We can and must do better for the environment

Joint Op-Ed by Ingrid Macdonald, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ambassador Johann Sattler, Head of the Delegation of the European Union and EU Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brian Aggeler, Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bojana Urumova, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo, on the occasion of the World Environment Day

June 5, 2023


The recent floods across Bosnia and Herzegovina are a stark reminder of the consequences of inaction in the face of climate crisis. The floods made a grey spring even gloomier, especially for those who lost their homes and livelihoods. Climate change is increasingly affecting all aspects of our lives. Weather patterns are shifting. so that where, when and how intensely it rains – or does not – is now more unpredictable.

Society’s lack of care for the environment has led to today’s climate crisis. And whilst it is a shared global problem, its impacts affect us all. Yet climate change is not just an ‘environmental problem,’ it has important social, economic and political impacts.  

As we often point out, communities across the country have far more in common than what divides them. The challenges that result from environmental degradation and climate change are also an example of this.

Nearly ten years ago, when large swathes of the country flooded, people across Bosnia and Herzegovina demonstrated that, like disasters, human empathy and solidarity do not know administrative, religious or political boundaries. They showed enormous solidarity towards each other regardless of where they lived or believed. This is one of many great examples of people and communities working together every day across Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Citizens have long mobilized to assist and support each other in the most trying times, but it is inspiring to see communities coming together to protect the environment, addressing “wild dumps”, volunteering for clean-up days and participating in waste separation programs.

As we mark World Environment Day together, this year’s focus is on the imperative to reduce plastic waste. We applaud the strong turnout on Saturday in Jajce where volunteers participated in riverbank clean-up activities and collected tons of waste. Aside from our various long-term programs that our organizations and agencies support to protect the environment in BiH, we will support several other volunteer initiatives along the Vrbas River and other locations this summer.

These activities can serve as an example for other communities, but also to politicians and institutions. Reducing plastic pollution has never been more important than today and deserves the attention of authorities across all levels of government. Unfortunately, these inspiring stories of positive action are too often overshadowed by the divisive narratives that dominate politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That's why the project 'We can do better' works to improve trust and community cohesion across the country, supporting local communities and civil society to amplify their positive examples of cooperation, mutual respect and engagement for a better future. The goal is that more people will be inspired to do the same. Focusing on what can brings people together, rather than what divides us is essential to stop the brain drain of young people leaving the country and prevents Bosnia and Herzegovina from realizing its potential.

You and your country have our support to not only tackle today’s environmental challenges, but also to move forward socially, economically, and politically with a focus on what can be done together, rather than what cannot. A stimulating environment where citizens can recognize what they have in common, respect and where they can celebrate their diversity.