Press Release

Cohesion, coordination and solidarity are integral part of the solution for a more efficient civic space in Bosnia and Herzegovina

17 June 2022

The need for a better organization and connection of civil society and higher political structures is the way to a democratic and equal society – this was one of the main conclusions of the "Civic Space in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Overview of the Situation and the Way Forward" conference organized by the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The various crisis situations we face clearly show that only a transparent participation of citizens and their role in the decision-making process can lead to a more prosperous future for Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the benefit of all.

“Over the last two days we have heard from civil society activists and human rights defenders about retracting civic space in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is deeply concerning to hear of persistent and increasing pressure, intimidation and threats against civil society actors, including independent journalists, analysts and human rights activists. This is not acceptable. Across the world, ensuring public participation is critical for healthy democratic relations between people and governments. It is essential for addressing the needs, claims and grievances that affect the daily lives of citizens. Sustained efforts by governments and institutions, including human rights institutions to promote and protect public participation are integral to the commitments of Bosnia and Herzegovina under international human rights treaties”, said dr.Ingrid Macdonald, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in BiH on the occassion.

Four sessions which discussed the protection of civil society actors, promotion of civil society, the right to participate in public affairs, gave recommendations for action and improvement of public space, with the active role of BiH civil society in the future.

"International agreements that protect human rights are based on the fundamental principle that everyone has equal, inalienable and universal rights, and what is important to emphasize is that the Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina are not here to criticize, but to point out problems arising from the cases we receive, i.e. the systemic problems that exist in our society in all segments and areas of human rights. We are here as a link between the authorities and the citizens, where cooperation with civil society is very important for the benefit of all of us. From the Platform for Cooperation, which was adopted by the Ombudsman in 2010, the Criteria for Cooperation with the Non-Governmental Sector dndorsed last month to today's discussion that raises important questions about the space for civil society in Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Ms. Nives Jukić, Human Rights Ombudsman in BiH.

Clément Voule, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, joining from Geneva said that “countires need to do more to ensure a favorable environment for the functioning of civil society. The international community should insist on this criteria in all its reports, including those evaluating BiH's progress towards the EU integration."

However, there is no shortage of examples showcasing positive civil society practice in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The results of civic pressure and joint forces were seen in the action initiated by a student and environmental activist Sara Tuševljak, when the Banja Luka District Court handed down four verdicts in favor of a group of citizens and annulled three environmental permits and a building permit for the mini hydro power plant “Samar”.

"Most of the motivation comes from positive examples, because I think our story is a positive example. It is also a message for young activists that only by participating in changes can we expect a result, although the fight is not easy," added Sara.

Cohesion, coordination and solidarity in the civic space are key to strengthening advocacy on human rights issues in the BiH society, but it requires a longer-term process and more sustainable efforts to achieve it, Ms. Agnes Picod, Senior Human Rights Adviser at the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator summarized at the end of the conference.

The legislative framework on fundamental freedoms, in particular freedom of peaceful assembly, association, expression and the media, must be fully in line with the international human rights standards. Authorities at the highest levels need to be constantly reminded of the obligation to ensure the highest level of protection of human rights, as prescribed by the Constitution of BiH and the international conventions to which BiH is a signatory - the panelists concluded.

 

Cohesion, coordination and solidarity are integral part of the solution for a more efficient civic space in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dalila Sadinlija

Dalila Sadinlija

RCO
Communications and Advocacy Officer UN Resident Coordinator Office

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OHCHR
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office

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