Your census for your needs

Op-ed by Ambassador Peter Sorensen,
Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina
and EU Special Representative

The Census of Population, Households and Dwellings will be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from October 1-15, the first one since 1991.

The mechanics of a census are well known here and around the world: it’s the way we get data on population, households and dwellings. Obviously the aim of a Census is to establish the total population in the country, as well as in its administrative units and to establish data on demographic, educational, economic, migration and other characteristics of the population.

This may seem a remote and bureaucratic process, but in fact Bosnia and Herzegovina’s census is all about a better quality of life for all citizens in the future. The reason your authorities are conducting the census is to get the data that will help them to plan. It’s a matter of good governance. 

Planning needs to be done for many services and institutions you use every day:  schools, colleges and universities, utilities such as electricity and gas, infrastructure to support economic activity like roads, hospitals, housing that keeps pace with population change, and so on. Put simply, you don’t know how many schools or police stations are needed to serve society if you don’t know the size of the population. A census is something your country needs to do to manage itself. And you need to participate to make it as accurate as possible.

It also means a better quality of life in the international context – the perspective of European integration. We want Bosnia and Herzegovina to be a member of the EU, and after Bosnia and Herzegovina submits an application for the EU membership, its first task will be to fill out a comprehensive questionnaire issued by the European Commission. It would impossible to answer the questions without the relevant and precise information provided by the
Census. So the census is a part of your country’s journey to the European Union. 

Also, the Census data will help Bosnia and Herzegovina to effectively distribute EU funds in the future. In the agricultural sector for example it’s important this is done properly.

All this is why the European Union – besides the ongoing support provided by our statistical body EUROSTAT – has ensured financial assistance of 12.3 million euro. It will help Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Census to be in accordance with European standards. The International Monitoring Operation established by the European Commission is following the whole process too, to ensure that the Census is conducted in fair, transparent and professional manner.

Therefore I call on everyone in Bosnia and Herzegovina to participate in your Census, and to support your Statistical Institutes and Agencies in producing a high quality outcome.

Specific circumstances in Bosnia and Herzegovina have a bearing on the Census, as they affect other issues. The standards of EUROSTAT and the European Commission only require data on citizenship to be recorded. Questions on declaration of ethnicity, on language and on religion are posed by the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who also have the responsibility to manage those results. It is up to you to decide whether to answer.

For citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the diaspora, if you wish to take part in the Census and be enumerated as residing abroad, you can do so via Internet; the questionnaire is available for download on the official website of the Census.

The cooperation and preparation of statistical institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina in charge of the Census – the BiH Agency for Statistics, the Federal Office of Statistics and the RS Institute of Statistics – is vital. They have a huge job still to do. Also the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina face hard work in the months ahead and a great responsibility to use this information for the benefit of the whole society. You should expect and demand that this data is used for rational and efficient spending of their tax money in the future.

This is your census, for your country, for your future. I call on all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina to respond to the Census and empower your country to have the precise and accurate data on its population that you need.