History of the Swiss Cooperation Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Major Milestones in 20 years of Cooperation

Switzerland is recognised as an important and respected actor in providing development support and one of the most active donors in Bosnia and Herzegovina together with European Union, USAID, Worldbank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, United Nations and Governments of Sweden and Norway.

During the war, from 1991 up to 1995, Switzerland contributed EUR 96.6 million for emergency assistance and humanitarian aid in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. A large number of people from BiH sought refuge in Switzerland during and after the war.

In the post-war period, from 1996 until 1999 the focus of the Swiss Cooperation Program was on Humanitarian Assistance and Reconstruction, aiming at infrastructure rehabilitation, psycho-social support and contributions to international organisations.

On the basis of experience gained in the humanitarian phase and with partly the same implementation structure, a first mid-term programme for BiH was developed in 1999. It shifted emphasis from humanitarian aid to longer-term development cooperation under the overall goal of transition and reconciliation. The sheer numbers of refugees and displaced persons, together with the need to stabilize the region, put BiH high on the Swiss political agenda. Therefore, EUR 33.3 million were earmarked for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

From 2000 until 2003 the Humanitarian Assistance gave way to Technical Cooperation under a stronger focus on bilateral cooperation with national partner institutions, concentrating on economic transition, reconciliation and transition to democracy.

In the period from 2004 until 2008 the Swiss Cooperation Programme made a step from mainly Technical Cooperation towards Economic Development and Political Transition support, within the main domains of Local Governance and Basic Services, Social Services and Social Rights, as well as Private Sector Development.

The Swiss Cooperation Strategy 2009–2012, jointly designed and delivered by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), as divisions of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), as division of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER),  aimed at supporting BiH’s transition and European integration process through three strategically detected domains: 1) Rule of Law and Democracy, 2) Economy and Employment, 3) Health and Basic Infrastructure.

The Cooperation Strategy 2013-2016 is basically a follow-up of the former program, defined along similar domains, but prioritising specific action lines (sub-domains): 1) Local Governance & Municipal Services, 2) Health, 3) Economy & Employment. The long-standing cooperation within these strategic domains results increasingly in systemic changes (e.g. in the definition of relevant sector policies); furthermore, visible achievements are emerging throughout all key projects. This has been confirmed by the Mid-Term Review of the Cooperation Strategy in 2015, and has been regularly stated in the annual reports of the BiH program. Given the high priority of the Justice Reform for the BiH society, the Swiss Cooperation Program extended its former support to this sector. The same holds for the Swiss Migration Partnership Program to BiH which has been producing important results since 2009.

The positive results and the overall leverage of the Swiss Cooperation Program within the mentioned sectors provide a solid base for the new Cooperation Strategy 2017 – 2020 to BiH. Switzerland will continue to contribute to the reduction of social, economic and political disparities in BiH and to the further development of its democratic political systems, working with accountable public and private actors, as well as with active and empowered citizens. New topics will include a more specific focus on Poverty Reduction, a stronger inclusion of the potentials of BiH migrants for the development of their country, and a more consequent approach to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

For Switzerland as for other countries of Europe, the stabilization of the region is a political objective necessary to ensure peace. Likewise, economic recovery is an important aim, being a precondition for social and political regional integration through trade and, eventually, for joining the European Union.