Bosnia and Herzegovina still enduring serious displaced problem – UN expert
Too many citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina remain displaced from their homes 13 years after the country’s war ended, and many of those that have gone back to their villages live in unfinished buildings and lack basic economic opportunities, a United Nations human rights expert said today.
Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), wrapped up a week-long visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina by urging the Government and the international community to each step up their efforts to help the displaced and returnees find decent and lasting living conditions.
Mr. Kälin met with senior Government officials, including the Chairman of the Presidency Haris Silajdžic and Prime Ministers Nedzad Brankovic and Milorad Dodik, as well as individual IDPs, returnees and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) during his visit.
He said in a statement today that while the Government and the international community have made enormous efforts to return almost all property to their rightful owners and to reconstruct the majority of destroyed houses, reconstruction as a whole was far from being achieved.
“It is hard to believe that hundreds of families all over Bosnia who have had the courage to return to their remote villages continue to live in unfinished buildings, without electricity or running water and no economic opportunities after so many years.”
Most returnees were still struggling to make a living, he said, finding it difficult to obtain jobs – in part because of widespread employment discrimination about minorities – or the start-up capital or equipment needed to generate an income. Discrimination in education and the hostile use of national and religious symbols were also exacerbating the situation.
Mr. Kälin said authorities were becoming increasingly aware that a person’s return did not end when they arrived at their former home but instead when they were able to resume a socially and economically sustainable life.
This was particularly true, the Representative said, for the most vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, the disabled or the infirm.
He praised several municipalities for putting in place microcredit and other support schemes to help returnees get back on their feet.
Mr. Kälin serves in an independent and unpaid capacity and reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Most recently he has visited Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Kenya.