Cablegate: Bosnia: Diaspora Engagement
DE RUEHVJ #1108/01 2611012
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181012Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0782
UNCLAS SARAJEVO 001108
S/GPI FOR MKWALKER
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: BEXP BTIO EAID OEXC OIIP PGOV PHUM PREL BA
SUBJECT: BOSNIA: DIASPORA ENGAGEMENT
REF: STATE 86401
1. (SBU) Post offers the following answers to questions from
para 15 of reftel. The Post point of contact on diaspora
issues will be Patrick Hanish.
A) To what extent are diasporans from your host country an
identifiable community? Are there existing diaspora
networks, organizations or online communities available as
platforms for outreach?
Many citizens of BiH were employed in Europe as "foreign
workers" prior to the collapse of Yugoslavia, and more than
one million citizens left the country during the 1992-1995
war. However, citizens of Bosnia living abroad are most
likely to identify with the ethnic group (Bosniak, Croat or
Serb) from which they originate, as opposed to identifying
themselves as current or former citizens of Bosnia and
The diaspora may be further divided analytically between
those who left Bosnia for a neighboring country where they
have dual citizenship or family ties (Croatia, Serbia, and
Montenegro), and those who travelled further afield as
refugees (to the U.S., Europe, or Australia, for example).
Those who reside in neighboring countries may have largely
assimilated, and see their birth in Bosnia only as biographic
fact, not a part of personal identity.
Existing diaspora networks are largely keyed to ethnic
identity. For example, Bosnian diaspora groups in the
United States reach out to Croat, Serb, and Bosniak caucuses
within the U.S. Congress based on ethnic lines.
Community centers, churches and mosques, and web sites of the
diaspora community largely mirror this ethnic division.
B) What is the nature of the connection of the diaspora
community to the host country? Examples include kinship
networks; educational or other institutional ties; financial
support as from remittances; and direct
participation in community or country affairs and civil
The BiH diaspora community, having departed Bosnia in many
cases within the last 15-17 years, continues to maintain
strong familial and community ties. Diaspora Bosnians
frequently travel back to Bosnia on holidays, in particular
visiting family and friends in their communities of origin.
Most cities throughout the country report a
diaspora influx during the summer months.
BiH's central bank estimated remittances in 2008 at 1.88
billion USD (2.5 billion KM) or ten percent of GDP. In the
first quarter of 2009, they estimated remittances totaled 388
million USD (517 million KM). The central bank forecasts a
ten percent drop in remittances in 2009 as a result of the
global economic crisis.
An organization of the diaspora community, the World Diaspora
Congress, has held some meetings in BiH to discuss such
issues as dual citizenship and the Bosnian election law, but
it is not clear how active or significant this group will be.
Some universities have developed educational ties between
Bosnia and the diaspora community. For example, the
University of Sarajevo has a partnership funded by USAID with
the University of Delaware's College of Business and
Economics. The schools reached out to diaspora student
councils as part of their recruitment plan. The American
University in BiH, affiliated with SUNY/Canton, is also
seeking to create successful cooperation with the diaspora
While civil society in BiH is generally weak, citizens of
Bosnia are able to vote if they register with the entral
Election Commission as residents of Bosni, and may vote at
consular offices overseas. Reistration, however, has been
problematic, as thelaw is largely designed for Bosnians
temporarily overseas, not those permanently resident
abroad. Voting has significantly dropped off over the years.
In early post-war elections, some 700,000 people
voted overseas. In the most recent elections, only 20,000
overseas citizens voted.
C) To what extent has your host country or government
activated its diaspora communities for humanitarian
relief? How would you characterize the level of response? If
outreach is relatively recent, do you foresee
opportunities to maintain diaspora community involvement in
country over the long term?
The vast bulk of the Bosnian diaspora community left as a
result of humanitarian crises during the 1992-1995 war.
Since that time, the government has worked with USAID and
international organizations on reconstruction projects that
encouraged refugees and internally displaced persons to
return to their place of origin. In recent years USAID has
ceased to be involved in these activities which have been
largely taken over by such organizations as UNHCR and OSCE.
These efforts involved reaching out for contributions from
the diaspora community, and the level of contributions was
significant. Religious leaders have told us they can rely to
a degree on diaspora assistance for reconstruction,
renovation, or ongoing operation of religious buildings, but
such contributions are largely confined to provision of
support for their specific communities of origin.
D) To what extent is the diaspora community engaged in
long-term investment in country, for example
micro-enterprise development, job creation, entrepreneurship,
and institutional capacity building? What is post's
assessment of the future potential for long-term and
sustained engagement of the diaspora community in such
Members of the BiH diaspora are quite active in the
commercial sphere, and this is one area where returnees can
cross the ethnic divide. Bosnians across ethnic lines --
Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Bosnian Croats, and Bosnian Serbs
-- who fled during the war have returned as successful
business leaders representing European and American companies
and working in all areas of BiH irrespective of their
ethnicity. This experience directly contrasts with the
situation of "local" Bosnians who often confront serious
cultural and professional impediments when seeking employment
outside of their traditional ethnic geographic areas (i.e.
Bosniaks in the Republika Srpska or Serbs in the Federation).
Bosnian Croat returnees enjoy particular success with
running small and medium-sized businesses and managing
representational offices. Although diaspora members are
present in all economic spheres, they predominantly work in
the IT, telecommunications and services sectors. Several
chiefs of party for USAID projects are Bosnians who worked
and went to university in the U.S.
We expect diaspora engagement to continue in the commercial
sector in the long-term given the advantage which
international businesses attribute to hiring international
professionals with Balkan origins to manage representational
offices here. Investment has also been the subject of past
diaspora gatherings such as the Fourth Congress of the BiH
Diaspora World Confederation meeting in Sarajevo in 2008.
A positive sign for Bosnia's future is the emergence of a new
cadre of young, dynamic entrepreneurs who have overcome
bureaucratic and other obstacles to build successful business
ventures here. In many cases, this new impetus originates
from Bosnian returnees, who as students fled in the 1990s and
are returning as business executives and professionals with
valuable experience. These young entrepreneurs and returnees
share two common traits: optimism and an attitude that things
can be accomplished here.
E) To what extent is the diaspora community working toward
scientific, engineering, medical and educational
institution building? How might diasporans with backgrounds
in these fields or otherwise affiliated with the Academy,
or professional and technical societies, become engaged in
science diplomacy programs?
So far there has been little involvement of the diaspora
community in scientific and educational institution building.
The war created a "brain drain" and resulted in many
Bosnians obtaining scientific and academic positions abroad.
Few from the diaspora are returning with their expertise,
although, some new institutions, such as the American
University in Bosnia is seeking to develop deeper relations
with the diaspora.
Unfortunately, post has little information regarding diaspora
contributions in the medical field. For the most part,
medical professionals who have advanced medical degrees or
were educated abroad have returned to BiH permanently and
therefore are no longer considered part of the diaspora
population. Members of the diaspora often have vague
second-hand anecdotes such as past donations of used medical
equipment. However, little additional information is known
regarding the extent of diaspora involvement in these types
F) To what extent is the diaspora community engaged in
conflict resolution and peace building? Do you see future
potential to translate diaspora community participation in
these processes into other priorities governing the
bilateral (and/or regional) relationship?
The diaspora community is generally divided into groups that
mirror the ethnic divisions in Bosnia, and their lobbying and
other political efforts tend to reinforce divisions rather
than promote reconciliation. To the extent that diaspora
organizations can be built on a basis that transcends ethnic
divisions they might potentially play a constructive role.
G) To what extent is the diaspora community engaged in
meeting the health, education and welfare needs of
H) To what extent is the diaspora community engaged in
democracy promotion, electoral reform and civil society
development? Are there key milestones in your host country or
host government's development that would create
opportunities for such engagement in the future?
The diaspora community is largely split along ethnic lines,
and diaspora groups tend to promote the interests of their
ethnic counterparts in Bosnia rather than working on overall
democracy promotion. There are a small number of diaspora
groups interested in overall democracy promotion. Bosnia's
Euro-Atlantic integration process, particularly its drive
toward European Union membership, potentially offers an
opportunity for diaspora communities to point
out to fellow Bosnians of all ethnic groups the demonstrated
benefits that come with making the hard choices necessary for
forward progress on
I) How would you characterize the level of concern and
attention given to diaspora communities by your host
government? If applicable, please describe the host
government's organization and strategy dedicated to
relationship-building with its diaspora communities. For
example, host governments may have established promotion
offices to encourage diasporans' return, bringing with them
know-how and financial resources.
Return of refugees within the Bosnian diaspora is a matter of
great importance to political leaders throughout the country.
However, the desire to promote such return varies based
often on the ethnicity of the politicians. Ambassadorships,
apportioned with an eye to ethnic balance, can have a
significant impact on the direction and level of outreach
from a given Bosnian embassy overseas. Bosniak leaders, in
particular, voice continual concern for the promotion and
funding of returns.
UNHCR continues to operate in Bosnia, and also promotes
returns, including by pressing for full implementation of
the portion of the Dayton Accords (Annex VII) which pertains.
A recent attempt to adopt a new Annex VII
implementation strategy was killed by parliamentarians from
Republika Srpska (RS).
In August, the state-level Ministry for Human Rights and
Refugees (MinHRR) signed an MoU with the International
Organization for Migration (IOM) to fund a 2-year,
750,000-Euro study entitled "enhancing the developmental
impact of diaspora contributions in Bosnia and Herzegovina."
The goal of the project is to assist MinHRR in researching
the level and nature of contributions, forming a task force
related to diaspora issues, adoption of a state-level
strategy on diaspora issues, and selection of specific
intiatives to undertake to increase diaspora developmental
Bosnian Embassies maintain contacts with diaspora
organizations. However, the fact that diaspora groups are
organized along ethnic lines with generally conflicting
agendas limits the possibilities for engaging with them
constructively in an overall Bosnian national strategy.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Bosnian
Government's stance is generally to keep in touch with these
organizations but not to get directly involved in their
J) If post has undertaken programs to reach out proactively
to diaspora community members, please share the
circumstances that prompted the outreach effort, how outreach
was conducted or programmed, personal impressions
from the experience, and benefits from the outreach effort.
The USG funded a small Get-Out-the-Vote project for the 2008
municipal elections, which reached out specifically to
diaspora groups. The project sent updated GOTV material to
the BiH diaspora associations, and this was placed on their
websites. This project was focused mainly on outreach to
those displaced from Srebrenica. The Embassy learned that
most in the diaspora prefer to vote by mail rather than in
person at consulates, or in person in country.
K) If post has received unsolicited requests from the
diaspora community, please share the nature of the requests,
the considerations post took into account in formulating
respective responses, and the outcomes of interaction.
USAID has received a few unsolicited requests from the
diaspora community, usually from groups requesting USG funds
to support local sports groups or events. In all cases USAID
has responded negatively due to a lack of funds and/or
because the proposals did not fit into existing AID
priorities. Other unsolicited requests from the diaspora
community have come in the form of input from diaspora
citizens weighing in on a wide variety of political
developments. Such input may originate from religious
communities in the United States, or from civil society
associations. Post responds to such suggestions and requests
with letters or other communication as appropriate.
L) To what extent has post designed or participated in public
diplomacy programs customized to diaspora community
needs and interests? Does post anticipate taking advantage of
such opportunities in the future?
A group of Bosnian-American intellectuals are planning a
visit to Sarajevo in October 2009 to include a concert with a
guest composer from the U.S. Post plans to host a reception
for the visitors and other appropriate guests.
M) In planning future programs and anticipating requests for
assistance from diaspora community actors, what types of
knowledge management tools and information materials would be
most helpful to action officers at post? If the
Department were to develop a reach-back program to academics
in the field of diaspora community engagement,
what are post's preferences for accessing such a mechanism?
In planning for future programs, Post would find most useful
a website that would highlight constructive diaspora
community activities, concerns, requests and initiatives as
well as initiatives and suggestions by diaspora experts.