Leaving the past behind

The perceptions of youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are willing to question prejudices prevalent in wider society and are eager to break with the past. However, research by Saferworld finds that whilst young people can potentially play a constructive role in a peaceful future for BiH, they face huge challenges. Understanding these obstacles, as well as young people’s concerns and aspirations is vital to encouraging their role in building Bosnia’s future resilience to conflict.

Carried out in co-operation with Nansen Dialogue Center (NDC) Sarajevo between April and September 2011, this research looks at young people's perspectives of peace and security in BiH. Young people (age 16–30), who make up more than 20 percent of the population, have grown up in a deeply divided society recovering from conflict and one where ethnicity is exploited for political ends, stifling meaningful reconciliation. Yet this generation does not carry the same trauma of conflict as previous generations.

The research project provided a rare opportunity for the young participants to engage with others from different backgrounds on sensitive issues. Even in so called mixed schools, subjects that are considered more sensitive, such as religion, languages and history are taught in ethnically segregated classes using different curricula, undermining a sense of common citizenship. The report concludes that young people need more opportunities to meet and interact with different ethnic and religious groups in a constructive way that goes beyond co-existence and encourages peaceful and positive relationships.

Click here to read the full report and the policy brief in English. Local language versions are also available for download.

The research forms part of the EU-funded People’s Peacemaking Perspectives project.

“Young people in BiH grow up in a context that fosters ethno-nationalist sentiments and fears... They are fed up with being caught in the legacies of the war and want to escape ethnic, religious and geographic labels.”

Leaving the past behind: The perceptions of youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina