How Will the Youth Strategy of FBiH Benefit Youth?

The Youth Strategy of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina aims to create a secure environment that enhances the existential security of young people, reduces their vulnerability and exposure to high-risk behaviors, and maximizes opportunities to develop their full potential.

The strategy acknowledges the significance of information, communication, mutual trust, and collaboration among young people, parents, law enforcement, and other institutions and civil society organizations offering systemic support to those affected by any form of injustice. The strategy positions young people as integral to the solution, actively engaging them in raising awareness and implementing preventive measures to promote zero tolerance towards violence. Additionally, they serve as essential advisors in establishing safe and supportive channels for reporting crimes, as well as ensuring protection and support for recovery.

Young people are also recognized in the context of security as a diverse population group with pronounced vulnerability, partly due to their specific needs, partly due to their own capacities that are still developing, and partly due to an environment that is changing quickly and becoming increasingly more demanding. This is why every young person needs reliable systemic support that minimizes risks.

Young people in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina perceive security as a mix of social, economic, health and security risks and not only as an immediate danger to life. This assessment of the environment, through which young people evaluate their prospects for survival, growth, and well-being, is known as the concept of humane security. It reveals the link between meeting essential needs that individuals require to determine the suitability of their environment. Factors such as personal integrity, peace, and opportunities for development are crucial considerations in this evaluation process, since they influence the decision to remain in that environment.

It is concerning that during the Institute for Youth Development KULT’s survey on the position and needs of young people in FBiH,  44.4% of those surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with the security in their community.

What are the reasons why FBiH youth perceive their environment as a source of fear and insecurity?

Economic independence forms the foundation for autonomous decision-making and life planning. However, the high unemployment rate among young people frequently plunges them into poverty, social exclusion, marginalization, and exposes them to additional challenges such as discrimination and exploitation. Caught between limited opportunities and increasing needs, young people often find themselves compelled to work in precarious conditions without adequate rights and protections, focusing more on survival rather than growth and development. Efforts to combat human trafficking are increasingly focused on labor exploitation affecting primarily young people.

In addition to these threats and insecurities, other factors such as violence, criminality and deviant behavior in society that expose young people to physical and psychological risks certainly have a strong influence on whether young people feel safe. Unacknowledged and unmitigated risks in this area often end in tragedy.

The FBiH Institute for Statistics, in its 2022 publication “Judiciary Statistics,” sheds light on the vulnerability of young people in relation to crime, revealing that youth and children constitute 36.38% of all victims of criminal offences.

The most alarming statistic is that this demographic comprises 97.6% of all victims of crimes against sexual freedom and morality, specifically sexual violence and rape.

In criminal offenses involving domestic violence, 48.79% of the victims are children and young people aged 18 to 29. It is important to note that 78.13% of victims are girls and young women. Research on the position and needs of young people in FBIH conducted by the Institute reveals that 24.6% of the young people surveyed said that they knew a person who survived domestic violence, while 1.7% found the strength to share that they themselves were victims of domestic violence.  19.48% of all adult offenders fall within the age range of 18-29.

Children and young people aged 18 to 29 constitute 35.48% of all victims of crimes against life and limb, which include murders and bodily harm. At the same time, 33.20% of the perpetrators fall within the age range of 18 to 29.

Children and young people aged 18 to 29 account for 47.78% of traffic fatalities. Young drivers, comprising over 36% of the perpetrators of this crime, are frequently involved in traffic accidents due to factors such as inexperience, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and failing to follow road rules.

Even among peers, young people are exposed to threats of physical, verbal and cyber violence, which seriously endangers their safety and mental health. In the survey on the position and needs of young people in the FBIH, 34.5% of the respondents said that they knew a person who experienced bullying, and 13% of the young people surveyed said that they themselves had been exposed to this type of violence.

Difficulties getting help and escaping an abusive environment often drive young people to resort to alcohol, narcotics, and other psychoactive substances. This exacerbates the problem and can result in health issues, addiction, and involvement in criminal activities. According to data from the FBiH Statistics Institute in their 2022 “Judiciary Statistics” publication, there were 1,546 reported crimes against health in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Of these, 795 perpetrators (51.42%) were young people. This includes 16 individuals under the age of 18 and 779 individuals aged between 18 and 29. These criminal offenses primarily involve unauthorized production, distribution, possession, and facilitation of the use of narcotic drugs.

Approaching violence as a social issue should include working with perpetrators as well as with victims, which is especially important in the context of improving youth outcomes.

The FBIH youth strategy acknowledges this necessity and prioritizes the development of a multidisciplinary violence prevention program. The goal is to foster a safe environment, promote a culture of non-violence, and establish a support system for young people exposed to high-risk behaviors or victimization, so they are equipped with the necessary resources to confront challenges and navigate crisis situations effectively.

Global trends in information, education, and leisure activities have led to an increased dependence of young people on technology. However, with the widespread adoption and sometimes misuse of technology and artificial intelligence, young people’s vulnerability to privacy and security threats has increased.  Young people’s exposure to misinformation, fake news, and indoctrination might seem less concerning initially. However, it’s important to recognize that youth primarily rely on social networks for information, where there’s no censorship or verification of accuracy. This unregulated environment significantly shapes their attitudes, behavior, and decision-making processes. Young people are occasionally targeted by radical groups on social networks who aim to recruit them into terrorist or extremist activities.

Despite being more computer literate than other demographics, young people often underestimate the importance of personal data protection, resulting in issues such as identity theft, fraud, or unauthorized access to accounts. Online scams such as phishing or false offers and exploitation are on the rise, and young people are at an increased risk of becoming victims of fraud, identity theft or even sexual exploitation. The causes of this problem include lack of computer literacy, inadequate parental supervision, and lack of awareness of potential dangers.

The link between online behavior and its real-world consequences is often challenging to address, making cyberbullying a significant threat to the mental health of young people. Many young people face the daily risk of becoming victims of insults, threats, false rumors, or humiliation on social media, forums, and other online platforms, while perpetrators often evade punishment. Photo editing software, coupled with the availability of personal photos on social networks and a broad audience from the young person’s social circle, allows predators and abusers to distribute fabricated pornographic and violent videos that degrade and humiliate the victim. These materials are often used for blackmail purposes. The persistent problem with online abuse, highlighted by law enforcement and victims alike, is the ongoing uncertainty of whether humiliating content removed by police will resurface at a later time.

These threats pose a significant challenge for young people given their lifestyles, and are further exacerbated by a lack of comprehensive formal and informal education on youth safety that connects activities in cyberspace with their real-world consequences. To mitigate these risks, it is crucial to educate young people about internet safety, involve and inform parents and guardians, and ensure that legal frameworks provide adequate measures to prosecute and penalize perpetrators.

Alongside the peer environment, which is crucial for young people, family support and role modeling play an invaluable role. The Youth Strategy not only focuses on raising awareness about potential risks and protection but also emphasizes initiatives aimed at engaging with parents.  Identifying high-risk behaviors is essential for ensuring the safety of young people. Educated parents are better equipped to recognize and address potential challenges early, and ensure timely intervention in case of problems.

The FBiH Youth Strategy acknowledges the significance of promoting digital literacy and providing educational resources on cyber threats to prevent online abuse, so these challenges can be addressed effectively. The Strategy also aims to enhance the legal framework and implement laws intended to keep youth safe online.  By establishing a model for reporting cybercrime and implementing a support system for victims, young people would get safe channels to report cybercrime and internet abuse. By implementing such measures, competent institutions would have access to essential information needed for prompt and effective responses.

Addressing these risks and providing support for young people to feel safer requires coordinated efforts from various sectors, including education, healthcare, social services, law enforcement, and the judiciary. The youth strategy acknowledges the need for this approach and outlines a course of action focused on enhancing intersectoral cooperation, along with fostering a youth-friendly approach across institutions providing services to young people (such as health and social services) and law enforcement and security agencies.

The initiative to create a youth strategy for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is led by the competent ministry – the FBiH Ministry of Culture and Sports in partnership with the Institute for Youth Development KULT and the Youth Council of FBiH.

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