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Sida's work in Bosnia and Herzegovina

There are major challenges in Bosnia and Herzegovina – the country with one of the world's most complicated political systems. Sida's reform cooperation with partners in Bosnia and Herzegovina contributes to bring the country closer to a EU membership - as a path to improved living conditions for women and men in the country.

Sida’s support in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Progress has been made

Steps towards EU membership

In 2015, Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted an agenda to set the course for a EU membership. Approach is slow, but reforms continue to be implemented and the country is now working to be able to qualify as a candidate country. In general, the country is at an early stage of preparations for EU membership.

The economy has grown

The country’s economy has grown stably, but slowly over the past 15 years. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economic growth is more varied than that of its neighbors and comes from several different sectors and markets.

Challenges remain


are living in poverty. According to the World Bank’s latest data (2015), one sixth of the population (16.9%) lives below the national poverty line. Poverty is relatively higher in rural areas than in cities.1

Violence and discrimination continue

The country’s Roma minority is particularly vulnerable and is hard hit by both poverty and discrimination in, for example, schools and health care. Almost half of all girls and women over the age of 15 have been subjected to physical or psychological violence. People with disabilities often live in difficult conditions and LGBTQI people continue to experience discrimination. In 2019, for the first time, a Pride parade was held in Sarajevo.

Reform cooperation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In 1995, the peace agreement in Dayton was concluded, which marked the end of the four-year conflict. Since then, the country can look back on a period of successful reconstruction after the extensive destruction and large-scale population movements that the war brought.

Unfortunately, politicians and leaders continue to nurture the ethnic conflicts that flared up during the war. The collapse of the Yugoslav federation and the effects of the war has long term consequences and it will take time before people can live in a well-functioning country that meets EU requirements. The political system is complicated and characterized by deadlocks, corruption and heavy bureaucracy. Unemployment is around 20 percent, and every third young person is out of work.2

Democracy, human rights and the rule of law

The 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement stopped the war but did not lay the foundations for lasting peace or a functioning state. Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the most complicated forms of government in the world. In a country with a population of approximately 3 million inhabitants, there are 14 governments at different levels and three heads of state. The delegation of political power is extensive and ethnic quota systems and rotating representation between the three ethnic groups mean that much of the political energy is spent on political co-trading between different political levels. This often leads to political deadlocks that hinder reforms.

Strengthens the ability to demand responsibility

The country’s citizens find it difficult to demand responsibility from their decision-makers – which is one of the reasons why many do not get involved in politics. Few women get involved politically. Sida supports several municipalities in the country, where local and Swedish authorities, including the Swedish Tax Agency, work together to strengthen accountability and develop better services for citizens. UNDP’s project Local Councils (Mjesne Zajednice) creates contact points between politicians and citizens and provides an opportunity for accountability at the municipal level. Sida also provides extensive support to independent media and investigative journalism as well as the fight against corruption.

Local Councils at UNDP:s website

The courts are becoming more efficient

The judiciary is lagging behind in civil law cases and many courts are lacking in gender equality issues. The High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (HJPC) works with the Swedish National Courts Administration and the Swedish Enforcement Agency to make the courts more efficient, more knowledgeable regarding, for example, gender-based violence and their work increase access to justice.

Prevents gender-based violence

Despite the fact that the country has adopted many of the international conventions on gender equality, the country does not succeed in living up to them. As many as 48 percent of the country’s women over the age of 15 state that they have ever been exposed to gender-based violence or violence in close relationships. UN Women works to prevent gender-based violence and protect victims, among other things by working in innovative ways with men and boys to change harmful attitudes and behaviors.

UN Women´s website

Sustainable peace

The lines of conflict from the war are still alive and prevent society from developing towards better community services, inclusion of all social groups and cooperation between different parts of the country. The political rhetoric has hardened in recent years and increased tensions. There have been many attempts to reconcile and achieve transitional justice over the years, but they are hampered by political rhetoric. The ethnic dividing lines have been reinforced in many places, not least as a result of segregated schooling.

identifies missing people from the war

Many people disappeared during the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, 30,000 people have gone missing. Through the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP), Sida supports the country in identifying persons who disappeared. Since then, around 21,000 people have been identified. The work of finding and identifying missing persons is difficult but important as part of the process of transitional justice and to ensure the right to the truth for the relatives.

The work in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the ICMP website

Environment and climate change

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with magnificent nature. The ability to protect nature and human health is still limited and the country has a long way to go to achieve EU standards in environmental protection. For example, only about 15 percent of all wastewater is recycled. Air pollution also poses a serious threat to human health. The capital and several other cities in the country have an air quality during the winter that is among the worst in the world. Improvements are being made in the environmental field, but they are slow and financial constraints are an obstacle. Living up to EU environmental standards requires major investments in waste management, clean water, reduced air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, as well as efforts to protect biodiversity.

Strengthens the influence of civil society

Civil society organisations in the field of environment and climate have little opportunity to influence the country’s policies. Sida supports the Think Nature project through the Civil Society Promotion Center (CPCD) which aims to increase awareness of environmental issues and strengthen the population’s impact in environmental and climate decisions.

The Think Nature website

Efficient and sustainable energy

Energy use in Bosnia and Herzegovina is among the highest in Europe and a fifth of GDP goes to energy costs. UNDP’s Green Economic Development (GED) project works to make energy use more efficient and to use more renewable energy sources, for example in schools and health centers.

Green Economic Development at the UNDP website

Better air quality

In winter, many people burn coal, firewood and garbage to heat their poorly insulated houses, which creates serious air pollution. Sida supports a project in which the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency works to gain control of the main sources of air pollution and improve air quality in the cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The support through UNDP’s GED programme also contributes to large reductions in emissions from public buildings, industries and housing.

The GED programme at the UNDP website

Inclusive economic development

Although unemployment has decreased in recent years, it is still high, especially among young people. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a shortage of skilled labor, which is a reason why few want to invest in the country. A large part of the young and people with education choose to leave the country and move to the EU. Of the residents who work, almost a third are in the informal economy.


More jobs for small business owners

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s private sector is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises. They operate in an environment with poor conditions and the country’s business policy needs to become more entrepreneur-friendly in order to create employment and prosperity in the long run. Through the Small Business Act program, Sida contributes to changing regulations and legislation in line with EU legislation so that small and medium-sized businesses gradually get easier to operate. The Challenge to Change (C2C) programme offers financial support for innovative companies that create jobs. Through the guarantee instrument, Sida provides an opportunity for small and medium-sized companies to gain access to bank loans on favorable terms so that they can expand their business.

The C2C website

Contributes to young people's entrepreneurship

The education system is not adapted to what the country’s labor market needs. This creates problems for both employees and employers. The Mozaik Foundation works to enable young unemployed people to start their own businesses, among other things through an internet-based learning platform, internships and start-your-own scholarships.

The Mozaik Foundation website

Updated: March 22, 2022