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Connecting People and Ideas for Integrated Development

MPs promote inter-party and inter-ethnic dialogue during stops in BosniaLazar Prodanović and Isemeta Dervoz at Petar Kočić High School

The USAID Parliamentary Strengthening Project (PS Project) organized joint public events on Feb. 15 with Bosnia and Herzegovenia (BiH) Parliamentary Assembly Members Ms. Ismeta Dervoz and Mr. Lazar Prodanović in both of the country’s entities. In a country where political divisions block democratization and Euro-Atlantic integration, and inter-party and inter-ethnic contacts between MPs and constituents are still extremely rare, the joint visits sent the message that dialogue across ethnic and party lines is both possible and needed for the common benefit.

Ms. Dervoz, a well-known Bosniac singer from Sarajevo who is serving in her first term as an SBB Party MP, and Mr. Prodanović, a popular Bosnian Serb surgeon from Zvornik and an experienced SNSD MP, welcomed the USAID PSP's advice and logistical support in setting up the joint visits, which were modeled on PS Project-sponsored “Coffee with an MP” events. The Project provides organizational, financial and transportation support for these events to encourage meetings and dialogue between MPs and the citizens of all ages whom they represent.

The MPs first stop was Petar Kočić High School in Prodanovic’s hometown of Zvornik. They attended a lecture on democratization with four dozen 3rd and 4th grade students, made presentations on the Parliamentary Assembly’s work and responded to the students’ numerous questions on the current political situation and future prospects for youth in the country. In particular, students were interested in how much MPs at the state level can help in creating more jobs for young population.

“It was a great opportunity for our students to have two MPs from two different parties in their class to discuss issues which concern them. It helps them to get better understanding of our political life and the importance of exchanging differing ideas,” said Petar Kočić High Principal Mrs. Biljana Pisić.

Their next stop was Goražde, an FBiH town that also lies on a banks of the Drina River two and a half hours from Zvornik, where Dervoz and Prodanović held a “Coffee with MPs” event hosted by the Goražde Municipality Youth Council. Representatives of refugee and war veterans’ organizations also attended, explaining the obstacles they face in the refugee return process in both BiH entities. Returnees have difficulties in finding a job after they return, while local authorities do not do much to help them.

Talking with the audience of some 25 activists there, Dervoz and Prodanović answered questions candidly from their own points of view, inspiring hope that MPs will continue to address citizens’ most important concerns through inter-party and inter-ethnic discussion at the constituency level and the Parliaments sessions, too.

See more of SUNY/CID's work in Bosnia

Updated March 13, 2013