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Bosnia and Herzegovina: Communities Foster Healing

Last Updated: August 2009
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Communities Foster Healing, Grow Incomes


Warfare and its immediate aftermath seriously impacted the basic fiber of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s society—its local communities. During the three-and-a-half-year war that ended in late 1995, at least 100,000 people were killed or went missing, some two million people were displaced, land mines riddled the landscape, the infrastructure and economy were almost completely destroyed, and services were devastated. Urgent action was needed to restore economic life and mend the torn social fabric.


The IDA-financed Community Development Project was launched in 2001 to promote reconciliation, reconstruction and development in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina. It aimed to do this with the participation of local citizens, and introduced community-driven development in the country for the first time. Partnerships were nurtured between local governments and communities through training, town hall meetings and general public discussions that enabled participants to identify problems and prioritize solutions. The project worked to improve basic services for low-income communities through investments that they planned and implemented themselves.


Infrastructure and basic services were restored, while the country and its people have made substantial progress in their overall economic and social development. A total of 481 subprojects were implemented in the 80 poorest municipalities, reaching more than 1.5 million beneficiaries—or 30 percent of the country’s population.

- Widespread reconstruction. Projects supported construction or repair of 99 water and sewage systems, 100 local roads, 23 schools, 71 sports or cultural centers and three bridges, purchase or repair of 13 ambulances and rehabilitation of various other small-scale infrastructure.

- Community openness. The project introduced sound practices for participatory decision making and budgeting. Local mayors pointed to enhanced citizen participation and transparency in financial decisions as the key to project success. Improved accountability of local policy makers and greater local engagement went hand in hand. Interviews and quantitative survey data showed that 30–50 percent of project communities improved their budget planning and used their resources more efficiently.

- Balanced development. A total of 281 subprojects were carried out in the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina and 200 in Republika Srpska.

- Skyrocketing community investment. As more community members got involved, local investment poured in, with community counterpart contributions more than tripling to US$6.75 million.

- Community satisfaction. A quantitative survey conducted with 671 direct beneficiaries across the country showed that 52 percent of respondents from the Republika Srpska and 62 percent of respondents from Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina felt their living conditions had improved.

- A framework for future action. The implementing agency, Odraz, has established itself as a viable facilitator for participatory community projects.


The Community Development Project was launched in 2001 and received additional financing in 2007. Total project cost was US$30.4 million, with IDA financing US$20 million and the remainder coming from entity governments (US$3.65 million) and local communities (US$6.75 million). IDA’s involvement in other policy sectors played a complementary role in project success. While this project was supporting priority investments and capacity building in the country’s poorest municipalities, another IDA-supported project provided a framework for the development of local governments across Bosnia and Herzegovina by, among other things, helping them participate in the municipal credit market.


In partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Sports, a number of sport and cultural-heritage sites have been rehabilitated in the poorest areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and in line with IDA’s special focus on minorities in the country, the project co-financed provision of basic services to a Roma settlement. In cooperation with World Vision International, the project supported a recycling plant that opened employment opportunities for Roma people.

Next Steps

A follow-up municipal development project financed by IDA is being prepared to introduce sustainable institutional mechanisms for investments in local infrastructure and to improve project operations to raise beneficiary satisfaction beyond 52 percent in Republika Srpska and 62 percent in the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina.

Learn More

Community Development Project (2001–09)
Project documents

For more information, please visit the Projects website.

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