Helping former military personnel reintegrate into civilian life in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • 19 Dec. 2012 -
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  • Last updated: 19 Dec. 2012 14:04

Since 2006 the Ministry of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been reforming its structure, focusing on downsizing the military and eliminating redundancy. But for many discharged personnel, military life is the only one they have known. Adjusting to civilian life can be difficult and securing consistent employment is one of the many challenges that they face.

The Alliance has sponsored the NATO-Perspektiva Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2010, through a NATO Trust Fund supported by Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which has experience retraining military personnel, is in charge of implementing the programme, which is designed to work alongside the ongoing downsizing of the armed forces. The programme helps former military personnel reintegrate into civilian society through counselling, education, training and small business grants.

The Programme provides crucial assistance to individuals and families in integrating socially and economically within the complex civil society of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” says Gianluca Rocco, the IOM Chief of Mission in the country.

It supports the local economy through the development of sustainable small businesses, and contributes to ongoing peace and security efforts in the country,” he adds. 

Adjusting to civilian life

With skills that are not easily transferable to civilian life, many former military personnel must adapt their current skills or learn a new one. The difficult economic climate has made the transition even more difficult, but the NATO-Perspektiva Programme is helping former military personnel to carve out a new career and a new livelihood.

Perspektiva has four regional offices throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, allowing for individual programmes to be set up and tailored to each recipient based on their needs. Nearly 3,000 people have received assistance under the programme.

One example is Marinko Marjanović, who began preparing for an alternate source of income after learning he would be discharged from the military. With a wife, daughter and mother to support, he decided to turn his part-time hobby of growing strawberries into a full-time job. With help from the NATO-Perspektiva Programme, Mr Marjanović purchased machinery that allows him to cultivate more land, expanding production by 33 per cent.

Another beneficiary is Mehmed Kaplan, a mechanic technician. After being discharged from the Air Force, the 39-year-old from Visoko decided to start EUROKOV, a family business that makes hand-forged wrought iron fences, gates, garden sets and other products.

Mr Kaplan applied to the NATO-Perspektiva Programme for assistance in purchasing a set of tools, profile cutters and a compressor. These tools enabled the company to expand, enhancing the types of products and services offered, and further strengthening their competitiveness.

Wider benefits

The services provided by NATO-Perspektiva often have wider benefits beyond the former military personnel who participate in the programme. EUROKOV, for example, provides a source of income for three families: Mr Kaplan and his two brothers, who also work at the company.

The NATO Trust Fund for Bosnia and Herzegovina highlights the wide-ranging positive aspects of NATO support to the country, beyond the traditional military and security related assistance,” points out Mr Rocco. “It encompasses support which directly enhances the socioeconomic situation of citizens, families, and small communities." 

Building capacity

Originally designed to last for just over two years, from October 2010 to December 2012, the programme has been extended to March 2013 to assist newly discharged military personnel. A further extension beyond spring next year is currently being considered.

There is a need for continuing assistance to a new group of about 1,300 individuals who will be discharged after the originally planned finish of the Programme in September 2012,”says Mr Rocco.

During extension period, the IOM will transfer the knowledge and expertise it has gained from this programme to the Ministry of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which will allow the government to assist discharged military personnel in the future.

The capacity building activities conducted through the programme will ensure that structures, both in terms of equipment, facilities and human resources will continue to exist,” stresses Mr Rocco.