ASSOCIATION OF ELECTION OFFICIALS IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The Association of Election Officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina (AEOBiH) was founded in September, 1999. AEOBiH was founded to provide an independent forum for the exchange of information among election officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to contribute to the advancement democracy in BiH by ensuring the fairness of and public confidence in the electoral process. AEOBiH currently has more than one five hundred (500) members representing all three constituent peoples from all municipalities throughout the country and include former and current members of local Election Commissions, judges and lawyers.
AEOBiH has a record of substantial accomplishments. Leading up to the November 2000 General Elections, AEOBiH, in cooperation with OSCE, was responsible for training more than 36,000 polling station officials. In addition, AEOBiH members carried out voter information activities in 50 municipalities, explaining to citizens where and how to vote. During 2001, AEOBiH implemented a Voter Registration and Re-Registration Project targeting voters who cast tendered ballots in the 2000 General Elections. Some 10,000 voters in 25 municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina were successfully re-registered or registered for the first time. As 2002 was an election year, AEOBiH was actively involved in preparations of the General Elections. AEOBiH educated Municipal Election Commission (MEC) members about provisions in the BiH Election Law, educated high school students about elections, conducted voter registration and re-registration project and trained polling station committees. During the municipal elections in 2004 and General Elections in 2006, AEOBiH trainers participated in the training of Polling Station Committees, trainings for citizens, observers of nongovernmental organizations and political parties on preferential voting system, as well as in preparation of the Manuals for Polling Station Committees in cooperation with the Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As a priority, AEOBiH offers its members professional development opportunities. From 2000 to 2002, there were three courses offered to AEOBiH members. First, the Elections Course covered international election standards, characteristics of different election systems, elections in BiH and responsibilities of municipal election commissions. The second course, organized in co-operation with the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution, covered negotiation and conflict resolution techniques. The third course, focused on media and public presentation skills, has been organized in cooperation with the Media Center in Sarajevo.
AEOBiH is also engaged in current issues pertaining to the future of election administration in BiH. One example is the work of the AEOBiH Legal Council, whose members and legal experts are analyzing the Election Law and other laws related to elections to ensure wider distribution of information regarding the content and implications of the laws.
International activities also constitute an important part of the AEOBiH program. AEOBiH delegations observe elections in other countries, learn about various administrative models, participate in international election conferences and visit other national and regional associations of election officials.
AEOBiH is also working on educational projects regarding improvement of accountability of elected officials and strengthening the role of citizens in the processes of making decisions.
One of the projects implemented by the AEOBiH in 2004/2005 through the funds of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was entitled Human Rights and Good Governance Program. The aim of this project was to establish better communication between citizens and municipal structures with the special emphasis on protection of basic human rights through education and training on human rights regarding participatory processes in public life; as well as good governance, accountability and transparency in decision-making processes.
The project implemented by the AEOBiH in 2004-2006 was entitled “Public Education and Professional Training on the Conflict of Interest Law”. The main goal of this project that was implemented through the funds of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was to promote the accountability of elected officials, executive officeholders, and advisors and their responsibility to serve the public over their own private interests. This contributed to the raising of general awareness in citizens to better exercise their rights and responsibilities through strong educational campaign. Citizens were also educated about the necessity to monitor political party representatives and elected officials, executive officeholders, and their advisors performance by enforcing legal provisions that directly address the issues of corruption and crime in the Bosnia and Herzegovina society.
The project “Money and Politics” was implemented in 2005 and supported by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES). The goal of this project was to design and establish a unique and transparent database at the Secretariat of the Central Election Commission of BiH (CEC BiH) containing comprehensive information on funding of election parties. The AEOBiH was assisting CECBiH with organizing trainings and preparing educational materials about the database, which made funding of election campaigns more transparent.
AEOBiH implemented project “Enhancing good governance and the promotion and protection of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina” from September 2005 through September 2006 through the funds of the European Commission. The aim of this project was to enhance good governance and the promotion and protection of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). This was done by establishing effective, transparent and sustainable interaction and dialogue between citizens, civil society organizations and public authorities at the local level in three rural municipalities: Derventa, Stolac and Maglaj. Through its activities, the project aimed to improve life conditions in nine local communities in three rural municipalities. Achieved results are established good systematic and continuous practice of cooperation between citizens and municipal authorities, the AEOBiH helped citizens, NGOs and local government representatives to create strategic plan for three local communities in each three rural municipalities.
The project entitled “Money and Elections” in Serbia was implemented thanks to the funds of the Balkan Trust for Democracy in the period from November 2006 through the end of July 2007. This nine-month project fostered regional cooperation and shared best practices in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to address the common challenge of political corruption. AEOBiH, in cooperation with the BiH Central Election Commission and CeSID from Serbia, worked on raising public awareness of political finance issues among NGOs and journalists and promoted procedural mechanisms that encourage more effective application of the Law on Financing of Political Parties based on experience from BiH.
The project entitled “Accountable authorities in BiH” was implemented in the period from November 1, 2006 to December 31, 2007 thanks to the funds of the British Embassy. The main goal of this project was to promote the accountability of elected officials, executive officeholders, and advisors and their responsibility to serve the public over their own private interests. This project also contributed to the raising of general awareness in citizens and media representatives to better exercise their rights and responsibilities. During one-year project implementation, AEOBiH held 24 trainings, 2 round tables and one lessons learned conference for officials elected at the General Elections on October 1, 2006 on BiH, NGOs and media representatives.
Association of Election Officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina (AEOBiH), in cooperation with partners – Centers for Civic Initiatives (CCI) and Civil Society Promotion Center (CSPC), implemented the project entitled “Training for Public Hearings” in the period from February 1, 2007 to August 31, 2007 thanks to the funds of the OSCE and the US Government. The main goals of this project were to develop capacity of civil society to participate in public hearings and engage with the state parliament, to increase public awareness about possibility of participation in the legislative process, and to improve legislative process. During seven-month project implementation, AEOBiH held 8 trainings and 6 public tribunes. Beneficiaries of the project were CSOs from the following regions: Banja Luka, Bihać, Tuzla, Brčko, Sarajevo, Livno, Mostar and Trebinje.
The project entitled “Youth and Politics” was implemented thanks to the funds of the International Republican Institute (IRI) in the period from May through September 2007. The main activities of the project were organization of meetings of the youth in Banja Luka, Sarajevo and Mostar with newly elected councilors in the House of Representatives of the BiH Parliament, National Assembly of RS, and Cantonal Assembly in Mostar. Approximately 300 young people from Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Mostar had an opportunity to meet with councilors on the State, Entity and Cantonal level and learn more about engagement in politics and work of three levels of government.
The project entitled “Money and Elections” is implemented thanks to the funds of the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) from April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2009. During 24-months of project implementation, the Association of Election Officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina (AEOBiH) conducted education in all municipalities in BiH on importance of participation in the elections. Voters were informed about relevant election rules, political party finance reporting and gender issues. This education included 13.500 election officials, youth, women, NGOs and vulnerable groups in local communities who developed skills in obtaining information and learned how to use this information for actions that create an environment where citizens are an active and integral part of public policy development and decision-making process. Four hundred and twenty three (423) trainings were held in 6 cycles in 141 municipalities.
Association of Election Officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina (AEOBiH), in partnership with CeSID - Serbia, and GONG-Croatia, has been implementing the project entitled “Election Law and Law on Conflict of Interest – experience and practice in the region“ in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia in the period from November 2007 through the end of October 2008. This twelve-month project fostered regional cooperation and shared best practices in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina through addressing election legislation and Conflict of interest issues in BiH, Serbia and Croatia. This was done by organizing four regional meetings, which gathered representatives of the state institutions, which deal with the Conflict of Interest issues and Election Law, as well as representatives of nongovernmental sector from these countries. This project is implemented thanks to the funds of the Open Society Fund Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Association of Election Officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina (AEOBIH) implemented the project entitled “Learning and Knowing - means Existing” from February 2008 until the end of October 2008, in cooperation with 20 secondary schools throughout BIH. This project was implemented thanks to the funds of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USA. The purpose of the project was that the youth who turned to be 18 years old and acquire voting right become aware that they are the ones that dynamics and type of changes happening in BIH depend on. The project included four students (two male and two female) from 20 secondary schools throughout BIH, from the Federation of BIH in 10 rural municipalities (Goražde, Ilijaš, Konjic, Žepče, Kakanj, Živinice, Srebrenik, Mostar, Stolac, Travnik) and 10 from the Republic of Srpska (Pale, Foča, Srebrenica, Milići, Prijedor, Prnjavor, Istočno Sarajevo, Nevesinje, Bileća, Bijeljina). This project included 80 students, who are from poor families, who were selected from the school councils. It also included 20 professors of democracy or pedagogue, as escort of students, and as a supervisor of school activities related to the project. Four days seminar in two cycles, in Sarajevo was organized for selected students, where they learned about: Political system in BiH, Elections in BiH, Human rights and freedoms, Gender issues, Strengthening of capacities of the Council in school, Getting closer to EU, Mid-term strategy – fight against poverty and millennium aims. All lectures were organized by the AEOBIH Secretariat in cooperation with BIH institutions. Besides that, visits to all government levels was organized for students (one of Sarajevo municipalities, Canton Sarajevo, Parliament of the Federation and Parliament of BIH), in order to better understand levels of authority in BIH and their functioning.
Association of Election Officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina (AEOBiH), started implementation of the project “Improved Management of Electoral Laws Program in Bosnia and Herzegovina“ in October 2009.
The goal of the Project is to improve the implementation of the Laws on Conflict of Interest and Political Party Financing by training those directly affected by these laws and raising public and media awareness of their provisions and implementation modalities. The Project is implemented according to the agreement with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina and funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In total, there will be 32 trainings held for elected officials on municipal, cantonal, federal and state level, as well as 8 trainings for NGO and media representatives. The series of trainings will last until the end of November 2010.The Program also envisages publication of the brochures with comments on above mentioned laws provisions and it’s implementation. The comments will be developed based on practical experience of the Central Election Commission (CEC) and inputs from the participants of the trainings.
The project “Increase of participation of citizens with disabilities at the elections through improvement of law acts and access to polling station committees“, was implemented in coordination with the Council of organizations of the persons with disabilities of the Federation of BiH, Coordination Board of the persons with disabilities of the Sarajevo Canton, Central Election Commission of BiH (CEC BiH), and Foundation Global Kontakt (FGK). Goal of the project was creation of conditions for increase of participation of citizens with disabilities in the election process through detailed assessment of voting procedures and practices and defining of recommendations for changes of legal regulations, analysis of access to polling station committees and creation of recommendations for its improvement. This project was implemented from April through November 2010 thanks to the funds of the Centers for Civic Initiatives in BiH.
Project „Youth for Youth / First Time Voter“ was implemented from July through October 2010 thanks to the funds of the Council of Europe. Goal of the project was to increase interest of the youth in the elections and political life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Main activities were public competition for the best poster / slogan and essay with the aim to motivate young people to go out and vote. Ten best essays were printed in brochures which was distributed together with 30 000 leaflets with information on the elections and motivational letters, and posters to final year students in all high schools in BiH. Also, 160 workshops were held in 80 schools in the Federation of BiH and the Republic of Srpska on the elections.
The second phase of this project was implemented from March through June 2011. Workshops on the elections were held in 43 secondary schools in the Federation of BiH and Republic of Srpska in order to motivate young people to actively participate in public and political life of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 10 000 copies of the brochures with basic information on the elections is printed.
The third phase of this project was implemented from September to December 2011. Workshops on the elections were held in 49 secondary schools in the Federation of BiH and Republic of Srpska, and additional 10 000 brochures were distributed.
AEOBiH has been the member of the Association of Central and East European Election Officials (ACEEEO, www.aceeeo.org) since 2000, organisation whose main aim is to contribute to democratic and fair elections in the region. AEOBiH is also member of NGO Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2001. The NGO Council is a network of international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to support the stabilisation and development of Bosnia-Herzegovina. (www.bihngocouncil.ba).