The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina to promote democracy and human rights. For background on the country's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and The International Religious Freedom Reports
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government's highest priority in the country is to facilitate the country's full integration into the Euro-Atlantic community, ensuring that its future will be stable, democratic, and prosperous. Fifteen years after the Dayton Peace Accords ended the 1992-1995 war, the country remains deeply divided along ethnic lines, undermining basic governance. To address these issues, the United States prioritized the promoting of reform within the defense, law enforcement, judicial and parliamentary sectors, as well as overall constitutional reform. The United States also targeted key nongovernmental institutions -- such as a free, vibrant, and independent media, and a thriving civil society -- as critical to maximizing the country's democratic gains.
The U.S. priorities stemming from the country's 1992-1995 war include fostering truth and reconciliation, prosecuting war criminals, and identifying the remains of those missing in the war, both as a humanitarian gesture and to facilitate war crimes prosecutions and documentation. The United States also targets improving government accountability at all levels. The U.S. human rights and democracy strategy aims to strengthen law enforcement, judicial, and political institutions to protect vulnerable populations, including ethnic minorities and victims of trafficking in persons, from discrimination and violence while also ensuring transparency in the judicial process and combating corruption.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
A U.S.-funded justice sector development program improves the efficiency, transparency, and fairness of the justice system by strengthening the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, and by building the Ministry of Justice's ability to manage strategic planning and policy making, budgeting, donor coordination, and European integration. The United States also works with the parliament to strengthen political processes and decision-making on key issues. One U.S.-supported governance accountability project bolsters local governments' ability to respond efficiently to the needs of its citizens while also streamlining processes that might otherwise be prone to corruption or discrimination against ethnic minorities. Media freedom in the country is deteriorating, with the level of threats against journalists increasing in the past year. The polarized political situation influences the media, as the media reinforce ideological and ethnic divisions, often compromising media professionalism. With many members of the local media influenced by sources of political and economic power, the United States directs available funding to support alternative media sources that promote multi-ethnic programming. The United States also supports associations that promote professional standards and media freedom. The United States continues a civic advocacy partnership program with NGOs to strengthen their advocacy, coalition building, and watch-dog capabilities, and to address citizen needs through education, advocacy, and provision of services.
The United States funds local NGO projects to increase civic participation in decision-making processes through various public advocacy campaigns. These campaigns focus on issues such as transparency in government, political and economic empowerment of women in society, constitutional reforms, corruption, abuse of human rights (including violence against women, children, and minorities), reconciliation and tolerance, sustainable return of refugees and displaced persons, development of diversity, and tolerance in the media. The United States supports a wide range of public diplomacy programs: student information sessions, American Corners outreach, English language teaching support, media training, educational and cultural exchanges, and International Visitor Leadership Programs designed to expose potential leaders to U.S. institutions and values and strengthen confidence in state-level institutions. U.S. civic education programs reach students from kindergarten through secondary school, teacher training programs, and madrassas (Muslim secondary schools) throughout the country. The United States uses diplomatic engagement with interlocutors from the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the foreign diplomatic corps, international organizations, local NGOs, and government agencies in coordinated efforts to implement decisions made by the Peace Implementation Council as well as to monitor and, when necessary, to counter actions that limit democratic freedoms and human rights.
To counter nationalism and promote the truth and reconciliation necessary for a sustainable and sovereign future, the United States supports efforts to overcome the legacy of war. Public diplomacy programs solidify public support for necessary government reforms while also promoting civic education, participation, and advocacy. The United States has contributed financial, technical, and political support to develop the country's capacity to investigate and try war crimes cases, as well as cases involving official corruption, tax evasion, and money laundering. This is mainly achieved through the assignment of U.S.-funded prosecutors, judges, and advisors to the Office of the State Prosecutor and the State Court. The United States supports intensive training programs for police, prosecutors, and judges to increase investigative and other skills, and police-prosecutor cooperation. The United States advocated police reforms that enabled the country to meet EU conditions for the signing of a Stabilization and Association Agreement in June 2008.
The United States remains committed to supporting post-conflict efforts to confront nationalism, promote reconciliation, and restore a culture of tolerance. Through U.S. funding, the International Commission on Missing Persons continues to collect blood samples to help identify persons reported missing during the 1992-1995 conflict. More than 16,000 persons have been identified with the aid of the United States, including 6,414 from the Srebrenica genocide. The funding also has trained staff of the Missing Persons Institute, supported victims' associations, and provided forensic evidence for war crimes proceedings. U.S.-funded initiatives also promote respect for the rights of marginalized groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, and minority groups. The United States continues to facilitate the return of refugees and persons displaced by the 1992-1995 conflict, the majority of whom are ethnic minorities in those areas, working with the police to create safe neighborhood environments and ensuring prompt, appropriate response when returnees are threatened. The United States supported an advocacy program to develop the public media capacities of 15 Roma Associations, including the establishment of a Roma Information Center and publication of a Roma Magazine, in an effort to break down stereotypes and combat discrimination against the Roma. U.S. assistance also supports antitrafficking efforts, which includes providing the national-level antitrafficking strike force with technical advice and training. In 2009 the United States continued funding a major country-wide trafficking education effort, the SUSTAIN program.