In the past few decades, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has made significant progress as measured by several socio-economic and developmental indicators. This success is important for achievement of Agenda 2030, which BiH endorsed along with all other countries in 2015. In recognition of this progress, and following its application for membership of the European Union (EU) in 2016 and the European Commission (EC)’s opinion in 2019, BiH was granted EU candidate status in December 2022.

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Despite ongoing challenges with regard to data aggregation and collection, Bosnia and Herzegovina is classified as a country with a high level of human development, positioned 74th out of 191 nations by the Human Development Index (HDI) metric. Furthermore, its Gender Development Index has been steadily improving, reaching 0.94 in 2021. With regard to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) index, BiH ranks 59th out of 163 countries, with a score of 71.7, slightly above the regional average of 71.6.

Despite this progress, BiH’s complex governance system, anchored in the Dayton Peace Agreement, underpins a development model that remains vulnerable to internal and external shocks and is diverging increasingly from regional averages. In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a 3.2% decline in GDP in 2020 and halted the previously decreasing trend in the level of public debt. Although there was an expansion of 7.5% in 2021 and 2.4% in 2022, fiscal revenues continued to decline and current expenditure remains high. The war in Ukraine has compounded these negative effects, affecting specifically agriculture and global food systems. The year-on-year increase in transportation costs for 2022 (compared to 2021), for example, amounted to 24.5%. Unprecedented inflation in food, fuel and energy sectors impacted directly the livelihoods and food security of the majority of the population, with a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable.

Despite the steady expansion of the economy, unemployment rates for certain age groups, such as youth (15–24 years), remained as high as 20.3% in 2021, while the labour market was also extremely tight, with the COVID-19 pandemic, low fertility rates and outmigration exacerbating the issue. The percentage of youth not in employment, education or training was 19.3%. Gender gaps in employment in BiH are significant compared to other countries in the region, with Bosnia and Herzegovina having the lowest percentage of women’s participation in the total number of employed, at 37.1%.

In October 2022, BiH held elections after months of political deadlock and tension. Hate speech was prevalent in the lead-up to the elections, especially towards women candidates. The election results led to a continued under-representation of women, resulting in a decrease in the percentage of female representatives in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 21.4% in 2018 to 16.7% in 2022, the only decline in the region.

Despite the challenges, the UN in Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with all levels of government, are committed to working towards a more prosperous, inclusive and environmentally sustainable future for all. The adoption of the SDG Framework in 2021 put in place a countrywide framework that can guide development and sectoral strategies at all levels of government and defines specific measures and activities that directly contribute to the implementation of Agenda 2030. This process has underscored the crucial role that local communities play in implementing the Agenda, as they are positioned uniquely to provide detailed information on vulnerable groups and the most effective ways to provide services to them.