SARAJEVO, July 5 (FENA) – Switzerland has long-lasting cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina, but what makes this engagement special is the partnership approach. We do not want to be perceived only as a donor but as a development partner, said the director of the cooperation program at the Swiss Embassy in BiH Barbara Dätwyler Scheuer.
In an interview with FENA, Dätwyler Scheuer reminded that over the last three years, the effects of Swiss engagement have been felt by one million citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who now have improved infrastructure and public services.
Swiss projects, she pointed out, have a time span of up to 12 years because the real change cannot be achieved in a short time span. Since 1995, Switzerland has provided more than a billion KM in support to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The money has been invested in concrete development projects aimed at improving people’s lives and supporting reforms.
“In everything we do, our ultimate goal is to give people, especially young people, a reason to stay and lead a quality life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through our cooperation, we focus on three priority areas in which reforms, innovations and systemic changes are needed in order to improve the living conditions of citizens in BiH. These are health, economy and employment, and democratic governance, municipal services and justice. Our support is, of course, in line with the priorities of BiH and the EU pre-accession process,” she pointed out.
She believes that Switzerland, which has more than 2,000 municipalities and 26 cantons, has a lot to share with Bosnia and Herzegovina: knowledge, expertise and experience, and they are willing to share even more.
“I believe it is fair to say that the prosperity and stability of Switzerland is largely based on the rule of law, direct democracy, decentralized administrations and accountability. In Switzerland, we have made sure that citizens have the greatest possible influence on decisions. An additional strength of our country and economy is the system of vocational education and training, which is one of the reasons that Switzerland has a very low unemployment rate,” said Dätwyler Scheuer.
In all these areas, the Swiss Embassy is making efforts to exchange good practices with stakeholders in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Good governance, she added, is the basis of Swiss engagement around the world. What sometimes sounds like a complex and academic term simply refers to the way the state is organized and the performance of public functions, and the way state powers are exercised and legitimized.
“Nowadays, there is a consensus that democratic governance is a prerequisite for the development and stability of the state,” she said.
She reminded that Switzerland is investing a lot of effort in Bosnia and Herzegovina to strengthen local governments, build modern and efficient local governments. About 80 percent of municipalities, all of the cantons and both entities have developed and implemented their development strategies with the support of Switzerland. The ultimate goal is to provide quality services to citizens and improve living conditions and security.
Over the past three years, she said, about 115,000 citizens and 23,000 households have benefited from improved water supply and sanitation. In the future, many more people will benefit from similar initiatives.
“Citizens know best what they really need. It is therefore very important that they actively participate in the development of their local communities, directly express their fears and needs, engage in dialogue and demand greater transparency. That is what our goal is in all projects supported by Switzerland,” she pointed out.
Thanks to the implemented projects, citizens in municipalities throughout BiH have begun to present their priorities to municipal administrations, and municipalities were ready to include them in municipal plans and budgets.
About 620 such priorities (better street lighting, reconstruction of schools and playgrounds, access to quality water or reconstruction of bus stops, and even cinemas) have been considered in 24 municipalities and cities over the last three years.
“We support the reform and revitalization of local communities. The real day-to-day life of citizens takes place at the community level.
We have just launched an online video campaign under the slogan “We are accelerating progress”. One of the short films on which the campaign is based upon shows the engagement of Switzerland in order to improve local government and municipal services in the country. This animated film shows how citizens can take advantage of good opportunities for positive change. Progress is possible if they are actively engaged for the well-being of their neighborhoods and the whole community,” concluded the director of the cooperation program at the Swiss Embassy in BiH, Barbara Dätwyler Scheuer in an interview with FENA.