New approach in Bosnia and Herzegovina for democratisation

Project completed
A man standing in front of a blue gate valve connected to a large blue pipe.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s water infrastructure is being renovated and rebuilt thanks to local government support and new water rates. © SDC

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s water and sanitation infrastructure is outdated and a large segment of the population has no access to a water supply. The starting point for the SDC’s project is good governance – the authorities must be transparent about building and renovation decisions, and ensure an inclusive political process for the citizens their decisions affect.

RegionCountry Topic Period Budget
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Public sector policy
Democratic participation and civil society
01.07.2014 - 31.03.2021
CHF  12’000’000

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s water supply system has been dilapidated for many years. The country’s water and sanitation infrastructure used to function well but maintenance has been neglected because of a lack of funds, particularly in rural areas. This means that in 2018, more than 60% of people living in the countryside are not connected to a sewerage system and around 80% of wastewater goes back into circulation unfiltered. This impacts negatively on peoples’ health and slows down economic development in rural areas. 

That is why the SDC created a project which aims to improve governance in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s economy and water supply system and is being implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from 2014 to 2020. The goal of the project is to advance democratisation in the country. In a democracy, minorities have opportunities to stand up for their rights, and a democratic system ensures that a country’s infrastructure and public services function properly. The project follows three basic lines of approach:

  • it supports decentralisation, which strengthens municipalities;

  • it teaches citizens to take part in political processes and represent their interests;

  • it brings together a network of private sector specialists who have direct contact with the government and can lobby for economic progress.  

The project also helps local water suppliers draw up transparent water rates with the municipalities. The companies then invest these profits in developing and expanding infrastructure, which in turn creates more jobs and greater economic security.

The project has been running in 18 selected municipalities in the north since summer 2014. Once the initial results have been obtained from these 18 municipalities, the SDC will extend the project to include others.

A new approach

The project is taking a new approach based on financial rewards. To this end, the UNDP has developed a series of measures to strengthen good governance with the 18 municipalities. These have to be measurable and implemented within a certain amount of time. The UNDP assesses to what extent the measures have been implemented after this time. Municipalities that include local communities and the private sector in decision-making receive financial support, for example. Success is measured by the number of meetings that take place between citizens, private businesses and local decision-makers.

Democracy through decentralisation

Decentralisation is key to the SDC’s work and for an important reason – if responsibilities and financial means are at the local administrative level, community interests are usually better represented. There is also more civic participation than in a centralised system, which increases transparency and public satisfaction, particularly among minority groups. Under the project, private sector representatives are also given training on how to actively lobby for a better business environment.