Bosnia and Herzegovina Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Bosnia and Herzegovina:

  1. Unemployment

Unemployment Rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina was 32.7% in October 2019, whereas the youth unemployment rate (15-24 years) alone stood at a very high 47.4%. Bosnia’s youth unemployment rate is among the highest in the world, driven by widespread corruption, nepotism and economic stagnation. Across Bosnia-Herzegovina, companies are unwilling to employ people from the “other side,” despite legislation passed in 2003 prohibiting such employment discrimination. Applicants will often pay bribes to get the jobs they want. And though the public sector is one place where an abundance of relatively stable positions exist, government jobs are considered stable but nearly unattainable without direct connections and influence.


  1. Corruption

Corruption is pervasive and corrosive in BiH, which impedes development and undermines the country’s potential for EU accession. Public officials often operate public institutions in BiH as if they were their own private companies, and the institutions are prone to patronage and nepotism. Public spending is often not transparent which allows for secret arrangements to be made. Employees in public institutions who see corruption may want to ‘blow the whistle’ but without legal protection, they fear retaliation if they do. Before 2017, there was only one whistleblower protection law in force in BiH: the state law. But that law applies to only 10 percent of BiH public institutions and servants. Public employees at the entity levels are not covered by the state law.

Officials in the main Serb, Croat, and Bosniak Muslim parties have also sought to “buy” votes from public employees by opening new public roads and offering free medical check-ups, and threatening those who reject the blandishments, the Bosnian branch of Transparency International said in a report.

The high levels of corruption can also be seen in the salary of lawmakers, which is six times the country’s average wage.


  1. Human Rights Violations

Despite multiple rulings of the Bosnian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that the constitution discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities, there was no progress towards amending it to allow Roma, Jewish, and other minorities, an estimated 12% of the population to run for the presidency in 2018 general elections. A survey conducted in April 2018 by the United Nations Development Programme showed Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to face many difficulties accessing and enjoying, health care, education, housing, and employment. Many Roma lack identification documents necessary to access services.

In 2018, civil society groups reported intensified state efforts to discourage public protests by issuing fines for public disorder, making it increasingly difficult and slow to obtain necessary permits, restricting protests to specific and less central areas, and over-policing peaceful events.

Attacks on journalists and freedom of media continued at a high rate in 2018. Bosnian journalists’ association BH Novinari registered 41 attacks against journalists, including five death threats, seven physical attacks, and eight direct threats by politicians.

Between January and September 2018, Sarajevo Open Center, an (LGBTI) and women’s rights group, recorded 27 hate-motivated incidents against LGBTI people, including 10 involving domestic violence, and 136 cases of hate speech. According to Foundation CURE, politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina still do not publicly discuss LGBT rights and concerns, police often dismiss hate crimes against LGBT people, and acquiring permits for LGBT events and peaceful gatherings has become more difficult.


  1. Poverty

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country with a population of only 3.8 million people. Despite its small size, however, about 18.56 percent, or 640,000 people, live in absolute poverty in Bosnia. Approximately 50 percent of the country is vulnerable to becoming poor, largely due to factors including lack of education, economic opportunity and recovery after the war.

The level of poverty in children is also disproportionate to the national poverty rate. Around 22 percent of children are part of poor families, making them more likely than adults to be poor. Risks for high poverty levels in children include lack of education as well as intergenerational poverty transfer.

Poverty between rural and urban areas is prevalent at unequal rates. In rural areas, 19 percent of rural citizens live in poverty while the poverty rate in urban areas is only 9 percent.

Children with disabilities, Romany and other ethnic minorities and IDPs have the highest vulnerability to poverty in Bosnia. The aftermath of war, as well as lack of education and stigma against minorities, has only increased the likelihood of poverty for them.


  1. Brain Drain and Demographic Collapse

Bosnia’s workforce is decreasing due to massive brain drain in several sectors, including education, healthcare and information-technology, with around 40,000 people leaving the country last year in search of a better life. Many of them are skilled workers, who employers fear they won’t be able to replace. With rising youth unemployment, low wages, corruption and lack of job opportunities, the government is failing to convince tens of thousands of workers to stay, threatening Bosnia’s future.

Another reason for the demographic decline is the decreasing birth rates. Bosnian women have an average of 1.26 children. That is not only well below the 2.1 needed for a country with no immigration to maintain a stable population, but it is also one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. According to the United Nations, unless something changes, Bosnia’s population could shrivel to 3.05 million by 2050, which would be some 29% less than just before the war. However, depending on the rate of emigration, this figure could be reached much sooner.

As a result of emigration and falling birth rates, shortages are now emerging of medical personnel and construction workers while schools are closing for lack of pupils.