Bosnia and Herzegovina, in its transitional process, faces various development challenges such as economic decline, high unemployment, growing poverty and socioeconomic inequalities. The complex governance structure often hampers development which affects the potential of local governance to be the key drivers of development. Moreover, the municipalities are often trapped by inadequate and not harmonized policies and legal frameworks, as well as insufficient funds to implement priority projects. In such institutional system and incomplete decentralization, the AMCs are the voice of municipalities and represent their interests to higher level authorities, bridging numerous gaps in communication and moving reforms forward. In the future, the role of AMCs will also be highly important and needed to build capacities of municipalities to reach EU standards and access EU funds.
Common interests of municipalities and functional decentralization
The project aims to support AMCs’ institutional and organizational change so that they may improve their advocacy role and firmly represent the municipal interests in the evolving decentralization processes. In addition, the project will work on strengthening the capacities of AMCs, in order for them to support local governments in delivering efficient services to the citizens and demonstrate accountability. Consequently, this would lead to an improved role and status of the AMCs as a respected actor in promoting democratic developments in the context of the EU integration.
The Association of Municipalities and Cities of the Republika Srpska consists of 64 local governments, whereas the AMC of the Federation of BiH represents 80 local governments, plus Brcko District. In their mission, both AMCs should advocate for common interests of municipalities before entity and state authorities and lobby for adoption of new laws and regulations. They should provide professional services to municipalities primarily in the area of legal and fiscal support and EU integration. Furthermore, they should serve as exchange platforms of knowledge and information. To intensify AMCs role and advocacy efforts, it will also be important to raise awareness of municipalities about the functions the Associations should have so they can eventually create a bottom-up pressure.
The project as a joint intervention of SDC and SIDA
Since 2001, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has supported munici- palities and cooperated with AMCs through numerous projects, and continues to empower local governments for independent, visionary, and effective management of development processes.
The Strengthening Associations of Municipalities and Cities in BiH project will complement ongoing municipal development projects of SDC and other international organizations. The project will support the implementation of the strategic plans of the AMCs, as well as the process of enhancing functional decentralization to better position and increase the functioning of local governments.
The project is planned over three phases in the period from January 2016 to December 2027, with a total investment of 5’000’000 CHF. The project will be realized in partnership of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), thus being jointly funded by the Swiss and Swedish Governments.