There have also been several recent government-supported initiatives which provide more reasons for being optimistic about the future of BiH. In 2014, based on “a recognized need to create space for dialogue and promotion of coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” a joint initiative of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), was undertaken to develop a project called “Dialogue for the Future: The promotion of coexistence and diversity in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” which was jointly implemented by UN agencies UNESCO, UNICEF and UNDP (“The Missing Peace: The Need for a Long Term Strategy in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bosnia and Herzegovina” 36). The BiH Presidency identified education, culture and youth as areas that can act as a springboard for dialogue and trust building to take root in the country. The overall strategic focus/impact of the project was to address the deterioration of relations amongst communities and substantially decrease the threat of renewed conflict and violence by promoting peaceful coexistence, which is characterized by increased trust, respect for diversity, strengthened civic and inter-cultural dialogue amongst citizens, in particular youth (“The Missing Peace: The Need for a Long Term Strategy in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bosnia and Herzegovina” 36).
Simply stated, the objectives of The Dialogue for the Future (DFF) were the creation of space for dialogue, reconciliation and building of trust. The objectives included:
- Creating spaces for dialogue to enable the process of building understanding across the country,
- Promoting coexistence and respect for diversity;
- Increasing participation, awareness and influence of youth in political dialogue related to issues that affect program development and reform in BiH;
- Ensuring that education supports greater social cohesion, and
Supporting citizens and communities to achieve common goals in terms of building coexistence through culture (“The Missing Peace: The Need for a Long Term Strategy in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bosnia and Herzegovina” 36).
The project’s donor was the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office / Peacebuilding Fund (PBF); its budget was $2,000,000.00 (USD). It’s duration was for a period of 24 months and implementation of the project began in July, 2014. The Dialogue Platform Declaration announced in April, 2015 noted “Affirm(ed) our belief that continuous dialogue is the only way by which the challenges faced by Bosnia and Herzegovina will be resolved,” and “call(ed) on all peoples and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially the youth, to become active participants and engines of change and to work together with us in developing policies aimed at overcoming the key challenges faced by Bosnia and Herzegovina” (“The Missing Peace: The Need for a Long Term Strategy in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bosnia and Herzegovina” 36).
The project was intended to directly include citizens, leaders and ‘champions’ of intercultural dialogue from different social backgrounds, with a special emphasis on youth. The project beneficiaries would be mainly youth, teachers, parents, activists in areas of art and culture, civil society, religious and business leaders, marginalized groups and communities, and the general public, with an emphasis on inclusion of gender minorities, primarily women and girls from less developed, rural areas of BiH. Eligible applicants for a grant included:
- Civil society organizations registered in BiH and
- Informal groups and individuals.
- Priority areas were identified as:
- Formal and informal education,
- Intercultural understanding, and
- Youth leadership and social innovation.
The majority of the Project’s budget was allocated to a Small Projects and Grants Facility (SGF), which financed 40 SGF projects in three “Key Areas of Action:”
Culture: Ensure that citizens and communities realize their common goals in terms of peace-building through culture (16 projects)
Education: Ensure that education supports greater social cohesion (11 projects)
Youth: Increase participation and awareness of youth in dialogue processes related to development and reform processes in BiH (13 projects) – which included:
- Active Youth for a Better Future
- Extinguish the Fire, Save Your Brother
- From Education To Participation
- Learn More and Respect Diversity
- No To Violence and Xenophobia
- We Choose the Future
- Academy For Political Leaders
- Bridges of Friendship 2015
- Dialogue for Cooperation
In July, 2016, an “Evaluation of UNDP/UNESCO/UNICEF: Dialogue for the Future (DFF) Project Final Report” was released. It concluded that the DFF Project “can undoubtably be considered as successfully implemented contributing towards the overall project’s outcome…outputs and outcomes have contributed to the achievement of the main goal however, its long term effects are difficult to assess given a short time-span of the project and the timing of the evaluation, which is at the very end of a project of only 24 months length” (Ćesić and Šošević 4).
It concluded that based upon the Project’s monitoring data, the DFF Project :
- Indirectly engaged over 150,000 citizens through 3 Dialogue Platforms; Youth Forums; trainings and SGF’s projects,
- 1,350 Positive stories; 20 TV episodes targeted youth engagement resulted in an estimated 890,560 viewers, 27,494 Youtube and 135,419 Facebook views and 3,680 social platform users,
- Youth focused initiatives; i.e. various Grant Facility, outreach, communications and advocacy activities such as Dialogue Platforms, Youth Forums, trainings and other SGF projects promoted trust building and appreciation of diversity, and
It is estimated that they engaged 1,138,084 persons or more than 29% of the population of BiH (Ćesić and Šošević 9).
The evaluation team noted that cooperation with The Ministry of Civil Affairs (at state level), Federal Ministry of Education, Science, RS Ministry of Education and Culture had been established during the Project’s implementation(Ćesić and Šošević 21). The Dialogue Platform combines the efforts of decision-makers, civil society actors and citizens – which has never occurred before in BiH and is therefore an opportunity to encourage leaders representing different levels of government (State, Canton and municipal) to join the endeavor (Ćesić and Šošević 21). However, the evaluation team had reservations as to whether these initiatives would be sustainable beyond the Project’s lifespan, and thus there was an “absolute need to continue to support (the) initiative (Through DFF II) in the future in order not to lose momentum and what has been already achieved by the Project components…sustainability needs to be an integral part of project design” (Ćesić and Šošević 21).