When the sum is greater than the parts: working together for a safer Bosnia and Herzegovina

Destruction of artillery ammunition
Destruction of artillery ammunition

The topic is sensitive, the stakes are high, but is it possible to develop a comprehensive strategy for small arms control with hardly any funds? Our experience shows that it is. The secret? Getting everyone on board and focusing on a common objective.

In April 2013, as the team responsible for small arms control and reduction in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we started our work on the new four-year strategy for the country. We quickly recognised that, with scarce financial resources, attempting to write a strategy to allow dynamic improvement in an area as complex as this was very difficult, if not impossible.

Highlights

  • Our experience shows that it is it possible to develop a comprehensive strategy for small arms control with hardly any funds?
  • Having successfully reached 18th position out of the 159 countries reporting on small arms control progress, we wanted nothing more than to keep improving our results.
  • And so for the following six months we worked with 50 individuals from around 30 institutions, agencies and organisations from the international, governmental and non-governmental sectors, to craft together a small arms and light weapons control strategy for 2013-2016.
  • It was the team spirit, the feeling of partnership and the sense of a common goal beyond traditional organisational silos that led us to success.

At the same time, having successfully reached 18th position out of the 159 countries reporting on small arms control progress, we wanted nothing more than to keep improving our results. Were we, however, the only ones who wanted that?

We realised that, even though we might be short on some resources, our network was very strong.

Over the years, we have built solid and friendly partnerships with state institutions, civil society organisations and international organisations – all committed to reducing and monitoring the flow of small arms and light weapons in the country.

Each of these organisations brings a different set of skills and unique insights, which is key in connecting us to a broader set of perspectives. This is the type of diversity that is essential to effectively tackling such a complex, multi-faceted issue such the one in front of us.

And so for the following six months we worked with 50 individuals from around 30 institutions, agencies and organisations from the international, governmental and non-governmental sectors, to craft together a small arms and light weapons control strategy for 2013-2016.

Our priority as facilitators was to make sure that the process was participatory, transparent and equal in terms of territorial participation.

The co-operation was impressive! Apart from UNDP’s in-house expertise we could rely on OSCE, who designed the strategy, the European Union military mission, who translated the strategy into English, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, who developed several project concepts. On top of that, the NGO sector provided us with their vision for a small arms and light weapons advocacy toolkit.

As a result, we are now proud to present a pragmatic and implementable strategy that contains 34 concrete project concepts. For the first time, it maps all existing initiatives in this area and incorporates the plans of all relevant international organisations. To our delight, some of the projects have already kicked off with implementation.

Crucially, these efforts also have a people dimension. It is easy to talk about state of the art strategic planning methodology and innovative approaches in strategy design, but all of these ultimately come back to people: their skills, motivation and passion.

During this strategic planning process we shared all sorts of moments – from trying to light the fire in the fireplace to telling jokes, from poking fun at each other to spilling coffee over the draft strategy (!). It was this team spirit, the feeling of partnership and the sense of a common goal beyond traditional organisational silos that led us to success.

EXPLODE Project