Civil society initiatives

Civil society initiatives

From 2014 until 2019, the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights – Research Association (BIM-FV) implemented civil society initiatives to support informal groups and grass-root movements in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The main priority of this effort was that the citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina become proactive agents of change at the local level in order to strengthen civil society and ensure a better access to human rights and social justice.

After the conference “Civil Society as a Factor for Change in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, which was organised by the BIM in cooperation with the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, ERSTE Foundation, Renner Institute, Central European Initiative, the EU Special Representative in BiH and the British Embassy in September 2014 in Vienna, follow-up activities have taken place since 2015 aiming to continue supporting informal civic groups and grass-root initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The objective was to support citizens in order to set free their potential to act as agents of change at the micro-level, enabling them to challenge the ineffective and gridlocked system in the country.

The BIM acted as the linking unit and coordinator between the informal civic groups and the project partners. Seven selected groups – the Movement of the Citizens in Gračanica, Plenum Bosanska Krupa, Plenum Zenica, Sindikat Solidarnosti (Workers’ Union Tuzla), Srebrenik je naš (Srebrenik is ours), Banja Luka Social Centre BASOC and the Informal Citizens’ Group for Social Justice Prijedor – received financial support from project partners (ERSTE Foundation and the Swiss Embassy in Sarajevo) in order to implement different activities according to the needs identified at the local level. This way, effective and strong citizens’ networks could be established based on the principles of participation and ownership, empowering civil society in a long term.

The work of the groups included a wide range of activities, from establishing a permanent basis for encountering and networking in the plena to organising public discussions and awareness raising activities in order to include more citizens and encourage them to take action. The groups developed mechanisms for reporting and detecting cases of corruption in an anonymous way as well as monitoring the meetings and decisions of the municipal councils including the use of public funds, thus acting as public watchdogs in their local communities.

The initiative was formally concluded with the regional conference “retro- / intro- / perSPECTION 2014-2018-2022 – Activism and social engagement in the Western Balkans”, which was held in Sarajevo from 6th to 8th February 2019 and brought together participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the whole Western Balkan region as well as the EU.

The initiative was embedded in a wider framework. Activists from the civic movements in Bosnia and Herzegovina were part of the Civil Society Forum, which was an important second-track platform in the Berlin Process, launched in 2014 as a five-year process marked by yearly Western Balkans Summits in order to underline the political commitment to EU enlargement for the Western Balkans region.