Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Bosnia Map OTI

1996-2000

WHY USAID/OTI WAS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

The Balkans conflict created a humanitarian disaster of major proportions and wreaked havoc on the social and economic fabric of the former Yugoslavia. The United States played a lead role in brokering the Dayton Peace Accords and greatly contributed to post-conflict reconciliation and reconstruction. USAID/OTI's Bosnia and Herzegovina program sought to address the issues that contributed to the violence of the 1990s.

USAID/OTI'S ROLE IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

USAID/OTI first engaged in Bosnia in February 1996, immediately after the signing of the peace accords. Recognizing that donor assistance was concentrated in the capital, Sarajevo, USAID/OTI focused its activities in regions of Bosnia experiencing the greatest tension and lacking a donor presence. To promote reform efforts, USAID/OTI:

  • Fostered new, independent media that reported objective, factual information; created home-grown media monitors to watch media coverage; facilitated relationships between NGOs and the media to increase the reach of political activism;
  • Supported non-governmental organizations at local, regional and national levels that focused on political development; and
  • Supported community improvement projects that led toward democracy and peace.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

  • Through its use of alternative media, USAID/OTI increased different ethnic groups’ understanding of the social and economic problems experienced in other communities and broke the nationalist party's monopoly on information. Over time, USAID/OTI-supported media outlets were capable of countering nationalist propaganda and averting violence and were thus able to contribute to the peaceful resolution of ethnic and political differences.
  • Together with local non-governmental organizations and media throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, USAID/OTI organized an extensive “Get Out the Vote” campaign Mreza X (Network X). The campaign not only entertained the population, but also underscored the importance of participating in elections. This indigenous initiative crossed ethnic lines and encouraged one common theme, regardless of ethnicity.

2017-2021

WHY USAID/OTI WAS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

Twenty-five years after the end of the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) continues to face enduring social cleavages, economic stagnation, and governance deficits that threaten national cohesion and stability. Newer challenges include a renewed rise in ethno-national extremism, manipulation by foreign actors, and evolving recruitment strategies by extremist groups. The reciprocal nature of ethnic and religious extremism is a destabilizing factor, where hardline voices dominate political and social narratives.

Additionally, the BiH political system directly fosters extremism through divisive narratives, corruption, and increasing feelings of marginalization among youth. The USAID/OTI program was an integral part of the U.S. mission to advance regional stability and partner with the citizens of BiH to build a prosperous and democratic future that is tolerant, secure, and firmly anchored in Euro-Atlantic institutions.

USAID/OTI'S ROLE IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

In November 2017, USAID/OTI launched its BiH program to support the work of civic and political actors in the country to provide positive alternatives to extremist voices and influences. USAID/OTI worked closely with Bosnian civil society organizations, community leaders, and local institutions to emphasize the shared interests and common experiences of the country’s diverse communities as well as to prevent various forms of extremism in BiH through:

  • Bolstering local activism and leadership for positive citizen engagement, particularly among youth;

  • Strengthening voices and alternative narratives that challenge division and extremism; and

  • Strengthening the ability of institutional and community actors to mitigate and respond to escalatory violence.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

  • USAID/OTI supported youth centers in some of the most isolated and marginalized areas of the country to provide a platform for positive youth leadership and encourage engagement with local authorities and youth across ethnic and entity lines. These centers helped counteract the divisive tactics that ethno-nationalist politicians and extremist groups use to foster feelings of isolation and apathy among youth.

  • USAID/OTI challenged radical voices and extremist narratives that dominate national discourse by helping create and grow non-politicized youth media platforms, such as community radios, television shows, and online media campaigns, and by networking them through exchanges and joint content production.

  • USAID/OTI focused on the quality of political discourse and increasing the level of youth engagement in democratic processes. In the lead up to the 2020 local elections, USAID/OTI supported political academies that enhanced young politicians’ commitment to political accountability, launched anti-hate speech media campaigns, and organized citizen forums with political candidates and elected officials.

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Last updated: November 24, 2021

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