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HIGH COMMISSIONER RESIGNS LEAVES POWER VACUM IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Top international envoy to BiH Miroslav Lajcak announced Friday, 23 January that he will be leaving his position as both the head of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and European Union Special Representative (EUSR), heightening political and economical tensions and revealing the fragility of the country.
As with last year's controversial arrest of Karadzic, Lajcak's resignation has shown that the country is still in a very precarious state. The Peace Implementation Council, which oversees the OHR, is to meet again in the capital Sarajevo in March 2009. Many observers expect the decision to close down the OHR will be taken at that meeting, but key conditions for the handover to the EUSR have not yet been met. Bosnia signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union in June 2008 but no reform progress has been made since then. An agreement late last year between BiH's politicians to seek constitutional change was vague on specifics.
'In the communities where we work, life has become if anything more difficult, with employers down-sizing and rising prices of food and coal - with which most people in rural areas heat their houses as winter temperatures plummet 20 degrees below zero. At the same time, tensions have increased and political crises have made ordinary people fear for the future', said Željko Blagojević, Zonal Office Manager for World Vision's Krivaja Area Development Programme.
'Although World Vision's post-war relief work in BiH is mostly finalised, World Vision is committed more than ever to help this struggling country to pull through', Sue Birchmore, National Director for World Vision in BiH said.
'In 2008 alone, World Vision doubled the number of long-term community development projects it operates, initiating two more of these programmes, one of which will be the third programme supported by World Vision donors in Taiwan, giving us hope and positive prospects for the future', Birchmore added.
The OHR was established as the main body to supervise implementation of the Dayton accords that ended the 1992-95 war in BiH. It has sweeping powers to remove elected officials, ban them from holding office, revoke or impose legislation and fine political parties. A handover from the OHR to the EUSR, which would not have such powers, has been under preparation for several years but quarrels among local politicians stalled reforms required for the application to advance.
Since 1994, when conflict continued to ravage the country, World Vision has been working to support the children of BiH through child focused psych-social activities and by rehabilitating schools and providing community services. In 2003, the first long-term community development project was initiated in an area purposely chosen to include communities on either side of the inter-ethnic divide.