Roundtable Report: Participation of Minorities in Local Governance in BiH


Mediacentar Sarajevo, Kolodvorska 3, Sarajevo

Active and effective participation of national minorities in local government in BiH was the theme of the roundtable that brought together representatives of national minorities in BiH, advisory bodies for national minorities, and experts dealing with the protection of minority rights. The reason for organizing the roundtable was  the research project (available HERE) that was conducted in 2010 and 2011 by Analitika - Center for Social Research, with the intention to investigate to what extent and through which mechanisms representatives of national minorities in BiH were involved in policy-making at the local level.

Edin Hodžić, the author of the study and head of the Public Law Program in Analitika, in his opening speech, familiarized the participants with the methodological approach and the most important results of the research. After the explanation of the methodology and the sample selection (9 units of local governance in BiH), Hodžić emphasized that the study published as a result of the research, besides being of an informative and analytical character, was also educative, as political participation of ethnic minorities represent a relatively new standard and practice, particularly in BiH. According to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995), the effectiveness of the participation of minorities in decision-making processes is provided through two main mechanisms - political representation of national minorities and consultations with persons belonging to national minorities. However, the study published by Analitika has showed that reserved seats for minority representatives in local assemblies/councils generally are not used for the promotion and protection of the rights and interests of national minorities, while consultations, as a very important mechanism of participation of minorities, are completely ignored at the local level.

Sanja Bogdanović, Chair of the Council of National Minorities of the Federation  BiH, spoke about problems of status and the constant struggle for elementary institutional existence of this entity body that is still not functioning at full capacity, since there basic conditions its work (secretariat, budget, political recognition and support ) are not provided. Ms. Bogdanović said that the mistakes and omissions at the Federal level of government should be avoided in the constitution and functioning of consultative mechanisms for national minorities at lower governance levels (cantons and municipalities). 

On the other hand, Nedžad Jusić, Chair of the Council of National Minorities of BiH, said that the situation at the state level had not been great either when the Council began working in 2008. However, over time, together with colleagues from other minority communities, he managed to fight for the status of this body, and to promote its role as an important subject in decision-making processes that concern national minorities.  Talking about experiences of Tuzla, where his organization Euro Rom is active, Jusić emphasized the importance of cooperation and mutual solidarity of minority communities, which only jointly, through a coalition or association, can achieve some progress.

Finally, the introductory exposé was concluded by Aleksandar Čorni, representative of the OSCE, an international organization that has taken on a significant role in the promotion of minority rights and in providing supportto minority sector initiatives. Mr. Čorni talked about the possibilities for changing the current situation in practice, the activities that are currently being undertaken, positive examples of participation of minorities at the local level, as well as cooperation of international organizations and representatives of local authorities in various parts of the country on this issue.

The introductory presentations were followed by an interesting discussion in which participants shared their experiences and presented their suggestions and concerns regarding the effective participation of minorities in political life. Dragan Marković, representative of national minorities in the Doboj municipal assembly, spoke about the positive experiences of self-organization of minority communities in the Doboj region, excellent cooperation with local authorities, and active participation of minorities in political decision-making processes in this region. Omer Tufo, a representative of the the Civil Society Promotion Centre (CPCD), compared Analitika’s research results to the results obtained by CPCD in 2007 in study named Antiksenofobija, and pointed out that these two studies were complementary. He expressed his belief that it was important to sign agreements on cooperation of local authorities and representatives of minority organizations, which contained mechanisms for mandatory implementation and transparent distribution of budget resources. 

Milan Jovanović spoke on the behalf of the Department for the protection of the rights of national and other minorities and religious communities, Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees BiH, announcing the readiness of the Ministry to be more actively engaged in providing conditions for the active participation of minorities in political life at all levels of government. In this context, Mr. Jovanović stressed out the importance of working on a strategy for national minorities, which will be prepared by the Ministry, with the logistical support from the OSCE BiH and with the full and active participation of representatives of national minorities. The idea behind the strategy is that it should provide for further and more effective implementation of the Law on the Protection of National Minorities (2004) BiH.

Dervo Sejdić, OSCE BiH Roma Monitor and a Roma activist, pointed out the importance of the research conducted by the Analitika and suggested that the results should be presented in the Parliament of the BiH.  In his presentation, Sejdić commented on the the Election Law of BiH, as well as omissions of the electoral process which allows for the manipulation and instrumentalization of members of ethnic minorities. Vladimir Blaha, Vice President of the Council of National Minorities of Republika Srpska, spoke about the pre-electoral and electoral experiences of minorities in Republika Srpska, as well as difficulties in promoting the interests of national minorities. Vehid Šehić, from the Citizens Forum of Tuzla, pointed out the need for change of the existing laws on the rights of national minorities at the state and entity level, and that regulation in this area should not be made at the cantonal level. Existing laws are imperfect, key formulations are imprecise, and they do not entail all the best European standards, which leaves plenty of space for manipulation. Mr. Šehić emphasized the importance of introducing clear and consistent standards in this area, so that the situation pertaining to the rights of national minorities, including the right to political participation, would not depend on the good will and openness of local government structures.

The roundtable ended with the conclusion that the existing legal solutions concerning political participation of national minorities are not adequate, and that it is necessary to invest a lot of effort to create natural preconditions for the effective participation of minorities in political life, especially at the local level.

Themes: Constitution, Institutions and Politics Ljudska pravaParticipatory Decision MakingDecentralization
Programmes: Javno pravoJavna uprava