22 Aug 12

A Vicious Circle

Eldin Hadzovic

As I investigated the condition of children without parental care in Bosnia, I realized that I could only get so far without filling in the bigger picture.

How many such children are there? Where do they stay? Which institutions are responsible for them?

Turning to the administration for answers, I instead discovered the roots of the problem.

Bosnia is divided into two entities – Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The latter is further divided into ten cantons.

Each of these entities, right down to the cantons, have their own assemblies and administrative authority, enjoying certain legislative powers.

Presiding over the state as a whole is the central government, known as the Council of Ministers.

This complicated structure creates endless disparities in the way Bosnia treats its most vulnerable citizens.

State funding helps determine the quality of social care received by orphans and abandoned children.

However, there is no central model for this in the Federation because there is no single system of public revenue collection that can pay for social security contributions. Nor is there any official provision of funds for cantons that cannot raise enough welfare money themselves.

Meanwhile in the Republika Srpska, on the other side of the troubled country, the care of vulnerable children is financed very differently, through contributions managed by a central fund.

As with funding, so with legislation: there is no single, state-wide structure for all children without parental care.

Instead, sub-groups within this category are the subject of laws overseen at various levels of government.

Experts say these laws are worthless in the absence of a minimum set of rules to protect the rights of all vulnerable children.

But when the authorities try to create universal provisions, they are thwarted – as I discovered – by a lack of reliable information.

An effective solution to the problem must untangle Bosnia’s complex administrative framework. But as this framework also obscures the nature of the problem, all solutions are ineffective. The vicious circle is complete.

Meanwhile, the institutions that are supposed to look after vulnerable children carry on as they have done for so long – without much money, or scrutiny.

Talk about it!

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