In a country as fragmented and divided as Bosnia and Herzegovina, political compromise is scarce and deadlock persistent.
The 1995 Dayton Peace Accords ended the Bosnian War, but did not heal Bosnia. The U.S. brokered agreement divided the country into two separate governing bodies according to ethnicity: the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina, mostly dominated by Bosniak Muslims and Croats, is divided into ten different cantons, each with its own government that contends for power with the central government. The political system is complicated, and its intricacies only thinly veil the divisions that took the lives of almost 100,000 Muslims, Croats and Serbs two decades ago.
After the country’s October 2010 elections, IRI identified multiple political failures that hamstring the government in place—deficiencies in the constitution, ongoing dislocation between the interests of the people and those of the government and a lack of government accountability, to name a few. A political climate such as this wards off the political participation of many citizens, especially women. In an effort to correct the consequences of flawed governance, USAID called upon IRI to implement its Political Processes Support program—a project IRI has not taken lightly. To help mend Bosnia and Herzegovina’s divisions, CEPPS/IRI representatives have encouraged female members of parliament to increase their constituent outreach and develop common legislative initiatives.
The efforts of IRI culminated in a historic and monumental milestone in Bosnia and Herzegovina: the establishment of the first-ever parliamentary women’s caucus in 2013. Since then, CEPPS/IRI continues to assist the House of Representatives Women’s Caucus, initiating the development of a much-needed government alliance. Inspired by the success of the women’s caucus in uniting members of parliament and effecting change, eight female delegates from the House of Peoples approached IRI to oversee the development of their own. IRI representatives conducted consultations, hosted caucus-building seminars and assisted in the drafting of the caucus’ Rules of Procedure. On February 11, 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina witnessed the establishment of its second women’s caucus.
This type of political initiative in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a revolution in its own respect. Representatives, irrespective of government tier and gender, have contacted IRI for guidance in the development of their own caucuses. Cantonal Assembly members want local women’s caucuses. Male parliamentarians want interest-based caucuses. A movement is underway. With the help of IRI, Bosnia and Herzegovina has enhanced the political representation of women. But equally as important, government leaders have implemented a system able to move the country away from its twenty-year deadlock and toward Euro-Atlantic integrations that promise the stability of democracy, good governance and human rights.