Op-ed was published in Oslobođenje, Nezavisne novine and Dnevni list
A quick conversation with people in Bosnia and Herzegovina will confirm what opinion polls have stated for many years – citizens are broadly pessimistic when it comes to the future of the country. Yet engaging in deeper conversations with men and women across BiH provides grounds for optimism. Whilst the legacy of the war remains unresolved in many areas, a clear desire is evident to leave the politics of hatred behind and to focus on a better future.
At a local level, amongst municipalities, communities, and families, many reject the divisive rhetoric and actions that dominate BiH politics. Local leaders work together, build bonds across communities and strive alongside their neighbours for an inclusive future.
Take, for example, the municipality of Žepče, which has a monument to all civilian victims of war. Bosanski Petrovac unveiled a Monument to Peace last year. And around Majevica, people are working across entity lines to improve economic and social conditions for everyone.
There are many such strong examples across BiH. As of today, a new EU-funded project will pull together the expertise, knowledge, and capacity of the Council of Europe, the OSCE Mission to BiH, and the United Nations through IOM and UNDP. The initiative will amplify the efforts of “champions of peace” – people and communities leading the way towards a more tolerant BiH. Over the next 18 months, the project will invest 3.5 million euros in BiH.
Through this project, we will support civil society organisations to help advance their work on peace and trust building. We will directly support some of their peacebuilding initiatives. This project will also establish a platform for discussion, enabling the sharing of best practices among civil society organisations – who, at present, often lack formal opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another.
We will also work closely with “champions of peace”, particularly in communities that have made progress towards strengthening mutual trust, dialogue and social cohesion. We will reach out to these communities in the coming weeks. We intend to promote and publicise success stories to inspire the work of national-level politicians. Indeed, we hope and expect that policymakers at all levels, especially the national level, will recognize the benefits of an inclusive and future-driven approach articulated by their citizens.
This project will, at all times, be driven by local agents of change across BiH. We will act as facilitators, but to ensure its sustainability, local actors must be at the forefront. We want to hear and learn from the incredible experiences of local “champions of peace” and let these rightly serve as role models for the whole of BiH.
As the old expression goes, “With a little good will, we can do better”. For this reason, we have named the project “We can do better”. Because despite pervasive pessimism and divisive rhetoric, BiH can and will do better. We are determined to help ensure it does.
Joint Op-Ed by the Head of the Delegation of the European Union and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador Johann Sattler, Dr Ingrid Macdonald, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina andSusan Penksa, Acting Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
(photograph: OSCE to BiH)