Today's Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged in 1991 after the decomposition of war-torn Yugoslavia, and the country fell almost immediately into a devastating civil war. Still today, many years after the peace agreement in 1995, there are major internal tensions in the country.
Although most of the country's inhabitants were Slavs, speaking the same language, at the time of the outbreak of war, many of them came to see themselves not primarily as Bosnians but as Serbs (Orthodox Christians), Croats (Roman Catholics) or Bosniaks (Muslims) with very different dreams of a nation-state.
The war killed hundreds of thousands of people, and many more were displaced. Ethnic cleansing was used in large areas to get rid of people belonging to the "wrong" ethnic groups.
The international community only managed to bring an end to the killing with the Dayton agreement in 1995, which marked the beginning of the arduous process to create peace, democracy and decent living conditions. Today, many refugees and displaced people have been able to return from abroad and common institutions have been built up. But it has been difficult to make the country work as one unified nation, and the residents have mainly voted according to their ethnic group in the political elections.
At the same time, economic development has been relatively strong since 2000. Unemployment is high, but hard to calculate due to the large informal sector. The population is partly dependent on money sent home from Bosnians who are living abroad since the war.
The most important political target – common to all ethnic groups – is for Bosnia to become a member of the EU within a few years.
One of the major problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the complicated administrative structure. The public administration is very weak, with many levels, and there is great uncertainty regarding the division of responsibilities. The country is divided into two main entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosniaks/Muslims and Croats, governed from Sarajevo) and the Republic of Srpska (dominated by Bosnian Serbs, governed from Banja Luka), as well as Brčko District. The division is a result of the Dayton Agreement of 1995, which brought peace, but also resulted in structural and constitutional problems that the country is still struggling with.
Sweden’s focus areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina are:
- Democracy, human rights and gender equality, with a focus on the justice sector and local administration.
- Market development, with a focus on economic growth through increased competitiveness and conditions for growth for small and medium sized enterprises.
- Sustainable infrastructure, with a focus on an improved municipal environmental infrastructure for water supply, sewage treatment and waste management.
Read more about our work in Bosnia and Herzegovina.