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Spotlight: Bosnia and Herzegovina Youth Forum Team

Spotlight: Bosnia and Herzegovina Youth Forum Team

Bosnia and Herzegovina became an independent country after the violent break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Today, more than a decade after the war gave way to international efforts of nation-building, the country is still divided across the border between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Muslim and Croat entity) and the Serbian Republic (or Republika Srpska). The divide is not only present on the political level but also extends to, in many areas, the educational structures of the state.

Within this context, it is truly remarkable that Bosnia and Herzegovina features a debate program that involves hundreds of students from both entities and all three ethnicities. Students gather to debate with and against each other on issues of mutual interest. They do so with an understanding that the challenges they face have nothing to do with the divisions of the past, but instead with questions that can be answered best if young people act together towards a common goal of living in a modern, functional and peaceful open society.

We spoke to the Bosnia and Herzegovina team at the Youth Forum to gather their thoughts on debating in their country, how it contributes to bringing their fellow Bosnians together and their hopes for the future of their country. The team consisted of Nemanja Babic and Dusca Blagojevic from Republika Srpska and Haris Hadzijusufovic from the Federation.

The Big IDEA: Do teams from all entities often attend the same tournaments?
Team B&H: The debating organization in Bosnia and Herzegovina covers all schools in Bosnia, regardless of which entity they are from, so it's a unique opportunity for students from all entities to meet each other and participate in competitions and, like us, go to a competition abroad.

The Big IDEA: How does debate help in solving the problems of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Team B&H: It's actually helpful for the people who attend the program, since we attend all workshops together and then we debate together. We came to know each other and, while we understand the barriers, we know each other from a perspective where we are not in conflict, as we respect each other.

The Big IDEA: Does your interaction stop when the debates are over?
Team B&H: Debate itself is a great way to socialize, so when the debate ends and we're no longer Affirmative or Negative and the discussion starts, we can discover the similarities that connect us and it becomes obvious that all the issues that we have in the country are the same: educational system, unemployment and so on.

The Big IDEA: Are you optimistic about the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina? Can the problems be solved?
Team B&H: All three of us think that they can be solved. The current situation may be what it is, but we are the new generation and we all have respect for each other and that's what we actually are. We see that there are problems in our country which are bigger than national and cultural differences - those are really minor.

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