In August 2017, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, a local NGO from Bosnia and Herzegovina, published a policy paper concerned with rights to public spaces in Banja Luka.
The publication sought to identify the resources available to citizens, research the legislation concerned with the rights to these spaces, its application in practice, and proposed recommendations for the local city council.
One of the main concerns of the research was to identify how civil society organisations, who are legally entitled to use of such public buildings, actually benefit from it. Between January 1st, 2013 and December 31st, 2016, the city of Banja Luka allowed 12 businesses and 11 non-governmental organisations to make use of public buildings. The data received indicates that in four years, only 14 NGOs were allocated public buildings, despite the fact that there are more than 200 of them in the city of Banja Luka.
In the second part, the publication explores the state of public property in the wider area of the city, as well as good practices from other cities, aiming to demonstrate that public buildings should be put in the use of groups and organisations that serve the local communities.
The total value of the municipality’s public assets reaches over 450 million BAM. As the capital of the Republika Srpska entity, the city has the potential to follow in the footsteps of other European cities, and foster an environment in which creativity, entrepreneurship, and community initiatives can thrive.
Finally, the organisation recommends that the city of Banja Luka provides the needed public premises to open a ‘House of Human Rights’, in which civil society organisations can operate from collectively, and urges the authorities to find a suitable space that could fulfil these needs.
The publication is available in Bosnia, Serbian, Croatian, and can be accessed here.