INGOs in Bosnia
INGOs in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Carnegie Project on “Evaluating NGO Strategies for Democratization and Conflict Prevention in the Formerly Communist States” December 1998
A revised and updated version of this was published as “Constructing ‘Civil Society’ in Bosnia-Hercegovina,” in The Power and Limits of NGOs: Transnational Democracy Networks and Postcommunist Transitions, Sarah Mendelson and John K. Glenn, eds. (NY: Columbia University Press, 2002).
Of all the former socialist states of East-Central Europe and Eurasia, Bosnia-Herzegovina (BH) has suffered the most in the post-Cold War period. The war in BH, fought from 1992 to 1995, resulted in the death of over 200,000 people; half the population fleeing or being expelled from their homes; the collapse of the economy; and the empowerment of those extremist forces who launched the violence. Because of the wartime destruction and the decision by the international community to take the lead in ending the war and in assuring stability in the post-war period, BH also has the largest number of international NGOs (INGOs) of any of these countries–currently over 250 INGOs are operating in BH.
In addition to INGOs, BH is host to numerous international organizations and over 20,000 NATO and other troops, and is the focus of attention of the United States and the major European powers. BH is in many ways under a kind of protectorate, with international actors making crucial decisions, setting electoral laws, running the central bank, sitting on the constitutional court, deciding where the inflow of money should go. The international community has a strong stake in rebuilding BH as a democratic country and preventing the outbreak of conflict, goals shared by the vast majority of Bosnians.
With this kind of attention, and with hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into the country, BH is in many ways a good test case of the effectiveness of INGOs. INGOs play a key role as implementing partners of the major donors and funders, and their strategies are thus crucial to the success of the overall goals of the international community.
This report focuses on INGO activities meant to reduce the likelihood of renewed conflict. For reasons I spell out below, the focus is not, however, on INGOs that do traditional “conflict resolution” activities. Most INGOs in BH do not focus narrowly on this goal because, given the roots of the conflict and the current political situation, such work does not address BH’s main problems. The source of the violence, and the reason for continued tensions, lies with particular political actors who from the mid-1980s onward have acted to undermine a shift to democracy and stability in Bosnia. They had to use violence to destroy BH because the trends toward change, and the realities of multiethnic communities on the ground, were so strong. Although the war itself is over, these actors continue to use fear by provoking violence in order to maintain boundaries of groupness that otherwise would fade away. Those who focus single-mindedly on “ethnic groups” and relations between such putative groups miss the root of the problem in BH. The real challenge is to create space for moderate forces to move onward.
This report looks at five INGOs and four broad categories of strategies. These categories are, due to the context, broader than the strategies that appear elsewhere in this project. They represent competing (though also complementary) ways that INGOs and other international actors are working in BH, with the stated goal of rebuilding civil society and community as the framework for a stable future.
From an analysis of these strategies and from the observations of INGO, local NGO, and international organization representatives, the most effective strategies seem to be integrated ones that use reconstruction projects as the focus to build community and civil society on the ground, and strategies that allow local actors, communities, and NGOs to determine priorities, projects and directions. The most effective INGOs are those that see their presence as a two-way process, where locally-determined priorities are realized with the assistance of international resources and personnel who see their local partners as equals. This kind of experiential learning seems the key to good results that will take root and have long-term impact.
The main limitation is the structural situation: the structures of political power established during the war and those set up by the November 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the war. These structures have tended to cement in power those responsible for the violence. The main way in which this structural situation is being influenced is the presence in BH of 20,000 SFOR troops as well as the authority of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to move against local actors who obstruct Dayton. Preventing extremists from resuming violence depends almost entirely on these structural factors. From this perspective INGOs on their own have little room for maneuver. The real power lies with states and international organizations, which are also the major donors.
This leads directly to another major limitation on INGO effectiveness: the lack of a realistic needs assessment, based on the complex and long-term strategies that are necessary to rebuild Bosnian society and on what locals deem to be the needs of BH society. This is due in large part to donor priorities and interests. Even in the current situation, where local actors hostile to Dayton and to international NGOs are not a major hindrance, INGOs are limited by the fact that they depend for funding on institutions and organizations that themselves have specific interests and perceptions unrelated to the realities on the ground or the interest of BH society. Too often it is these factors, rather than the situation on the ground, that drives funding priorities and thus limits INGOs. But it also seems driven by the tendency of donors and INGOs to generalize from experience elsewhere, which leads them to overlook the specificities and complexities, both current and historical, of BH. It is this disconnect between the needs of society and the interests driving projects and priorities that is the most negative limitation on INGO effectiveness.
This report is based on a visit to BH and Croatia from May 27 to June 17, 1998, as well as on previous field work in the region in 1994-95 and two shorter trips to BH in 1996. It is also informed by research I have been doing on the region since the mid-1980s. During this trip I interviewed representatives from eight INGOs, four international organizations, and two groups that function as forums for INGOs and local NGOs (see appendix for interviews). Although the five INGOS I discuss in this report all are working toward the broad goal of preventing the outbreak of conflict, very roughly their activities can be divided into four kinds of strategies: directly trying to change the political structures and institutions of post-war BH; party building and civic education; building local non-political party NGO capacity; and reconstruction and development as a means of community and civil society strengthening. These NGOs are by no means representative of all 250 INGOs currently in BH, but they include those receiving the largest amounts of funding and represent the range of strategies being used by INGOs.
The next section examines the historical background and the current political context in which INGOs operate. Following that is a summary of the INGOs and their strategies, and then an analysis of the impact and limitations of these strategies. The subsequent section looks at the question of evaluations. The report concludes with some thoughts about these activities in light of questions related to ethnic conflict and democratization.
II. Historical and Political Context
A. Historical Background
The 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was a political strategy on the part of certain elites in Serbia and then in Croatia, working with local allies, meant to destroy the fabric of BH society. This strategy was a direct response to trends toward democratization and liberalization within Yugoslavia and in the rest of Eastern Europe, and had as its goal to prevent shifts in the structure of political and economic power within those three Yugoslav republics. Ironically, the fact that Yugoslavia in the mid-1980s seemed to have a better chance than any of the other socialist countries of eastern Europe to make its transition to liberal political and economic systems meant that conservative elites there were more threatened than in other socialist countries. The wars were in effect a backlash against democratization.(1)
The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina must be seen within this wider picture. The move towards a multiparty system in BH began in the summer of 1990, just as the situation in Croatia began its descent into violence. Although the Serb and Croat nationalist parties in BH used these events to divert support away from nonnationalist parties, neither they nor the Muslim SDA ran on a platform of dividing the country, of warfare or ethnic extremism. Due in large part to the population’s desire to throw the communist party out of power after fifty years, the three nationalist parties–the Serb SDS, Croat HDZ, and Muslim/Bosniak SDA–won the elections. Most of those elected, especially in local elections in urban areas, tended to be moderates.
Almost immediately the SDS, with the cooperation of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), began the ethnic division of the country. Over the course of 1991 the SDS moved to monopolize power in those territories it controlled and claimed as “Serbian lands” regardless of the fact that about 50 percent of those living in the territory were not Serbs. As the SDS began to shift to this extremist line shortly after the election, those moderates who refused to go along were ousted and replaced with extremists. Then, from April 1992 onward the SDS-controlled land was “cleaned up” through what has come to be known as “ethnic cleansing”: expulsion, murder, genocide. The SDS and the JNA forced their policies onto Bosnia’s Serb population as well as onto non-Serbs. The war was a way to achieve this “cleansing” and to force Bosnian society as well as the international community to accept it as a fait accompli.
To complicate matters, from 1992 onward similar events took place in areas controlled by the HDZ. Zagreb replaced the moderate leadership of BH’s HDZ with extremists who sought an ethnically pure Croatian state carved out of BH. From early 1993 until 1994 these extremist forces imposed their violent strategy on the moderate Croats of ethnically-mixed central Bosnia. The HDZ, just as the SDS, targeted for expulsion Muslims who had coexisted with them for centuries.
The war was thus not the result of ethnic hatreds or misunderstandings, or about relations between “ethnic groups,” but rather was imposed on BH’s population from the outside, from Serbia and then Croatia. The violence was necessary exactly because only in that way could realities on the ground–local, organic communities–be destroyed. The result of the war was the division of the indivisible. Due to “ethnic cleansing” BH by the end of 1995 had been divided into a Serbian area where Serbs made up 95 percent of the population (the figure had been about 50 percent before the war); a Croat area with a similary homogeneous population (which before the war had been far less than 50 percent Croat); and the remainder, designated as “Muslim” but in fact much less homogeneous than the other two, although also dominated by a nationalist party (SDA).
B. Current Political Context
The US by 1994 decided to become involved directly in the war, first bringing an end to the HDZ war against Muslims in February 1994, then in 1995 using Croat and Muslim forces to inflict defeats on Serb forces in order to force them to the bargaining table. By fall 1995 this strategy had succeeded, and in November the leaders of the Bosnian Serb and Croat nationalist parties and the president of BH (also head of the SDA), as well as the presidents of Croatia and Serbia, reached an agreement outside of Dayton, Ohio. This agreement preserved BH as a single, internationally recognized state, but divided it into two “entities”: the SDS-dominated “Republika Srpska” (RS), and the “Federation of Bosnia-Hercegovina”, dominated by the HDZ and SDA. The Dayton agreement called for free and fair elections, and gave refugees the right to return to their prewar homes. NATO and other troops, under the name SFOR (Stabilization Forces) have been present in BH since January 1996: 60,000 troops in the first year, now down to about 20,000. The civilian side of implementation is under the Office of the High Representative (OHR), which has the authority to impose decisions on the country if the BH institutions are unable to come to agreement, and to remove local officials who block implementation of Dayton. OSCE is responsible for running elections, and the UN runs a civilian police force (IPTF) made up of officers from around the world who work unarmed as advisors to Bosnian police.
Since Dayton the challenge for the international community has been how to implement the agreement given the fact that those political forces responsible for the war and for the atrocities are still dominant in parts of the Serb and Croat held areas, and that the political institutions and electoral rules in Dayton tend to favor those same forces. Although elections have been held (in 1996 and in September 1998), they were far from free or fair, and took place in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that led to the victory of the nationalist parties.(2)
Since 1996 the international community has begun to take a harder line against the extremists, with some results. In the Serbian entity in late 1997 it ensured the replacement of the SDS as the party of government by the more moderate Milorad Dodik, who seems much more amenable to allowing implementation of Dayton. The hard-line HDZ also has shown signs of fissure: in June 1998 the relatively moderate Kreimir Zubak, Croat member of the BH presidency, breaking away from hard liners, again with strong support and encouragement from the international community. Pressure and incentives from the international community have also been stepped up on the issue of refugee returns, including a major thrust by the EU and UNHCR to allow “minority returns.”
The international community, and the US in particular, seem to have decided that a partition of Bosnia is not a desirable solution. They correctly surmise that such a partition would only solidify the extremists’ hold on power, reignite a territorial war, and destabilize the situation. Their stated goal is thus to create a multiethnic, democratic Bosnia as the best way to prevent the outbreak of violent conflict.
In this environment, the major powers and international organizations have the fate of BH in their hands. Bosnia can only work if these actors decide to back up their stated goals with actions, in particular by attempting to marginalize the small minority of locals who were responsible for the war and who are willing to use violence to maintain their power. INGOs in Bosnia can only be effective in an environment which is free from terror and intimidation by the extremist forces.
INGOs have been most free to work in those parts of the Federation outside the control of the HDZ (SDA-controlled areas plus Tuzla); since Dodik came to power in late 1997 they have greatly increased their activities in parts of the RS out of the control of the SDS (mostly in northern and western RS); and although they are also active in Croat-held regions, those now are among the most difficult regions, especially hard-line Western Herzegovina. Indeed, in exactly those regions of the Federation and RS still under control of extremists responsible for atrocities, we see violence used against returnees. It’s vital to understand that these incidents of violence are not spontaneous “ethnic conflicts” but rather are planned and executed by local extremists.
Any survey of INGOs must take these factors into account: the war and ethnic cleansing were imposed on the people of BH by the leaders of the extremist nationalist parties, who in turn were imposed on their “peoples” by actors in neighboring Croatia and Serbia. Their power depends not on popularity or democratic elections, but rather on a sense of fear and insecurity. They thus do everything possible to reinforce this fear through the use of violence. Only when the international community has shown a willingness to use its powers to remove those actors who actively obstruct Dayton and to create space for moderates has their power diminished.
The ability of INGOs to make an impact in BH and their ability to help locals to rebuild their societies are thus severely circumscribed by these facts of power.
III. Strategies of Western NGOs
The INGOs with whom I met all have the overarching goal of preventing conflict by rebuilding community and civil society and strengthening democracy in BH. I categorized their activities into four broad strategies: a) directly addressing the issues of political structures and power (ICG); b) party building and civic education (NDI); c) building local NGO capacity (Delphi-STAR); and d) reconstruction as a way to build civil society (CRS and MCI). Of course there is some overlap, for example some INGOs doing reconstruction projects also include an element of conflict resolution and building local NGO capacity. But my focus is on the main thrust of their programs.
A. Structural reform
International Crisis Group (ICG)
ICG’s activity consists mainly of issuing detailed, well researched and argued reports on various aspects of IO policy. Recent issues include critiques of UNHCR’s program of minority returns, and recommendations on restructuring the electoral system in order to remove biases that favor the ruling nationalist parties. ICG is thus explicitly addressing those factors most crucial to the success of BH: the structural political ones. It is doing so by targeting those actors most important for this success: the international organizations and states responsible for BH. ICG is thus in many ways the best-placed of INGOs to have a real impact because it is attempting to influence those with the power to change the political structures.
ICG staff are all fluent in the local languages, all have an indepth knowledge and experience of the country, and they target Bosnians as well as international actors. For example ICG staff have appeared in the local media and given numerous talks to Bosnian political and intellectual circles in both entities on the impact of various electoral systems on electoral outcomes, and explained how ICGs proposals would have a positive effect on electoral outcomes in BH. Thus ICG targets not only international actors but also provides information to the Bosnians themselves about issues that often are decided by IO’s behind closed doors. Because ICG is not overly dependent on any one IO or state for funding, it is able to publish independent analyses that are often very critical of international actors and policies.
In terms of evaluation, the ICG reports are widely distributed and widely read in the international community, and they have apparently made an impact. Most recently, the UN has accepted as its official policy ICG’s calls to reform the electoral system to make the election of moderates more likely. ICG also has a high profile among Bosnians; a few people I met who had no connections to the international or NGO community spontaneously mentioned ICG as having a very good handle on the situation and having very good ideas for BH.
B. Party Building and Civic Training
National Democratic Institute (NDI)
The National Democratic Institute has been in BH since 1996, and is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: a party-building program, based in Sarajevo, aimed at directly helping political parties to strengthen themselves as democratic institutions and teaching them how to be responsive to citizens; and a civic education and advocacy program, in Tuzla, Banja Luka, and Mostar, aimed at informing citizens about the basics of a democratic political system as a means of mobilizing them to action. Part of the latter involves setting up a network for domestic monitoring of elections. Most of NDI’s funding is from USAID, in the form of cooperative agreements. The heads of the NDI offices have no regional expertise, nor do they speak the local language.
The components of the party-building effort are laid out in a Bosnian-language NDI publication for party “leaders, organizers and activists”.(3) The stated goals of the NDI party-building program as a whole focus on internal party structures and relations (the need for democratic principles of internal organization; effective communication within parties; how to train and develop leadership structures within parties) as well as on external relations (the need to clearly articulate programatic agenda and message; how to increase party membership; how to raise funds). The booklet itself is merely a Bosnian language version of a handbook NDI uses more generally, as are other printed materials, for example citizen survey forms.
In its party-building efforts NDI in BH first recruited young (20-35) Bosnians through an advertising campaign in local media. The original pool of 40-50 was then narrowed down through a process of matching criteria (for example experience with organizing, although NGO experience was not required), and then two rounds of interviews, to six people. NDI then trained them in political party organizing. NDI is currently working with 17 parties, that is, every party that is willing to work with NDI, does not advocate the use of violence, and is committed to the principle of multiethnicity. NDI does not work with the HDZ or SDS, but has recently started working with SDA. The reason for this shift, according to NDI Sarajevo office, is that the SDA in 1996 joined with the Party for BH in the Coalition for an Undivided Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is avowedly for a multiethnic Bosnia. Another reason, probably more to the point, is the desire to bring change from within the system (SDA is the ruling party in the “Muslim” areas of the country.)
The effectiveness of this strategy is measured, according to the Sarajevo office, by election results (parties with which NDI has worked making electoral gains) as well as by increased party membership and increased sophistication of current campaign literature as compared to earlier literature. The Washington office, however, strongly disavowed the use of electoral success as a sign of effectiveness, stating rather that they look at whether their goals for the parties’ internal and external activities have been achieved.
The civic education and advocacy project was begun in 1996 in Tuzla, and is a pilot project for NDI. It is based on a model that NDI used in the West Bank and Gaza, but adds to that model advocacy training, that is, encouraging and helping locals to form NGOs and become actors in the political process. NDI first recruited (in a manner similar to that described above) a local field staff of eight, broke them into four teams, and gave them organizational training. The teams divided the Tuzla region into four sectors, then went out into villages in their sectors to recruit people to participate in 20 discussion groups. The local field staff first recruited members of local associations or local NGOs, or just people from the community, to be local coordinators, who in turn rounded up ten people for discussion group meetings. These people tend to be intellectuals, pensioners, and community activists. The group would first be trained in how to hold “democratic meetings,” that is, meetings in which all points of view can be put forward, listened to, and respected. Discussion group meetings are held once every 4-6 weeks, and are held around the general topic of “Learning about the process of transition in BH.” Specific discussion topics included the Bosnian constitution, the electoral system, and the importance of independent media. This same project was launched in Banja Luka (RS), in March 1997. Thirty discussion groups have been set up in western RS, with about 200 people participating. The project also recently moved to Mostar, but NDI is facing a more difficult situation there because of the hard-line nature of the HDZ authorities there.
One of the goals of this civic education project is to move participants toward advocacy. In the case of Tuzla, some of the groups decided to organize a public candidates’ forum before the September 1996 elections. The current effort focuses on domestic monitoring. Because municipal and RS parliamentary elections were approaching (September and November 1997), the original focus of the Banja Luka project was on domestic monitoring by locals. NDI provided technical support and training to members of a local humanitarian NGO, and produced a domestic monitoring guide for poll-watchers. In September 159 locals monitored 67 polling stations in the four largest municipalities of RS. During the November elections, NDI trained monitoring coordinators from 12 local citizens’ associations in western RS, who then trained other members of their groups. NDI then coordinated the poll monitoring activities. These activities consisted of observing voting and counting of votes, as well as monitoring of media. The poll monitoring was undertaken by 11 monitors and 28 observers.
The local staffs have now concentrated on bringing together a group of 7 core NGOs from both entities to monitor the September 1998 elections, using monitoring as a way of building an infrastructure for the entire country, with the goal of setting up a BH-wide NGO. (At present PVT is not a goal in large part because of a lack of people willing to take part in such activities.) Although NDI’s mandate expires in December 1998, they are putting in a proposal to USAID to fund an individual to do organizational development with this new NGO in Tuzla.
NDI is currently working on ways to evaluate these programs. In general, though, they base evaluations of the program on surveys of participants and observers, and especially on the amount of participation, since the stress of this strategy is on the process.
C. Building local NGO capacity
The STAR project is meant to build capacity of women’s leadership and women’s NGOs, in particular by building sustainable, nonnationalist, democratic NGOs that advocate for social change, by fostering NGO networks that work to influence public policy, and by providing training and technical assistance. The project, funded by a grant from USAID, focuses on women’s groups because of STAR’s belief that women, because they had less stake in the previous power structures, are freer to look toward societal change and thus have an especially important role in civil society development and conflict transformation.
As parts of this strategy, STAR is running projects in four program areas: citizen participation, where they train local NGOs in participatory leadership and advocacy training; organizational development and conflict resolution; media and communications; advocacy for women’s health; and NGO self-financing and small business development. STAR’s international staff all speak the local languages and have long experience in the region. STAR has an advisory board made up of local NGO representatives, and their overall priorities are driven by the needs of local groups. Since the end of the war STAR has shifted its programs from war-focused to civil society and democracy focused projects. STAR works with any non-nationalistic women’s group. Their particular focus is on building networks between women’s NGOs within BH, but also in the wider ex-Yugoslav region. STAR is also directly linking these NGOs with other women’s NGOs around the world; for example, they are bringing in representatives of groups from South Africa and Israel/Palestine to speak on post-conflict civil society problems common to all of these regions. Thus the key part of STAR’s strategy is to empower local NGOs, to give them the tools and as much control over the process as possible. STAR is also very candid and sensitive about issues of equality and the way in which money makes true partnership difficult. STAR’s attitude is also that learning is a two-way process, and that STAR is learning from local NGOs as much as they are learning from STAR, in particular in the areas of grass-roots organizing and dealing with post-war gender and community issues.
D. Reconstruction as a means of building community and civil society
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
CRS came to BH in 1993 to do humanitarian work during the war, although from the start it was committed to stay on to do post-war reconstruction. Since Dayton CRS has been working in program areas of emergency/relief recovery, enterprise development, and “counterpart strengthening” (civil society). The focus of current activity is rebuilding civil society through the reconstruction of houses in about 12 communities, which takes about 80 percent of CRS’s resources, and is funded mostly on a year-to-year basis from the following sources: 40 percent from US Dept. of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; 35 percent from UNHCR; 10 percent from food aid; with the remaining 15 percent from CRS private donations. CRS’s BH staff is heavily made up of locals, with minimal international staffing. From the start CRS has worked with local NGOs as partners, especially the main NGOs of BH’s four major religious communities (Caritas, Dobrotvor, Merhamet and La Benevolencija).
CRS’s goal is to allow people to return to peaceful and productive lives in their home communities. To achieve this goal, CRS is working to achieve minority returns, reward open communities (that is, communities which have officially declared their willingness to allow minorities to return to their homes), and facilitate community reintegration, with a focus on peaceful minority returns; that is, preparing the way so that there is no need for SFOR escorts.
CRS first establishes a multiethnic community working group made up of representatives of local interests and chaired by a CRS field worker who is a BH native. The working group itself takes the lead in decision making, acting as assessment and planning body for the community’s reconstruction and recovery strategy as well as for the design, planning and management of CRS’s programs. There is no attempt to make these groups sustainable, though if they want to register as NGOs CRS will help them.
The current integrated strategy began in 1996, and is based on the idea that people live together best when they work together toward common goals. The focus is thus on the process of developing community. This idea of integrating community building into the reconstruction efforts came from CRS’s on-the-ground experience in Bosnia and elsewhere (for example Haiti), and from doing projects with multi-ethnic groups as implementing partners.
On evaluations, unlike the Office of the High Representative (OHR, the highest international political authority in BH), which defines success as one person staying one night in a rebuilt house, CRS has a two stage definition: the first is when part of a family is living in the rebuilt house as its principal residence; the second, “real return,” is when the family has vacated its temporary residence and given up its residence rights there to fully resettle in their original, rebuilt, home. To evaluate the goal of returning to productive lives, for the purpose of reporting to donors, CRS uses proxy indicators such as number of houses rebuilt or repaired, number of tripartite agreements of intention to return (signed by returnees, local government and INGO). This fulfills the obligation to donors. But it clearly doesn’t capture some of the more important or long-terms elements. CRS is currently working on how to evaluate these aspects of its programs. CRS is also trying to develop funding instruments that fit local needs, rather than having projects driven by funding requirements.
Mercy Corps International- Scottish European Aid (MCI/SEA)
The current MCI project first appeared in BH in the form of Scottish European Aid, three wealthy Scots who came in to set up water systems during the war. After the war SEA got lots of funding, but didn’t have the means to administer it, so they approached MCI to provide managerial assistance. MCI’s current program integrates rebuilding infrastructure and providing microcredits into an overall goal of rebuilding civil society. The infrastructure reconstruction programs focus on water and heating systems, homes, schools, and medical clinics. The civil society element of the program is based on the belief that MCI could not just go into a community, build houses, and then leave. Rather, they believe that people must participate in the reconstruction of their own communities as a way to rebuild those communities. The microcredits part of the strategy addresses the communities’ needs for economic revitalization. MCI is the only INGO working on localizing the process of providing microcredits. Some of the local lenders are registering as NGOs, some as private companies, depending on laws, taxes, etc., while others are not. MCI doesn’t work on strengthening local NGOs, because they see them as tending to be inefficient and having high costs. MCI gives people information, skills, ideas so they can build a social infrastructure.
These ideas and strategies are the result of MCI’s civil society work in other countries and the experiences of people working on the ground in BH.
Most of MCI’s funding in BH is from UNHCR specifically for reconstruction of housing and shelter in northern Bosnia (Tuzla, Brko, Doboj). It also gets agricultural surplus from USDA which it then sells to raise money for other projects. Although MCI’s funding from UNHCR is strictly for reconstruction, they haven’t been prevented from doing this in a way that also addresses community building; as long as the houses get rebuilt, MCI can use whatever strategy they deem best. The micro-credit program is funded by World Bank and UNHCR, and goes through 12 providers in the Federation and 6 in RS.
On evaluations, reports to donors require quantified results, for example number of houses rebuilt. MCI’s own evaluation of success is that if the community is involved, if business, government, the beneficiaries are all involved, plus if there is community awareness, then the project is a success. But this is not something that can be quantified and it may not be obvious for several years.
IV. Sectoral Impact and Limitations
Of the five INGOs covered here, two (CRS and MCI) came to BH during the war to work on humanitarian aid and one (STAR) was active in the region, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, during the war. The others came to BH after the Dayton Peace Agreement. All five work in other countries, and STAR is the only one working solely in the Balkan region. In terms of impact, all four of the various broad strategies discussed above have the potential to contribute to the stabilization of BH and the prevention of conflict.
In terms of effectiveness from a macro perspective, because of its focus on the structural issues, ICG’s strategy of appealing to international actors to change the political structures themselves is perhaps the most potentially effective. It is also important because it casts light upon the activities of international organizations which often go uncriticized and unchecked, thus forcing them to take into account the effect of their activities on BH society and to at least consider other perspectives. ICG thus provides somewhat of a check on the institutional and political factors that in absence of criticism tend to drive these organizations. Given the power of international organizations in BH this watchdog function is extremely important. In terms of impact, ICG as well as other observers claim that ICG’s activities have brought about rethinking of a number of important structural political issues, including strategies of minority return, the fate of the disputed city of Brko, and, perhaps most importantly, the BH electoral system. And as mentioned above, the UN has adopted ICG’s proposal on the electoral system as its own position.
From the perspective of on-the-ground stability within BH itself, the most effective strategies are those focusing on rebuilding communities by working together towards a tangible common goal. Such a strategy recreates the organic bases on which any community is built, and moves the focus of energy away from the national political scene (which was the focus of the nationalists in the leadup to the war and during the war itself) toward the local and regional scene. This leads to what seems to be potentially the most effective strategy, that is, an integrated strategy that uses major projects such as reconstruction of housing or infrastructure as the focus of a process of rebuilding community or civil society, and that is supplemented by programs (such as microcredits) to create businesses and jobs in the community.
This strategy empowers locals, bringing all major stakeholders in a community together to work out on their own, together, independent of the state or other institutional actors, how to reconstruct their societies. Key to the success of such strategies is that INGOs base their activities on decisions made by the community, rather than imposing preconceived concepts or strategies from above. These kinds of strategies have worked in both parts of BH, and have even managed to convince local politicians in RS to allow Muslims to return to their homes. Although such acceptance could be seen as cynical (that is, in return for letting a few Muslim families back the community as a whole benefits from reconstruction of infrastructure) it is a first step that works to loosen the idea of ethnicized political space totally dependent on (nationalist) political parties or state authorities.
From a more general perspective, this is a kind of experiential learning, where the concepts of community or civil society are constructed by the participants themselves in a concrete way, rather than being presented as abstract political concepts. This kind of strategy focuses on communities, especially on parts of pre-war communities that had been ripped apart by the war, and gives them a concrete way to rebuild themselves both physically and in spirit. By working together, deciding together, building together, these projects rebuild the interpersonal and community ties that had been severed by the war and provide the basis for the future of these communities and thus of BH as a whole. They also contribute in an important way to democratization by constructing a process of participatory decision making. Such on-the-ground reconstruction, it seems, is a prerequisite for the functioning of BH society as a whole. As CRS points out, shelter repair is an especially good focus for such a strategy, since in itself it reduces stress on local communities: refugees living in the community can return to their rebuilt homes, freeing up housing and allowing the community to accept back families who fled during the war.
Another effective strategy is the building up of local capacities of existing local NGOs, empowering them to make decisions and priorities, to make connections with other local and international NGOs. This strategy builds on what existed in terms of civil society before the war, drawing on the traditions of political activism that were present in Yugoslavia, rather than imposing wholesale models and preconceived notions from outside. A large part of its success is due to its reliance on those who know best what their communities and society need and how best to achieve those goals. Especially when coupled with advocacy work for social change, such a strategy can be effective in forcing political actors to respond to needs on the ground. Thus in neighboring Croatia, the women’s NGO network working with STAR has successfully pressured the nationalist government to set up a series of women’s shelters and address other women’s issues.
Less effective, again from a macro perspective, is an explicit and narrow focus on political party building and civic education. By using an American (or more generally North American) model of political party activity, this strategy is quite superficial, ignoring the organic society in which and from which political parties and activities grow. They also seem to miss the basic driving force of political power in post-war Yugoslav republics, the fact that unlike in the US, where political parties have very little real power, in BH ruling political parties effectively operate as the state. This is due not to an innate lack of democratic values, but rather to the fact that the state still plays such an important role as an allocator of tangible and intangible resources and especially of secure jobs, and because there are virtually no alternatives for stable, secure positions (other than working for INGOs or IO’s). Teaching political parties to behave like “democratic parties” does nothing to address this fact. Indeed, even if opposition parties were to win, they would be ruling in the same structural environment and would thus be drawn into the same kind of patronage logic that the nationalist parties rely on. In addition, it is not clear that the kinds of things these parties are being “taught” are useful.(4)
Again what’s missing is contextualization, a feel for BH society and the recent history of political and power structures, and a view of the process as two-way learning. These kinds of “political party building” efforts do not address the root cause of political phenomena in BH. Only once things change within society, within communities, will this trickle up to the national political level. And although civic education probably won’t hurt, only with the rebuilding of communities, the empowerment of society, and the creation of opportunities and incentives for people outside of politics will politics and political parties in BH be able to be democratic. It is not clear that political party work or the kind of civic education strategy being used by NDI would have any kind of positive impact on these factors.
One of the major negative impacts of the presence of so many international actors and the inflow of massive amounts of money is the effect on BH society itself. The best and the brightest Bosnians, especially those who know English, are now working for IO’s and INGOs as staff, drivers and interpreters, rather than in BH society itself or for local NGOs, most of whom cannot afford to pay the very high salaries that their international counterparts pay. Another impact is generational: older, more experienced and educated Bosnians who don’t know English are left out, creating not only a knowledge gap for INGOs but also resentment. An additional effect is that because of the money INGOs are spending in BH, Bosnians are now much less willing to work on a volunteer basis than before; I heard a number of stories of Bosnians who were unwilling to take part in conferences, meetings, workshops or other activities unless they were paid. They clearly understood that the INGOs sponsoring them were getting credit from donors for having locals take part in such activities. The problem is not so much the money that’s coming into BH, since reconstruction requires such massive amounts. Rather, it is the way the international community including INGOs are using the money. Indeed, with a few exceptions there seems to be little awareness or self-reflection on this broader power issue of how international actors’ control of resources is negatively affecting BH society.
The major obstacle or limitation for INGOs is the structural situation in which they are working, as discussed above. Another major limitation is the ability of major donors, especially those states and IO’s that provide the largest part of INGO funding, to dictate priorities. A clear example of this is the fact that donor priorities have shifted every six months to a year (from humanitarian relief, to reconstruction, to business development, to minority returns, to building civil society), reflecting the donors’ own political interests. But as donor priorities shift, so too INGOs, most of whom are on one-year funding cycles, must shift their proposals and activities, or risk losing support. A related problem is that donors have a very short-term view, wanting immediate, identifiable results. But a focus on such short-term results can often undermine more important long-term goals which can be achieved only by strategies which do not have immediate or quantifiable payoffs.
The negative impact of donors driving the process was most clearly expressed to me in my interview with USAID, where the officer in charge of NGO relations, while praising the humanitarian INGOs such as CRS, IRC, MCI for being there during the war and for providing great on-the-ground information during the immediate post-war period, declared that their time was now over, and that USAID would be shifting its funding to INGOs that have experience elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe and that work explicitly (and narrowly) on “democracy assistance.” Not only does this ignore the importance and effectiveness of broader strategies and the limits of democracy assistance, it also ignores the fact that BH may benefit more from learning from societies that have been through similar experiences (for example South Africa), rather than those that are geographically proximate. Another indicator of the way that donor priorities and goals rather than the needs on the ground drive strategies was the comment by USAID that a major problem for them is that other donors may continue to fund projects and INGOs that USAID does not agree with, or that don’t fit USAID’s priorities.
The ability of USAID to selectively fund only those INGOs that pursue strategies congruent with USAID’s own priorities and perceptions means that innovative and effective integrated projects such as those pursued by CRS and MCI, which do not necessarily provide an immediate, tangible result, and do not fit into preconceived notions of assistance, lose out.
Indeed, as pointed out by one INGO representative, because of their institutional biases and compartmentalizations, donors have a very narrow focus and tend to fund only projects that are strictly reconstruction or strictly democracy assistance, thereby ignoring the importance of integrated programs. This is despite the fact that, as one IO representative put it, the difference between USAID-funded private companies doing reconstruction and an INGO like CRS is that while both rebuild houses, the private company is not interested in anything beyond that. CRS’s mandate is to go beyond that and to rebuild communities, resulting, according to this observer, in better overall outcomes at a lower cost. Because of its lack of flexibility, USAID seems unable to deal with projects that cross these “borders.”
Although donors must do some level of needs assessment, there seems to be a basic problem. Either they are lacking a realistic needs assessment, that is, funding based on the complex and long-term strategies that are necessary to rebuild Bosnian society and on what locals deem to be the needs of BH society; or some INGOs are unable to accept the need to individualize and contextualize their strategies for specific places. This in turn points to yet another major problem underlying the activities of many INGOs: the absence of locals as equal partners in determining needs and priorities, and the de facto dependent position of locals and local NGOs due to the current massive disparity of power between locals and international actors. Indeed, most donors will not work directly with local NGOs, or they do so only if there is also an INGO involved as a partner. This attitude was reflected in comments by some internationals to the effect that you can’t trust the locals with money or resources; the implication was that they are children unable to take responsibility for their own actions, either due to the “totalitarian past” or to some other unidentified inferiority.
This attitude is also reflected in the fate of a proposal by an INGO consultant, in a study for CARE Canada, to establish an endowment to provide local NGOs with a stable source of income.(5) The endowment was to have been run by a board of local NGO representatives, and funding was to have come from those IOs and governments which are currently the largest donors. But donors have proved unwilling to surrender control over how their monies are spent, and to date the effort has not been successful.
Of course even if one sees the locals as equal colleagues and peers, the disparity of power between local and international NGOs is almost impossible to avoid in this kind of situation. The Delphi-STAR project is perhaps the most sensitive to this factor, and in its self-evaluations admits that local and international NGOs can never be fully equal partners because of this disparity. But STAR makes every attempt to empower locals; as noted above, they have a board made up of representatives of local NGOs which determines much of what they do, and they work to link local NGOs with other BH NGOs as well as with local NGOs in other countries. In short, STAR treats the locals as colleagues and peers and sees their presence in BH as a two-way learning process. This sensitivity is in large part due to the background of the project directors, who have had much experience in this region long before the war, who speak the language and thus are very much aware of the realities within these societies in a way most INGOs are not.
Another general problem facing INGOs is the large number of them currently operating in BH. This brings problems of coordination, including duplication of activities and activities that work at cross-purposes to each other, which one local noted had the effect of strengthening the very people who are most against a stable BH. It also means there is an intense competition for limited funding, which again distracts from an on-the-ground needs assessment and exacerbates the problem of funders driving the process in their own political or national interest, rewarding INGOs who obey them and punishing those who do not. And this competition spills over to local NGOs: they see the behavior of INGOs and emulate it, resulting in a tendency for local NGOs not to cooperate. Another negative impact on local NGOs is that some INGOs, in order to maintain funding and raison d’être, try to maintain local NGOs in a situation of dependence on them, maintaining a role as middleman. Again Delphi-STAR is a great example of the opposite; their encouragement that local NGOs directly contact foundations and other donors for funding, and contact other non-Bosnian NGOs on their own.
The main problem with evaluating strategies in the BH case is the short time span. The war ended less than three years ago, and most of the current strategies began less than two years ago. In the RS, Dodik came to power less than a year ago. And as pointed out above, donor priorities have constantly shifted. Thus the conclusions here will be tentative.
As pointed out by INGOs themselves, the immediate results demanded by donors have been achieved: houses rebuilt, workshops held. What’s not as clear is how to evaluate the less tangible, less quantifiable and longer-term goals of rebuilding communities and society.
For CRS, one indicator is the number of families that have fully moved back into their communities. The problem with this measure, however, is that there are very powerful forces who are opposed to such returns: nationalists who don’t want expelled minorities to return.(6) This problem can be dealt with by the international community showing its determination not to tolerate violence against returnees. INGOs have also used strategies to overcome resistance, for example rebuilding houses for both returning minorities as well as for people already in the community; rebuilding infrastructure, etc. This latter strategy has in fact worked in some places that had previously been pretty hard-core nationalist. But again, this shift is not unrelated to the shift in power within the RS brought about by the international community.
In such cases where there is active and violent resistance, is it fair to say the strategy is ineffective? I would argue that effectiveness should be judged in a context where success has a chance. This again points to the importance of structural factors. INGOs can have little hope of success if the actors who oppose a peaceful, democratic, and stable BH are able to use violence to undermine any positive efforts or progress. Thus in the Republika Srpska, strategies were not at all successful the way they were in the Federation until the change of government in Banja Luka. But when the environment is conducive, good INGO strategies can be effective.
The long-term success of effective projects thus depends almost exclusively on the degree to which the international community will continue its commitment to a situation conducive to rebuilding stable communities on the ground. If that commitment remains effective strategies focusing on empowering local actors and communities and using integrated programs as the focus of rebuilding communities can be an important part of the overall stability and democratization of BH. Most of the ideas that INGOs are bringing to BH are not unfamiliar ones. INGOs are dealing with locals who are highly educated; Yugoslavia of all the socialist countries was the most open to western ideas and had its own experience with indigenous concepts of grassroots participation in decision making. The main role of INGOs should be to provide mechanisms and tools to rebuild local communities by building on existing notions of political participation. One of the most striking things in talking to internationals with no prior experience in the region is the degree to which they have a notion that Bosnians are coming out of a totalitarian experience that is a caricature of even the Soviet system. They seem all but unaware of the mechanics and realities of the Yugoslav political system under Tito, which, although not the workers’ paradise portrayed by some western leftist observers, was much more participatory than western stereotypes of communism would every imagine. They also seem unaware of the political ferment and grassroots movement to democracy and the events of the late 1980s, which showed a full awareness and familiarity with notions of democracy, civil society, and participation in politics. People have also forgotten that the war in BH began when a massive, multiethnic peace rally marching through Sarajevo was fired upon by a handful of SDS snipers.
As for the transfer of ideas, the ideas that western INGOs bring with them to BH cannot be detached from the power factors mentioned above, especially the massive amounts of money that are available to “proselytize” those ideas. Rather than trying to build on already existing ideas of community and democracy in a way that would ensure sustainability, too many international actors come in with their own agendas, priorities, and preconceived notions of what democracy or civil society means and how to “import” them into Bosnia; as one local political actor who has dealt with democracy assistance told me, you can’t just import ideas if they or some element of them don’t exist as a reality on the ground. Because of the relatively massive resources INGOs command, they do indeed get results. But whether these results are sustainable over the long term and will contribute to Bosnia’s stability is doubtful if they are not based on and sensitive to on-the-ground realities of BH society.
The BH case provides a number of important lessons for INGOs which operate in other societies with the aim of preventing violent conflict and building civil society.
First, INGOs should try to limit their funding to donors who have a long-term time horizon and who, although perhaps having a broad goal, allow the INGOs to have local actors determine priorities and projects. This is a challenge for INGOs who rely for funding on government agencies and international organizations, because these actors fund projects for clearly political reasons that may have little to do with the interests of the society in question and everything to do with domestic political interest within the donor country, institutional interests of the funding organization, the power interests of the state within the international arena, or preconceived notions of how to ensure democratization. This is especially true for funders of “democracy assistance.” INGOs need to seriously reflect on the motivations and preconceived notions of those who fund such assistance, and to question the appropriateness and effectiveness of idiosyncratic US concepts and practices for other societies.
From a theoretical perspective this is a crucial point: are INGOs nothing but instruments of power for other international actors, a way to project that power into other societies? Are INGOs sensitive to how even admirable goals like democratization can in fact serve the power interests of their funders rather than the interests of the society in which they are operating? If they do have some autonomy in deciding what goals to pursue and the strategies to do so, to what extent are INGOs driven by their own institutional interests or preconceived notions rather than realities on the ground? How do they evaluate the situation on the ground? Do they work in a hierarchical manner, with the INGO at the international level and local NGOs at the national level, or do they encourage horizontal networks among local NGOs in all the countries where they are active? Do they see their activies as an interactive process or as a kind of transmission belt running from outside to inside?
Second, and proceeding from the above, the focus of INGO efforts should be on helping communities build themselves into civil society, rather than importing notions of political party work or building civil society based on western experiences. INGOs need to have a firm grasp of the existing communities and relationships within those communities. This includes an understanding of how politics fits into the bigger picture. In cases where politics was the center of power (as in most of the formerly socialist countries), it’s important to realize that merely teaching political parties to behave democratically or teaching people the principles of liberal democracy won’t get to the underlying dynamics of power. Politics must come from the realities of power on the ground. For democracy to be successful, it must be grounded in the everyday experience of the population. Otherwise what exists is the acting out of democracy without its substance. Attempts to build democracy must build on ideas and experiences of the society in question, rather than assuming that there is nothing on which to build. Again the assumption that before 1989 or 1990 the socialist countries were in some kind of totalitarian deep freeze that infected the minds and attitudes of the population, who now need to be retrained in democracy, ignores the kinds of grassroots activism seen throughout the region from the Gorbachev period onward, and even before that in many cases. And by ignoring or writing off those experiences, INGOs ignore what should be the solid basis for moving onward.
Related to the fact that politics is a reflection of power relations on the ground is the question of funding opposition parties vs. civil society work. As pointed out above, the nationalist parties in BH (and the HDZ in Croatia and the SPS and JUL in Serbia) remain in power because they have power. Although this seems circular, the fact remains that, especially in BH and in Serbia, outside of the political parties and the positions which they control, there is very little chance for stable, secure employment at the center but perhaps more importantly at the local level. INGOs can conduct civic education programs on the abstract concepts of democracy, and can work with political parties to enourage greater transparency, but without a change in power relations within society, without the development of a civil society, little will change even if opposition parties do come to power.
Indeed, the goal should be to decrease the importance of politics and of the center, rather than focusing upon it. Clearly electoral outcomes do matter, and who controls the state is an important factor, as we’ve seen in RS. But that’s just a first step. The next step needs to be empowering local communities not in the form of political parties or even NGOs, but as communities. The other key factor is the need for a vital economy. By focusing on what could be seen as “nonpolitical” things such as housing and infrastructure repair and economic revitalization, INGOs can make the greatest contribution by helping create alternative sources of stable employment and resources, thus lessening the importance and power of political parties. One problem here, of course, is the degree to which such projects have been ceded to the private sector, which has little incentive to spend time, effort, and resources on rebuilding community or civil society.
As should be clear by now, the BH case and the kinds of strategies that INGOs have developed there provide important lessons for civil society building and the related goal of preventing violent conflict. BH shows the effectiveness of innovative, multifaceted integrated strategies that concentrate on a number of local communities and work on the process of building community. Focusing on an overall common goal, such as infrastructure repair or shelter reconstruction, and having all of the community’s stakeholders involved in making decisions, planning, and implementing the resulting projects–instead of workshops in “civic education” and “multiparty democracy”–seems to be the best way for people to learn the nuts and bolts of participatory democracy and civil society, and also the best way to create this outcome: constructed by the people themselves. Using this kind of project as the focus, and supplementing it with development strategies such as microcredits, with conflict resolution facilities, and with advocacy, seems to be a most effective way to achieve the goals listed above.
Of course in some ways BH is a special case. The fact of wartime destruction provides a clear focus for community building efforts as well as for donor funding. The challenge is to transfer this kind of strategy into societies which do not have such obvious projects for communities to focus on. Likewise, the challenge is to convince donors why funding reconstructions, renovations, or other kinds of infrastructure or housing projects in societies that have not just been through a war is a way to achieve broader goals; and how the goal of democracy and stability within societies can best be achieved by funding such concrete projects.
In more general terms, BH shows the importance not only of involving locals in decision making and implementation, but also of explicitly facing the question of the power disparity between INGOs, which dispose of funds, and the society itself, which receives them. Exactly because of this disparity INGOs must take extra efforts to seek out and encourage alternative or dissenting voices among locals, and model good NGO behavior by seeing their relationships with locals as a two-way street in which both sides contribute to the relationship.
Appendix: List of interviews
Catholic Relief Services (CRS): Jim Kelly, director for BH, Sarajevo
Central and East European Law Initiative (CEELI): Steve Ginsburg, Rule of Law Liaison, Sarajevo
Delphi-STAR project: Jill Benderly, Project Director, Zagreb; Cressida Slote, Project Coordinator, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo
Enterprise Development Agency (EDA) project of International Labor Organization (ILO): Gene Neill, Micro and Small Business Development, Brko
Forum of Bosnian NGOs: Goran Todorovi, Sarajevo
International Council of Voluntary Agencies: Milica Kokotovi, Programme Officer, Sarajevo
International Crisis Group (ICG): Chris Bennett, Director, Bosnia Project Office, Sarajevo
International Rescue Committee (IRC): Stanley Dunn, Country Director, Sarajevo; Massimo Diana, Gorade office director
Mercy Corps International/Scottish European Aid (MCI/SEA): Rachel Peterson, Director MCI, Sarajevo
National Democratic Institute (NDI): Francesca Binda, Director of Political Party Programs for Federation of BiH, Sarajvo; Nick Green, Director, Civic Education Program, Tuzla; Beki Bahar-Engler, BH Program Manager, Washington
Office of the High Representative (OHR): Catherine Davis, Economics Advisor (NGO liaison), Brko
Search For Common Ground: Jeff Heyman, Project Director, Sarajevo; Terri [?], Washington, DC
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR): Kilian Kleinschmidt, Senior Programme Officer, Sarajevo; Betsy Greve, Gorade office
USAID: Jim Hope, USAID officer, Sarajevo
These interviews were supplemented with written materials from CRS, CEELI, Delphi-STAR, ICG, NDI, UNHCR
1. Elsewhere I have detailed how this process led within Serbia to a conservative faction under the leadership of Slobodan Miloevi coming to power and using images of threats to Serbs throughout Yugoslavia to marginalize those calling for democratic reforms. Their strategy involved waging wars first in Croatia and then in Bosnia-Herzegovina in order to demobilize political opposition in the short term and, over the longer term, to create a majority-Serb state in which the discourse of threatened Serbdom would continue to be deployed as a means to marginalize democratic and economic reforms. See V.P. Gagnon, Jr., “Ethnic Nationalism and International Conflict: The Case of Serbia,” International Security, winter 1994/95; “Ethnic Conflict as Demobilizer: The Case of Serbia,”Working Paper of the Institute for European Studies, Cornell University, May 1996 (also on the world wide web at:http://www.ithaca.edu/gagnon/articles/demob/).
2. See ICG reports, “Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” 22 September, 1996, and “Doing Democracy a Disservice: The 1998 Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” 9 September 1998, both at the ICG web site: http:// www.intl-crisis-group.org.
3. NDI, “Politike stranke i tranzicija ka demokratiji: Prirucnik za jacanje demokratskih stranaka namjenjen liderima, organizatorima i aktivistima” (Political parties and the transition to democracy: Handbook on strengthening democratic parties for leaders, organizers, and activists), September 1997.
4. For example the NDI representative in Tuzla, who has no regional expertise, said that he has very strongly been pushing the locals to do door-to-door canvassing (which he saw as very effective, based on his experience as a political activist in Chicago), but that they had very strongly resisted this suggestion. He discounted their resistance as due to ignorance of the effectiveness of such campaigns, rather than accepting the locals’ judgement on this issue.
6. This includes nationalists who don’t want others to come back to their now “ethnically cleansed” regions, as well as nationalists who don’t want “their” people, now residing in ethnically cleansed territory, to return to their homes on “the other side.”