (August 2016)
• Impact Assessment of IPA 2012 Grant Scheme for Supporting Issue-based Networks in Bosnia and Herzegovina (November 2016)