The Embassy of Switzerland in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United Nations Development Programme in BiH presented the National Human Development Report 2020 “Social Inclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovina” (National Human Development Report – NHDR). This report assesses what has changed in the country when it comes to social inclusion of the most vulnerable people, social sector systems and broader social cohesion over the past decade. Social inclusion in the country is analysed from two angles: from the point of view of institutions and from the point of view of citizens. Social inclusion across social sector systems of Education, Health, Labour Market and Social Protection is assessed to identify gaps that lead to exclusion. The report also looks at how unequal distribution of resources across the country impacts availability of services and provides policy recommendations.
Ms. Barbara Dätwyler Scheuer, Director of Cooperation at the Swiss Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, stated: “It is my hope that, with this report, the debate on social inclusion will be higher on the policy agenda. My hope is that policy makers will read this report and use it as a solid basis for their own actions, that citizens will be inspired and encouraged to ask for reforms and change and that the international community will cooperate more closely in shaping a social inclusion agenda. Social inclusion is close to my heart, not only because it is a fundamental right to live a life of dignity and to actively participate in society, or because inclusive societies are more prosperous and resilient, but also because it is about people, who, regardless of their background, shall have the opportunity to achieve their full potential in life.”
The report’s findings indicate that social cohesion and ties between people have weakened over the past 10 years, and progress in the area of social inclusion was stalled, and in some cases reversed. The protection and inclusion of vulnerable people is still inadequate, especially for people with disabilities, children, LGBTIQ people, the Roma population, migrants and asylum seekers.
Ms. Steliana Nedera, UNDP Resident Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said: “Communities that treat all their members with equal respect and guarantee them equal access to social goods and services are stronger and more resilient communities – this is the overarching message of this report. Those most at risk need to have access to – and be supported by – social safety nets and social systems need to become more efficient by exploring ways to reduce administrative costs and modernize through digital solutions.”
To ensure that no one is left behind, and to fully and effectively implement existing legislation in the areas of fundamental rights, gender equality and non-discrimination, it is necessary to strengthen administrative capacity and provide adequate resources.
Ms. Lidija Markota, Head of Division, Department of Labor, Employment, Social Protection and Pensions, BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs, said that the report points to a very serious situation but it also gives us a roadmap for making stronger, healthier and more resilient communities. Ms. Markota said that this report is a call for action and that she hopes that in the coming period, together with the United Nations Development Programme, the Embassy of Switzerland and other partners, this report will be used as a working document and turned into concrete activities, initiatives and projects on social inclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The findings of the National Human Development Report point to a critical need for improvement in coverage of social protection systems and services in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Integrated networks of social sector institutions that provide these services are the foundation of a socially inclusive society.
Some of the key recommendations outlined in the report are:
- Invest in digital connectivity for every child and increase quality of e-learning;
- Perform in-depth research into out-of-pocket health expenses and use the results to adjust social assistance in order to reduce inequity in access to health protection and broaden insurance coverage;
- Prioritise programmes in primary healthcare, including options for the development of telemedicine;
- Introduce flexible and part-time employment into the labour legislations, without loss of entitlement to social benefits. This would reduce informality and increase participation of women in the labour market;
- Improve the situation of people with disability by implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities from 2017;
- Ensure uniform maternity entitlements; and
- Eliminate the excess administrative burden in the social protection system by the development of digitalised social services.
The Embassy of Switzerland in Bosnia and Herzegovina has decided to support the National Human Development Report (NHDR) produced by UNDP with the aim of triggering a debate on social inclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Embassy stresses that the findings and recommendations in the report, which has produced an insightful perspective on this important topic, are more important than ever in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects around the world, especially given the disproportionate effects it is having on those who are most excluded and vulnerable.