Youth Online: Can you hear me from the screen?

The two-day activity of the Foreign Policy Initiative BH Youth Online: Can you hear me from the screen? as a part of the project Make Future Together: The EU and the Western Balkans from Youth Perspective, which consisted of yesterday’s focus group with young people from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and today’s panel discussion that included experts and youth representatives from yesterday’s event with the goal to raise awareness of the Internet and the socio-political engagement of young people towards a wider audience, and to provide concrete solutions.

Over the last few years, the scope and use of digital tools such as social media has expanded significantly in many areas of our daily lives. One of them is the political sphere, where citizens get involved in discussions and debates and gather information about political events. The aim of the event is to explore the practices and attitude of young people on this issue, in order to determine how social media can be used as a tool to strengthen democracy. Topics discussed were internet freedom, misinformation and fake news.

Today, representatives of young people who discussed at yesterday’s event, had the opportunity to present their views, opinions and conclusions about social networks and the Internet in general, as a means for their daily activities. By talking to people who work directly in this field, such as Irhana Čajdin from Group 9 and Emir Zulejhić from the Raskrinkavanje.ba portal, they came to new insights into practices concerning young people online. Of course, on behalf of the Delegation of the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vladimir Pandurevic, Head of the Civil Society Program, EIDHR, also addressed us, emphasizing that active cooperation with young people is what makes such projects successful.

Some of the conclusions from yesterday’s discussion include “two sides of the same coin” (that is, the Internet), where young people singled out the following: positive sides include information gathering, online social activism and connecting with family and friends, whereas fake news, bad influence on the mental state of users, and hate speech depict the negative sides. In addition, young people dedicated their discussions to proposing possible solutions, highlighting the reporting of negative content, continuous education of young people, and indicating the use of beauty filters in published photos.

Youth Online: Can you hear me from the screen? is a part of the project Make Future Together: The EU and the Western Balkans from Youth Perspective which is implemented by the Foreign Policy Initiative BH in cooperation with other members of the regional Think For Europe Network (TEN), the Institute for International Relations in Rome, the Bronislaw Geremek Foundation Center in Warsaw and the Centre for European Policy in Brussels. The project is funded by the European Union as a part of their Europe for Citizens program.

 

The first day is over – Youth Online: Can you hear me from the screen?

Today, the Foreign Policy Initiative BH held a virtual roundtable discussion with a group of young people from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a part of our event: Youth Online: Can you hear me from the screen?

Together with this young group of participants, we explored their practices and attitudes related to citizen involvement in discussions and debates, as well as information gathering on political developments on the Internet. In this way, we have identified ways in which social media can be used as a tool to strengthen democracies. In general, the main focus was on the topics of internet freedom, misinformation and fake news.

On the second day, young people will present their ideas and perceptions to the public, and together with experts in the field of media literacy, as well as those who work together with young people, further discuss these topics.

Youth Online: Can you hear me from the screen? Is a part of the project Make Future Together: EU and the Western Balkans from the Youth Perspective, implemented by the Foreign Policy Initiative in cooperation with other members of the regional Think For Europe Network (TEN), the Institute for International Relations in Rome, the Bronislaw Geremek Foundation Center in Warsaw and the Centre for European Policy in Brussels. The project is funded by the European Union as a part of their Europe for Citizens programme.

VPI BH campaign – “You have the right to know. . . .”

On the occasion of the International The International Day for Universal Access to Information, the Foreign Policy Initiative BH organized a campaign “You have the right to know” on social networks during September and October, which aimed to raise awareness of citizens regarding the importance of free access to information.

In addition to infografics and animations that you can see later in this article, we also organized two special video shows. During the first show we had the opportunity to talk to Dragan Ćuzulan, Coordinator of the Public Administration Reform Coordinator’s Office in BiH and gave answers to the following questions:

  • How much are BiH citizens aware of the importance of freedom of access to all information of institutions?
  • What are the ways and mechanisms for institutions to open up to citizens?
  • Is proactive transparency one way to increase trust?
  • How far is Bosnia and Herzegovina realistically from the European standard of public administration?

The second edition of the special show we talked to Leila Bičakčić, the Director of Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN) and provided answers to the following questions:

  • How to deal with these problems and difficulties faced by media workers in BiH?
  • Is the pursuit of standards of active transparency of public administration the backbone and the usual state of the solution to these problems?
  • How far is Bosnia and Herzegovina realistically from the European standard of public administration?

Check out the content of the campaign below:

Presentation of the study “Foreign authoritarian influence in the Western Balkans”

On Tuesday, 15.09.2020., the Foreign Policy Initiative BH organized a presentation of the study “Foreign Authoritarian Influence in the Western Balkans” online through the Zoom platform.

The study is the result of the project “Understanding and Responding to the Influence of Foreign Actors”, which aims to understand the nature and the degree of authoritarian influence in the Western Balkans, starting with three countries: North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Significant knowledge is available on how Russia is trying to establish European and American political processes, but the influence of Russia and other superpowers (e.g. Turkey, Iran, China) in the Western Balkans, is less known and brought to attention. The aim of the project is to better understand, raise awareness and realize the impact of foreign actors in Eastern and Central Europe. This project aims to create tools that will enable detailed measurement of the influence of actors such as the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, as well as other authoritarian regimes.

In addition to the author, prof. dr. Damir Kapidžić from the Faculty of Political Science, University of Sarajevo and Strahinja Subotić, researcher at the Center for European Policies – CEP, participated in the presentation of the study.

The implementers of this project, in addition to the Foreign Policy Initiative BH, are: Political Capital (Budapest, Hungary); Societas Civilis Institute for Democracy (Skopje, North Macedonia); Center for Democratic Transition (Podgorica, Montenegro), with donor support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

The analysis is only available in English and can be downloaded here.

Public perceptions of service delivery in the Western Balkans are on the rise

Results from the public perception survey on service delivery suggest that governments in the Western Balkans are striving towards digitalisation and citizen-oriented services.[1] This year’s surveys show that all of the countries in the region are either making progress or remain at the level of the first PAR Monitor 2017/2018.

Public perception points to a more citizen-oriented service delivery

Compared to the results of the previous PAR Monitor, Serbia and Albania record the most noticeable changes with regards to citizens’ perceived simplicity of dealing with public administration (Graph 1). In other words, there were respectively 23 and 18 percentage point increases in these two countries, followed by Montenegro at 14 percentage points.

Survey also show that roughly two thirds of citizens in the region feel that governments are moving towards digitalisation (69%). Apart from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where slightly below 50% of citizens perceive this trend, in all the other countries of the region, between 66 and 81% of citizens surveyed feel this way. At the regional level, citizens noted positive improvement in the time needed to obtain administrative services. This was especially so in Serbia, Albania, and Montenegro, where more than 60% citizens confirmed it has decreased.

It is also worth noting that 58% of citizens in the region claim to recognise governments’ efforts to simplify administrative procedures – more than in the previous PAR Monitor. As before, public administration in Kosovo takes first place according to perceptions, followed by Serbia.

The availability of e-services: more awareness, same levels of usage

The public is increasingly aware of e-services across the Western Balkan countries. Unlike the previous PAR Monitor, no country records below 50% of awareness, with as high as 74% of citizens in Albania (Graph 2). On the flip side, we find that a lot of citizens still do not use these services – a third of citizens in the region stated they had never used them. Additionally, with less than a third of citizens using them either rarely or just sometimes, many used them only occasionally. Notably, only 10% of citizens have used e-services often.

At the same time, surveys show that most citizens in every country (between 70 and 80%) report that e-services are easy to use. This resembles the results of PAR Monitor 2017/2018, in which approximately 80% of citizens surveyed in all countries included reported the ease of use of these services.

Bearing in mind the high awareness figures, a lack of information on e-services is unlikely to account for the low-level usage. More than two thirds of citizens who used e-services, more or less frequently, had little or no difficulties finalising services they requested. Nonetheless, in terms of public perceptions, there has been tangible improvement in citizen-oriented service delivery in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia. On the other hand, the situation in Kosovo and North Macedonia has mostly remained unchanged.

[1] As for the 2019/2020 PAR Monitor, public perception of the awareness of and usefulness of feedback mechanisms, and their availability to citizens, is measured with public perception surveys that were implemented in each of the Western Balkan countries in the same manner. Surveys were implemented in the period from 5 to 30 May 2020.

APPLY NOW – Call for Expression of Interest to CSOs interested in PAR monitoring

WeBER 2.0 – Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration is seeking project proposals for the implementation of the Small Grant Facility for support to civil society monitoring of public administration reform at local level. The Call for proposals is in the total amount of 225.000 EUR intended to support up to 30 grants, each worth up to 8000 EUR (7500 EUR on average), out of which 6 in Serbia, 6 in BiH, 5 in Albania, 5 in North Macedonia, 4 in Kosovo, and 4 in Montenegro. Duration of the awarded grants is between 6 and 12 months. WeBER 2.0 project is financed by the European Union (EU). The complete Call for Proposals and all relevant documents are available for download below:

Application package

Providers of administrative services need to regularly reveal the content of feedback by citizens

Brand-new public perception survey results indicate fewer citizen-friendly options for providing opinions on administrative services, compared to PAR Monitor 2017/2018. At the same time, public opinion regarding the involvement of citizens and civil society in monitoring services is clearly growing. When it comes to the availability of information on citizen feedback, websites of service providers are no better than before. Such information on received feedback is mostly absent from their online portals, even in its most basic form.

The public views feedback channels as harder to use but stronger effects of external monitoring of service delivery

Perception surveys indicate that around half of the Western Balkan population sees possibilities to give opinions on the quality of services. This perception grew for almost 20% since the PAR Monitor 2017/2018.[1] On the country level, roughly a third of citizens in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina believe this is the case while in all the others, it reaches more than 50% of population.

In terms of the citizen-friendliness however, things appear to have gotten worse. A striking example is Albania, with 42% less of those surveyed noting that feedback channels are easy to use. In four of the countries, this decline is 30 percentage points or more.

More citizens in the region feel they are involved, together with civil society, in monitoring service delivery by administrations (42% as opposed to 26% previously). This has also led to a growing perception that such involvement has in fact improved service delivery. The difference can go as high as 20 percentage points, as in the cases of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Service providers remain reluctant to divulge details on feedback from citizens

There is a general lack of transparency of the information shared by citizens as feedback. Like the baseline PAR Monitor, administrations share almost no such information regarding five common administrative services. These include property, business, vehicle registration, obtaining personal documents, and VAT declaration and payment.

Still, some have just started publishing information in some areas – in Albania, for vehicle registration, and in Serbia, there is some basic data on the numbers of received and resolved complaints regarding registering businesses.

Overall, without transparency on feedback and how it is being used, citizen-oriented service delivery is hardly imaginable. Providing details on how users feel about services should become business as usual, but is, instead, lacking for the second monitoring cycle in a row. Overall, the PAR Monitor 2019/2020 has shown few major changes, and a certain level of backsliding in two countries.

[1] As in PAR Monitor 2017/2018, public perceptions on awareness of and usefulness of feedback mechanisms, and availability of feedback information to citizens, are measured through public perception surveys implemented in each of the Western Balkan countries in the same manner. Surveys were implemented in the period from the 5 to 30 May 2020.

The fifth meeting of the National Working Group (NWG) for Public Administration Reform (PAR) in BiH

On the Zoom platform, 22/7/2020 the fifth meeting of the National Working Group (NWG*) for Public Administration Reform (PAR) in BiH was held. This was the first meeting of the working group in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the new WeBER2.0 project. At the meeting, Mahir Sijamija, VPI BH Project Officer, announced and presented the new program of small grants for civil society organizations. After that, Anida Šabanović, director of VPI BH and Haris Ćutahija, researcher of VPI BH, held a presentation on the topic “European consultations with citizens: introduction and presentation of methods”. The meeting ended with a discussion on the implementation and priorities of public administration reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the status and activities of civil society organizations involved.

The event brought together representatives of civil society, as well as experts in the field of public administration reform.

*NWG is a national consultative mechanism between representatives of civil society and relevant state authorities in creation and monitoring of the PAR process in Western Balkan countries. NWGs were established in each of these countries as a part of a wider regional WeBER platform.

Analysis Presentation “Energy Geopolitics in the Balkans – Geopolitics and European integration of the Western Balkans”

Foreign Policy Initiative BH and Friedrich Ebert Foundation, organized the presentation of the political analysis “Energy Geopolitics in the Balkans – Geopolitics and European Integration of the Western Balkans” by prof. dr. Seada Turčalo in a somewhat different way due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The presentation was filmed at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Sarajevo in video format of TV show, where the host talked to our panelists who gave their review of the author’s manuscript. The video content that you can watch here will also be distributed to TV stations and other electronic media.

Apart from the author, the presentation was attended by prof. dr. Ešref Kenan Rašidagić from the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Sarajevo, Amer Kapetanović from the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) and doc. dr. Klarić Sanela Member of the House of Representatives of the FBiH Parliament who spoke on behalf of Green Council.

The energy sector and energy policies and strategies may be analyzed through different approaches: economic, environmental, geopolitical and other approaches. This analysis will focus on the geopolitical approach. In this approach, countries and actors that could be referred to as unitary or unitary-like actors have a decisive influence in the energy sector. The geopolitical approach to energy issues, or energy geopolitics, is inextricably associated with energy security, which within this approach is the primary goal of any energy policy; unlike the economic or environmental approaches, which favor issues of sustainability, competitiveness, etc.

The geopolitical approach primarily observes the geographical position of a particular country or region from the perspective of the location of energy resources it needs: analyzing their accessibility, the actors that control those resources, their price, existing and alternative transport routes, relations in the regional and global markets, market mechanisms and the regulatory framework that may influence the behavior of actors, availability and management of own energy resources, as well as political decisions and the manner and framework within which they are made.

The analysis is available here.

Governments in the WB still do not provide adequate information on their achievements

First results from PAR Monitor 2019/2020

In the policy development area, PAR Monitor 2019/2020 starts by focusing on the information available to citizens on governmental performance. Evidence shows that citizens of the Western Balkan countries, with the exception of BiH and to a lesser extent North Macedonia, do not have access to basic information about the work of their governments; the level of detail provided in annual governmental work reports is generally substandard to allow proper public scrutiny. Even weaker practices are shown in how understandable and result-oriented these reports are, as well as how regularly the public is informed on the implementation of central planning documents. Continue reading “Governments in the WB still do not provide adequate information on their achievements”