The complex governance structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is not only a burden on the country's economy - government and public administration consumes around 50% of GDP – it is also very inefficient. BiH ranks in the bottom 20% of countries in terms of government effectiveness, which is the lowest ranking of the 15 East European countries. This lack of an effective government affects society and BiH citizens at multiple levels, hampering socio-economic development and increasing social exclusion.
The most vulnerable groups in BiH - returnees and IDPs, people living in remote rural areas, youth, women, elderly, people living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, Roma, people with disabilities and victims of gender based violence – are naturally the most susceptible to poverty and/or social exclusion. The social protection system is unable to effectively address poverty reduction, as the social monetary transfer programmes in BiH are mainly based on status (i.e., type of disability and place of residence) rather than on the real needs of beneficiaries. Considerable budgetary allocations are made for payments of monetary social assistance; however the poorest fifth of the population only receive 17% of this allocation, which falls far short of their needs.
BiH’s society today is characterised by socio-economic polarisation and social exclusion with increasing inequalities in income, education and health (BiH has a GINI index of 0.4, based on 2007 data). To overcome the consequences of economic, social and political crisis, and to counter the trend towards social exclusion, comprehensive social sector and benefits reform is urgently needed in BIH.
Against this background the Social Inclusion and Democratic Governance Sector is pursuing sustainable development pathways aimed at eradicating poverty and reducing social and economic inequality and exclusion. The Sector’s activities are focussed on marginalised groups, such as the (rural) poor, youth, single female households, people with disabilities and people living with AIDS and TB. Its research-based products remain essential, especially given the chronic lack of credible data in BIH and absence of evidence-based policy making in the country. Thus, the 2013 National Human Development Report on Rural Development; the Study on the Social Protection System in Bosnia and Herzegovina; the Legislative Gap Analysis concerning the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the ICT Sector and Usage Report; Select All: E-Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities: An Assessment Report for South Eastern Europe; and Going the Extra Mile for the Digital Agenda: e-Leadership Efforts in SEE , are all key components of future UNDP programming in the Sector as well as useful tools for stimulating national debates that should trigger the much-needed policy action on social inclusion.
The Sector addresses the employability of youth, women and Roma through its Youth Empowerment and Retention Programme (YERP), a joint UN programme implemented in 17 locations in BiH. The programme reflects a proactive, human development approach to the social wellbeing of unemployed youth, focussing on combining both infrastructural investments and supporting actions to improve the conditions for the increased employability and inclusion of youth. To date, over 42,000 young people have received educational training and over 4,500 found employment opportunities. The forthcoming Roma Regional Facility programme will build on the YERP infrastructure, particularly targeting young unemployed Roma.
Sector activities also extend to providing support for the treatment of HIV-Aids and Tuberculosis (TB). The key principle of our approach is to ensure the participatory involvement of key health institutions in addressing the challenges related to HIV and TB diseases in BIH. The HIV and TB programmes promote decentralised responses that support community-level action, such as establishing centres which provide free of charge testing, medical assistance, and psycho-social counselling. Despite the low prevalence of HIV/AIDS in BiH, continued action is needed to prevent its increase and to provide quality treatment, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, early treatment reduces the risk of HIV transmission to others. On the TB side, with BIH having one of the highest prevalence rates in Europe, an improved laboratory network and enhanced monitoring and evaluation system now provides high quality and easily accessible TB services.
Through its Empowering Marginalised Groups in e-Governance project, assistance is provided to countries in the South Eastern Europe region in translating the obligations on e-Accessibility in the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities into practical actions. The project demonstrates how Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and electronic public services can bring advantages to people with disabilities. Five pilot projects demonstrate how concrete and effective action can be taken at low cost to improve the lives of people with disabilities and assist those wishing to work on e-Accessibility. Based on the lessons learned from these projects, the sector is also developing a programme aimed at preventing Gender Based Violence using ICT and social media.
UNDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been supporting the regional ICT Community of Practice initiative Electronic South Eastern Europe (eSEE) since 2002, with programmes that strengthen institutional, legislative and human capacity in the area of ICT for good governance. This UNDP BiH office also hosts the eSEE Initiative Secretariat – an instrument of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), which acts as a knowledge base and information resource ICT centre for nine countries in South Eastern Europe. Strong partnerships have been built with civil society organisations, and several pioneering knowledge products, such as the first Assessment on e-Accessibility, provided the baseline, mapping and analysis of e-Accessibility actions, and recommendations with respect to the EU accession process and the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Sector provides assistance to BiH in defining the role of culture in peace, reconciliation and overcoming the past and promoting intercultural dialogue and values. In over 40 communities, jobs were created for socially marginalised groups such as unemployed women and youth. These jobs were specifically designed to improve skills such as crafts and product design in order to promote cultural heritage in communities.
As Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country where respect for diversity is threatened by the legacy of the 1992-95 conflict and the omnipresent and frequently biased media coverage, the Sector makes every effort to assist the civil society sector in targeted communities to promote intercultural dialogue and respect for diversity through the cross-entity exchange of cultural workers and joint cultural performances and through focused dialogue with youth, students and the general public from different ethnic backgrounds on issues pertinent to their problems.