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EU, UNICEF and the World Bank: Joint statement on social protection and inclusion reform in BiH

Sarajevo, 4.11.2013. – At a high-level Conference on Social Protection and Inclusion in Bosnia and Herzegovina, organised in the framework of the EU funded project "Enhancing the Social Protection and Inclusion System for Children in BiH", the European Union, UNICEF and the World Bank jointly underlined the importance of reform in this sector and reiterated their readiness to assist in improving the social protection and inclusion systems in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Social protection has critical importance for improving children’s, families’, and communities’ lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly in relation to the poorest and most disadvantaged. Inclusive access to quality services is crucial, and all efforts should be made to remove the economic and social barriers that may stand in the way. In addition to equitable social transfers, it is essential to ensure inclusive access to integrated social services at the community level.

There is a need to continue reform processes in relation to social protection and inclusion systems, in order to align the country with the EU pre-accession agenda and support socio-economic development, in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy framework. A more equitable and fair distribution of available resources is required to ensure at least minimum equal benefits for all vulnerable groups in BiH, in particular for vulnerable children and families. It is also critical to establish mechanisms to systematically collect and analyse data required for evidence based policy making in relation to social protection and inclusion.

The objectives of the conference were:
o to further support the on-going social protection and inclusion reform process in BiH, in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy framework;
o to present and discuss draft roadmaps  for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Brcko District BiH, and Strategic Directions on SPI of the Republika Srpska, as well as a country-wide coordination  framework on social protection and inclusion, including priorities, targets and indicators;
o to map and explore mechanisms to systematically collect and analyse data required for evidence based policy making in relation to social protection and inclusion.

The social protection and inclusion roadmap (FBiH and Brcko District BiH) and Strategic directions (RS) were developed in a comprehensive consultative and participatory manner, using a ‘bottom-up’ approach, starting from the Entities/cantons and Brcko District, and feeding into a country wide Framework for Coordination on Social Protection and Social Inclusion.

This participative process, which was first carried out at entity and district level, has included a wide range of Ministries, institutions, UN agencies, international organisations, NGOs and other partners. It has been appreciated by all partners. This represents a good example of important progress achieved as part of a strategic sector reform, in line with the current constitutional and institutional arrangements in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In order to move forward with the social protection and inclusion reform process, it is essential for the country to ensure continued vertical and horizontal coordination. A coordination mechanism should be established and institutionalized.

The Country-wide Coordination Framework on Social Protection and Inclusion [presented today] sets out common goals, social indicators and headline targets for BiH. It also describes policy coordination mechanisms designed to support the achievement of specific targets adopted by the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republika Srpska and Brčko District BiH.

Note to Editors: Gap Analysis results and World Bank Public Expenditure and Institutional review

A Gap Analysis, supported by the EU and UNICEF, has highlighted issues to be addressed through strengthened systems of social protection and inclusion.

• The absolute levels of poverty (under 238KM/119 Euro per month) increased from 18.6% in 2007 to 23.4% in 2011 (IBHI Report)
• 19% of children in BiH live below the relative poverty line and 26% below the absolute poverty line (HBS 2007, Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina)
• In BiH, 58 per cent of the population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The three indicators of the EU concept of “at-risk-of-poverty and social exclusion” (AROPE) are: poverty risk, severe material deprivation and very low work intensity. This is higher than other countries in the region (the AROPE stands at 33% in Croatia (EUROSTAT).
• In BiH, 28 per cent of the population is unemployed. The situation is particularly alarming for young people, as the unemployment rate for youth aged 15-24 years is 63.1 per cent (Labour Force Survey, BiH Agency for Statistics, 2012).
• In BiH, the total social assistance benefits account for 4.6% of GDP, of which about three quarters is paid to war veterans and their families (World Bank, 2009: 3). Consequently, the traditional function of social assistance for the poor and socially excluded is only a mere 1% of GDP.
• There is a need to further develop the capacity of social workers in Centers for Social Work and to reduce their caseload, so that they can deal more effectively with clients.

The World Bank’s Public Expenditure and Institutional Review highlighted four main challenges in improving Bosnia and Herzegovina's public expenditure and revenue system. Firstly, the country needs to reshape its public expenditures which at present are excessively concentrated on current spending including wages, pensions and social transfers. The second challenge is to improve the structure of the revenue system. This system is heavily reliant on payroll taxes which provide a strong inducement to both employers and employees to retreat to the informal sector and avoid (or evade) taxes. Thirdly, the country should reverse the excessive growth of the public sector. The fourth challenge is to complete the overall fiscal architecture in the country by strengthening the fiscal council.

Speaking points - Florence Bauer, UNICEF Representative





Zajednička izjava EU, UNICEF-a i Svjetske banke o reformi socijalne zaštite i inkluzije u BiH


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