A concluding event held in Sarajevo on 23 May marked the end of the BiH ESAP 2030+ project. The event gathered around 100 participants and offered a chance for key stakeholders to reflect on the achievements, challenges and lessons learned. They also exchanged views on the results and expressed hopes for the future implementation of the Strategy.
SEI director Mans Nilsson spoke emphatically about the collaborative spirit that marked the project’s trajectory. He stressed that it was this collaborative effort, underpinned by knowledge exchange, innovation and capacity building, which helped craft a robust and inclusive strategy. He reiterated SEI’s ongoing commitment to supporting Bosnia and Herzegovina in strengthening environmental policies and actualizing them on the ground.
The issue of the environment is an issue for all BiH citizens
Bernardas Padegimas, Team Leader: Environmental Policy and Strategy at SEI and BiH ESAP 2030+ project leader, echoed these sentiments during his presentation at the event. He took the opportunity to remind everyone about the sheer amount of work that went into the development of this strategy. Padegimas acknowledged the countless individuals who shared their valuable time and insights.
The BiH Environmental Strategy addresses seven EU environmental policy areas, including water and waste management, biodiversity and nature conservation, air quality, climate and energy, chemical safety, noise, sustainable resource management and environmental management. Its thematic coverage not only aligns with the EU’s environmental acquis but also complements the existing sectoral management structures within BiH.
The development of the BiH Environmental Strategy followed a participatory approach. This inclusive methodology involved the input of a minister-level steering board, assistant minister-level policy groups and 28 working groups, including around 660 participants from the public sector, academicians, civil society organizations and the private sector, along with the general public and international experts from leading organizations dealing with environmental issues. Local experts led a series of working groups that enabled cross-jurisdictional collaboration.
“It was the first time in Bosnia and Herzegovina that a participatory approach was used to create a strategic document of this breadth,” Padegimas said. He further stated that the success of this project was ultimately placed in the hands of local people.
In total, 147 working group meetings led by local lead experts were held. The teams continued their work online amidst Covid-19. Also, the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was undertaken to ensure that the proposed environmental strategy considered all relevant environmental, socioeconomic and sustainability elements at the early stage of its development.
Addressing the environment’s current state and required improvements naturally intersected with issues of gender equality, social equality and poverty (GESEP). The project team prioritized integrating the GESEP component into the BiH ESAP 2030+, an innovative approach for strategic documents in the realm of environmental protection in BiH. This, according to Padagimas, is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s principle of “leaving no one behind”
In the course of creating the BiH ESAP 2030+, coherent environmental strategies and action plans were developed for each jurisdiction, namely, Federation of BiH, Republika Srpska and Brčko District. Throughout 2022, these strategic documents gained approval from their respective authorities. The process of individual adoptions enabled the formulation of an overarching Environmental Strategy of Bosnia and Herzegovina 2022-2032, which is currently in the process of being adopted.
The Strategy represents a significant step toward BiH’s EU accession process
BiH’s accession to the EU, granted candidate status in December 2022, require the country to harmonize its policies with the EU acquis, particularly regarding environmental policy. This includes ensuring that BiH follows the same standards as other member states, and that it can fully participate in the EU’s environmental policy.
“Once adopted, the first countrywide Environmental Strategy will be a key tool for the relevant authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to improve the environment and an important contribution to the EU accession process and the achievement of the goals of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement. Also, which is very important, it will contribute to the health and well-being of the country’s population. Sweden, as a country that has been contributing to sustainable development and environmental issues at the policy level for decades, provided strategic support to the creation of BiH ESAP 2030+. We appreciate the commitment of all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina who contributed to the creation of the BiH Environmental Strategy. As currently the largest bilateral donor in the field of environment and climate change in Bosnia and Herzegovina, environmental protection will remain Sweden’s priority,” said Eva Gibson Smedberg, Head of Development Cooperation at the embassy of Sweden in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The BiH ESAP 2030+ serves as a long-term planning framework that allows for coherent environmental practices and actions across BiH. It has the potential to become a key tool for authorities to achieve environmental sustainability and improve the health and well-being of citizens for present and future generations.
Find out more about BiH ESAP 2030+ at esap.ba.