About the Project
The NATO project is focused on raising public awareness and supporting informed public opinion about NATO and the advantages of the accession process, particularly in the Republika Srpska.
The main goal of project activities is to raise awareness, spread knowledge, and develop a better understanding among citizens of BiH of the benefits that full membership in NATO can bring.
The project especially targets the student population – individuals between 18 and 25 – and activists from youth and non-governmental organizations in the Republika Srpska. Workshops and conferences have been organized in Banja Luka, Bratunac, Srebrenica, Milići, Vlasenica, Nevesinje, Trebinje, and Bileća.
The Atlantic Initiative and the BiH Ministry of Foreign Affairs provide the expertise required to organize these events. AI has been lucky to partner with Mr. Igor Pilić, an advisor to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Goran Pranjić, an advisor at the Ministry's Sector for Relations with NATO and the former BiH representative at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.
Interactive workshops have addressed a broad spectrum of issues and questions related to two central themes – “The Concept and Structure of NATO” and “The Benefits of NATO membership for BiH and its Citizens.” In all project events, time has been alloted for debate, enabling participants to actively engage in discussions on any and all topics they deem important or relevant.
The Atlantic Initiative has discovered that youth, especially in the less developed municipalities in the RS, have little or no knowledge about NATO. This results in a lack of understanding of its importance and a lack of awareness of the benefits of the accession process and NATO membership for BiH. Participants in project events have often been unable to see the value of reforms that are required by NATO in the accession process and the benefits these reforms would bring to them, their families, and their communities.
In the RS, the main objections to NATO accession for BiH are generally still based in an emotional perspective linked to trauma experienced during the NATO military interventions that were aimed at stopping the conflicts in BiH (1995) and Kosovo (1999). However, it has been encouraging to see that, once aware of the potential benefits of NATO membership, event participants have been willing to discuss the potential that membership may bring improved living conditions, increased employment opportunities, and economic development, and help in the fight against corruption and organized crime through strengthening of the rule of law and the establishment of a more functional state that is rooted in reliability and transparency.
Many participants in project activities have stated that these events have been the first place they have heard arguments in favor of NATO accession for BiH and have expressed their belief that more should be done to make these arguments more accessible to their communities. And, almost every event has ended with statements by participants that the exchange of truthful, timely, and precise information about NATO and the process of accession are necessary to help the population develop an informed opinion about these issues. A number of participants have also suggested that workshops be organized for the wider public, and for decision makers and the political elite.
This project was financed by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in Sarajevo.