Advancing functional decentralisation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) two Associations of Municipalities and Cities (AMCs) play a central role in the country’s complex political environment. In this collaboration project, SALAR supports the two associations to have a positive impact by strengthening them to implement core mandates and strategic plans in a sustainable and effective way.
Functional decentralisation and strong local governance are critical preconditions for an inclusive and peaceful Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). This would ensure that all citizens have equal access to services and opportunities to influence decisions affecting them. In the complex political setting in the country, the AMCs in the respective entities (BiH and Republika Srpska) play a critical role in representing the interests of local governments (LGs). This also entails advocating in their behalf in dialogue with the central government and national policy makers.
The project builds on partnership between SALAR, AMC RS and AMC FBiH. In order to reach the long-term objectives of the AMC strategic plans, the project works based on a theory of change. In essence, AMCs need to improve their practices across a range of activities so that results can be seen at all levels, including governing structures, statutory provisions, membership participation, and in contacts with higher-level authorities.
Long-term collaboration between associations gives tangible results
Collaboration between the Swedish and Bosnian associations started in 2017. Since then, both AMCs worked on strengthening their internal organisations and increasing member engagement. They improved service delivery to members in the areas of local government finance and EU integration, which are of central importance. The AMCs also addressed other relevant areas for the members such as gender equality, management of natural resources, service delivery to citizens and citizen engagement.
Example of achievements from 2018 to 2022
- AMCs developed new Strategic Plans to set direction for 2022 onwards.
- AMCs have successfully advocated for legal changes to the regulatory framework in a way that is favourable to LGs and they have strengthened the interaction with government and parliament in both entities.
- AMCs analysed and communicated the implications of EU integration for municipalities in five selected areas. Five joint policy briefs were developed.
- AMCs successfully initiated policy development for a government mechanism for co-funding or pre-funding of EU projects at the local level.
- AMCs facilitated capacity and practice development for implementing SDG 5 on local level through an informal gender network with representatives from 13 municipalities
Strategic advocacy and membership involvement
The project has now entered into a second phase from July 2022 to January 2026. This phase seeks to capitalize on results from previous years. Overall, AMCs work to strengthen the institutional and legal framework to improve service provision to citizens. This is particularly important for LG finances and resource management as well as getting better access to financing mechanisms for EU-funded projects. Dynamic member involvement is crucial. This is boosted by working through the AMC presidencies, networks, committees, and thematic working groups. Members are then made central to policy-making processes and more substantively engaged in all aspects of AMCs’ organisational functioning. Another expected outcome is that AMCs will establish themselves as a credible and dynamic counterpart in EU programming with LGs and the EU accession process.