Why Brčko?

Brčko is a unique place in Bosnia, which adds to the significance of work Svitac does here. To understand why we must first understand some aspects of the Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian War in 1995.

Dayton signified the end of the war, but divided Bosnia into two separate regions based upon ethnicity: a Bosnian-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska.

At that time the status of Brčko District could not be settled upon. Finally, in 1999, the district was given a special multi-ethnic status. Called the “Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, it operated on a self-governing basis, distinct from either of the two separate regions, and was characterized by having a multi-ethnic local government.

At first the United Nations remained in control of Brčko’s government through the Office of the High Representative, with an international supervisor who had power over local government enforcing the Dayton Agreement and making sure political and economic reforms were implemented; as of today, though, Brčko’s District Government is independent of UN supervision.

In this map, you can see how the country was divided. The Brčko District is in a slightly darker grey.

Picture of a Divided Bosnia

Because of this special status, Brčko District is the most ethnically mixed region of Bosnia. Unlike the rest of Bosnia, its school system is integrated and young people of different ethnicities are educated together.

Although the economic, infrastructure and political situation in Brčko has been slowly improving for years, there is still a long way to go and much work to be done between the different communities before any kind of multi-ethnic society can develop. Bosnia and Herzegovina overall, though, suffers from deep and long-standing post-war economic problems that have been threatening the stability of its peace process. Svitac, along with other organisations in the region aim to counter any trends that can threaten it.

In May 2014 journalist Peter Geoghegan visited Brčko and wrote both about the city in this Guardian article.