On June 7th, 2021, the Congress of Bosniaks of North America (CBNA) sent separate letters to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ambassador Samantha Power (Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development) regarding the dire humanitarian situation and public health crisis unfolding in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the end of May, only 1.34% of the Bosnian population was vaccinated, with the vast majority of those vaccinations occurring outside of Bosnia. This is among the lowest vaccination rates in the world. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center reported that Bosnia’s mortality rate during the last wave was approximately 4.4%, making it the ninth highest mortality rate in the world.
This pandemic has highlighted and amplified the dysfunction of Bosnia’s government. Certain unintended consequences resulting from the Dayton Peace Accords left the country with weak centralized institutions. Even during a pandemic, main governing parties, together with their sponsors from outside of Bosnia are using Dayton mechanisms in a coordinated fashion to obstruct the government and block any attempts by state institutions to order vaccines for all of its citizens. The same political parties publicly magnify the government’s failures and incompetence while they position the entities and cantons as the ultimate authorities and the only levels of government that are functioning and capable of self-governing. To this date, not a single COVID-19 vaccine has been received by the state government or any of its institutions.
In its letter to Secretary Blinken, CBNA called for the U.S. to exert its leadership in Bosnia and initiate a process of meaningful constitutional reforms and changes that will correct certain unintended consequences of the Dayton Peace Accords. The lack of governance and weak rule of law are a major threat to Bosnia’s development and the main cause of rampant corruption that exists across all levels of government and political spectrum. The letter stressed that “now is the time to help strengthen the Bosnian government and its institutions to at least a level where the government and such institutions can help preserve and protect the life, health, safety and well-being of all of its citizens.”
In its letter to Ambassador Power, CBNA urged the U.S. administration to add Bosnia on the list of countries that will receive direct allocation of COVID-19 vaccines in response to this public health and humanitarian crisis: “When deciding on the global distribution of vaccines, we implore you to take the aforementioned facts, including the inability of the Bosnian government and its institutions to provide its people with any vaccines that were not donated by other nations, into consideration, and help all of the citizens of Bosnia, regardless of ethnic, religious, or other background, receive their fair share of U.S. vaccines.”