The Drina Valley region of Bosnia-Herzegovina is one of the country’s least-developed areas. Youth in the area, without access to the opportunities found in more urban areas, face problems of isolation and marginalization from meaningful participation in their communities.

With a grant from the Balkan Trust for Democracy, IPAK-Youth Builds up the Future, a non-profit organization based in the country’s northeast, sought to address this problem through a project promoting youth advocacy in pre-electoral dialogue. In the run-up to last year’s state elections, 30 young activists between the ages of 16 and 30 were trained by IPAK in advocacy and strategic planning, and identified ten key priorities to be implemented in the field of youth policy.

The priorities ranged from increased support from and dialogue with their local communities to funds for building youth centers in rural areas. A September 2010 conference held in Tuzla saw the participation of eight representatives from political parties and allowed the youth to present their priorities as concrete requests for consideration throughout the electoral campaign. Amir Hasanovic, coordinator for youth work with IPAK, said that this was an important opportunity. “Politicians normally appear completely out of reach,” he said. “This was a rare moment for the young people to explain the challenges they face in rural areas.” The priorities were printed on posters and signed by politicians before being distributed in the Drina Valley region.

Many of the young activists said that, as a result of the project, they realize change is only possible with active participation. One participant, Omer Avdiæ, said, “Until recently I had not been politically minded at all because I thought that politics was boring. Through these activities I realized that it can be interesting, especially if I want something to change in Kalesija, my local community.”

IPAK has recently been awarded a new BTD grant that will allow them to implement the next phase of this project. Through cooperation with political parties, the organization will train youth representatives to monitor the performances of their local elected authorities in implementing the ten youth policy priorities.

More information about IPAK, which is dedicated to creating a better future for young people in Bosnia-Herzegovina, can be found at