November 2001

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BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA ROAD SYSTEM - THE WAY AHEAD

STATUS

SARAJEVO: SFOR has contributed enormously to the overall improvement in the war-torn and neglected roads system of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Whilst ensuring SFOR Freedom of Movement, the improvements have also guaranteed mobility to the people of BiH and opened up the way to Displaced Persons and Refugees (DPREs) wishing to return to their pre-war homes.
SFOR has also taken steps to hand back responsibility for road maintenance to local authorities. Having assessed the suitability of specific companies to bid for contracts, SFOR engineers now carry out shared-cost 'Joint Ventures' with the Road Directorates (RD) of both Entities. SFOR continues to monitor these projects carefully through mobile inspection teams.

Post-war situation

NATO-led troops entering BiH in late 1995, found the road system structurally damaged and completely lacking in maintenance. Bridges and tunnels had been systematically destroyed and blocked, and were often heavily mined. The primary aim of the Implementation Force (IFOR) Engineers was to establish Freedom of Movement. A massive programme of repairs began, including bypasses and bridges to open essential Theatre and Divisional routes.
Although this work was undertaken using NATO Infrastructure funds, with the passage of time, more and more international money was invested in the work. This has allowed temporary military structures, bridges in particular, to be replaced with permanent civilian ones.
Following SFOR restructuring, completed in early-2000, reduced engineering assets meant that local authorities had to take a growing responsibility for road maintenance. A rapid increase in the volume of civilian traffic on the roads also meant an increasing need to carry out more than just superficial repairs.

Memorandum of Understanding

To ensure a way forward, through Joint Ventures with Entity Road Directorates (RDs), a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was set up to establish procedures. The long-term aim of the MoU is to hand over an increasing amount of responsibility to the RDs in sharing the burden of maintenance and reconstruction work. The first phase of the MoU sees SFOR retaining responsibility for a few main roads, with RDs taking responsibility for other categories of road. The cost of these is shared 50-50.
Under the supervision of SFOR, the RDs are responsible for running the contracting process, with monitoring of the work carried out by both sides.
Thus, the local authorities progressively assume more control, leaving SFOR able to carry out more projects with the same money. Funds can thus be used for the many critical tunnels, landslides and rock-overhangs, which urgently need attention.

Mobile Inspection teams

HQ SFOR Engineers has a number of Freedom of Movement Mobile Teams (FOMETs). These FOMETs have distinct areas of responsibility in which they work to improve safety through maintenance, as well as emergency surface and bridge repair. This is all done in close co-operation with the Entity RDs. Regular site visits are carried out to examine both work progression and the materials being used.

Bottom Line

SFOR has maintained Freedom of Movement through years of hard work and investment. Although the need for road maintenance has not disappeared, it is essential that local authorities play an increasingly active role. The MoU between the RDs and SFOR is a move towards this.
The terrain of BiH makes every road a precious lifeline. The citizens of this Country need to be able to move freely, and every road is a conduit by which DPREs are able to return to their homes.