Organised by Oxford University, the panel debated the key political, economic and social challenges in Bosnia such as rule of law, business opportunities, civil sector and the state of the media.
The High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina reviewed the main obstacles international actors have dealt with in Bosnia during his time in office (since 2009). He stressed that external support in the country is much needed but has been lately largely ineffective due to the lack of international interest in Bosnian affairs and fatigue stemming from previous failed interventions. ‘We must remember that Bosnia is a tricky case’, Professor Caplan noted. The High Representative stressed the pervasive role of corruption, captured institutions, crumbling health and pensions system, electoral deadlocks and the rise of extremism in the country. He concluded by saying that most progress in Bosnia stopped in 2006 but that peace has so far been successfully preserved, which should be treated as a great victory.
In her response, Jessie Hronesova (Aktis) stressed that there have been many sound analyses of the Bosnian conundrum but too few solutions. She suggested that there is a need to change the approach in which projects in Bosnia have been implemented. She outlined a new strategy that should be based on the following three principles:
- Inclusiveness for non-elite gatekeepers in key decision-making processes as local solutions are rarely adopted beyond urban and elite stakeholders;
- Partnership with local counterparts and their treatment as equal partners rather than subordinate and second-class actors that are then prone to seek alliances with other actors such as Russia and Turkey;
- Coordination of efforts to avoid duplication and wasting potential in programming that only increases frustration among local stakeholders.
This discussion was organised at a time when Aktis East Europe just launched a new research project in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s online radicalization space that is funded by the IOM.