Young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are growing up in a divided country. We are not talking about the geographical division between the land that is Bosnia and that which is Herzegovina, a sort-of north south divide. It is a country divided socially and politically. As a result of the Dayton Accords, that ended fighting in BiH in 1995, politics remains divided along ethnic lines. In an article about the country’s 2014 elections, The Guardian stated that BiH “is home to what is most probably the world’s most complicated system of government.”
On a political level the country is split into two governing entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, governing the areas of the country that are predominantly Bosnijak (Muslim) and Croat (Catholic); and Republika Srpska, the predominantly Serb (Othodox) area; with a third region, the Brčko District, governed under local government. Some cities are divided within themselves, like Mostar, where Novi Most’s work began. Two communities are physically divided by the river that runs through the city; Bosnjaks on the east side, Croats on the west side.
In towns and cities with significant populations from different ethnic groups is is normal for young people to attend a school based on their background. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has identified key problems with the education system in BiH. One of these is the “two schools under one roof” system: one building housing two schools with different doors, playgrounds and teaching programmes for children of different ethnicities. The prevailing culture of after-school clubs and extra-curricular activities also being segregated means that young people who don’t mix in school may never mix with people from a different ethnic background outside of school either.
Unemployment is bad. In 2014 it hovered around 44%. Youth unemployment is officially the worst in the world. The World Factbook, produced by the CIA, puts unemployment among 15-24 year olds at 62.8%. Germany, Austria and Switzerland turn in figures of 8.1%, 8.3% and 8.4% respectively. It is not difficult to see why so many school leavers in BiH look to these near-neighbours as the place to build a better future for themselves.
Novi Most believes young people in BiH need the opportunity to discover there is more to life than segregation, division and discrimination. We are embracing the challenge of bringing together young people from different ethnic backgrounds and providing experiences and opportunities that will shape their futures in a positive way. Our creative activities and informal and formal education programmes help young people gain new skills and, hopefully, increase their chance of finding work.
Sources and further reading