Bosnia and Herzegovina is a society based on equal rights and opportunities for everyone. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a state built by active and engaged citizens and accountable authorities.
Sarajevo Open Centre (SOC) advocates the full respect of human rights and social inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) people and women.
Sarajevo Open Centre is an independent feminist civil society organization that strives to empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) people and women through community empowerment and activist movement building. SOC also promotes the human rights of LGBTI people and women publicly and advocates on national, European and international level for improved legislation and policies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By working on European integration issues, SOC is improving human rights in general and encouraging further the development of civil society.
Key values and organisational culture
We aspire to achieve high degree of professionalism and quality in our work, which reflects an exemplary, inspiring, and effective organization of people sharing joint vision and values.
We believe in and promote intersectionality and diversity of ideas and people: we respect and take into consideration people and their perspectives stemming from their different identities and backgrounds. We are also actively fighting multiple discrimination, especially on the grounds of sex, sex characteristics, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.
We promote integrity: we stick to our values and principles, and we are committed to fairness, transparency and accountability in our procedures and work guided by professional standards and results we want to achieve as well as broad involvement of different stakeholders.
We believe in proactivity and activism as we constantly monitor the relevant local, regional and worldwide political and social currents in order to identify challenges and find solutions before problems arise. This anticipatory, change-oriented and self-initiated behavior enables us to act timely and use our competences to prevent social backlashes and set foundation for future advancements of human rights and equality of all BiH citizens.
Innovation and creativity: we introduce new methods, approaches and focus areas, encourage openness and are prepared for continuous learning in order to be able to respond to new challenges.
Collaboration and solidarity: we invest in long term partnerships and networks on national and international level, using these synergies to further our goals and strengthen our position within civil society. We believe that we can achieve more by combining a critical approach towards the performance of the state institutions, with partnership when it is in line with our strategic goals.
Communication: we have established successful channels of communication with stakeholders and our target groups, which are used regulary, and are two-way.
(updated in February 2018)
Results achieved by the organisation in the previous period (2014-2017)
Advocacy, legal protection and institutional cooperation
- Established and maintained the only civil society-led LGBTI human rights violation monitoring and documentation system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which resulted in Pink Reports – annual LGBTI rights reports for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 followed by concrete advocacy (i.a. written submissions/alternative reports, legislative and policy proposals) actions on national, European and international level;
- Representatives of the national institutions, international and human rights organizations from the region recognized SOC as the main source of accurate information and quality legislative and policy proposals;
- Established our internal women’s rights monitoring procedures, which resulted in Orange Report – annual women’s rights reports for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 (the only annual women´s rights report in Bosnia and Herzegovina published by a civil society organisation), as well as different advocacy actions on national, European and international level;
- Successfully launched changes or participated in amendments of the following laws: a) Anti-Discrimination Law (improvement of procedural aspects and clear definition of sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual characteristics as the basis on which the discrimination is forbidden), b) Law on BiH Ombudsmen Institution (proposing a model law whose parts that deal with the definition of competences, relations with civil society, and a clear recognition of sexual and gender minorities in the areas of work of the Institution of Ombudsman have been taken into the official law), c) Criminal Codes of RS and FBiH (clear definition of hate crimes, i.a. based on sexual orientation and gender identity), d) Law on Sports of BiH (equal participation of women in the Council for Sport, gender responsive budgeting, prohibition of discrimination on all grounds – i.a. disability, age, sexual orientation and gender identity and sexual characteristics), e) Law on Asylum of BiH and f) Law on Free Legal Aid (harmonization with the new anti-discrimination legislation)
- Successfully established cooperation with parliamentary commissions, state institutions for gender equality, and Institution of Ombudsmen for Human Rights in BiH, and worked with them on law amendments as well as on inclusion of LGBTI topics in entity’s Annual Operational Plans for the implementation of the BiH’s Gender Action Plan, as well as the creation of the first ever report on LGBTI rights by the Institution of the Ombudsperson. As of 2016, LGBTI rights are for the first time included in a public policy in BiH;
- Successfully kicked off the sensitization process of local and cantonal institutions providing social and health services to LGBTI people and brought the issues of LGBTI human rights to the local level;
- Successfully led advocacy campaigns and took part in the working groups for creation of general human rights and anti-discrimination public policies (Human Rights Strategy and Strategy for Combating Discrimination);
- Launched talks on big future challenges such as legal regulation of same-sex partnerships, legal gender recognition, bodily integrity of intersex people, and creation of multi-annual Action plan for equality of LGBTI people in BiH, that need to be implemented through separate laws and policies in the following period;
- Initiated action and decisively contributed to a better status of safe houses in Federation BiH by preventing the adoption of the amendments that would de facto threaten the existence of safe houses in joint action with participants of the Feminist School Žarana Papić and other women’s organizations;
- Initiated the campaign to introduce the use of gender sensitive language in Parliament of FBiH, and in university diplomas in Canton Sarajevo;
- Initiated the public discussion to introduce improvement to the regulation of the parental leave for parents;
- Introduced the work on establishing institutional gender mechanisms for gender equality at the level of cantons and continued to work of other on the local gender actions plans;
- Led and/or participated on the European level advocacy (i.a. contributions to the BiH Progress Report on women’s and LGBTI rights; Alternative Progress/Report on BiH, European Parliament Resolutions, EU-BiH Structural Dialogue on Justice consultations and written submissions; OSCE/ODIHR hate crime report submission; monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation on measures of combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, consultations with ECRI and PACE) and on international level (i.a. UPR written submissions, CEDAW Alternative Report and consultations, UN Committeee against Torture) advocacy actions in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
- Successfully streamlined using the EU accession process as the focal point for targeted, evidence based advocacy in order to promote respect for and recognition of human rights of LGBTI persons in Western Balkans;
- Introduced first ever human rights education of public officials in BiH about the infringements of human rights of LGBTI people (i.a. intensive training for police inspectors in 2013 and 2015 in FBiH; permanent education of 1300 police officers in 2014; Train the Trainer program for all cantonal Ministries of Interior (MoIs) in 2016; continued with intensive trainings for prosecutors and judges in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, trainings for the IGMs representatives);
- Based on our advocacy, Cantonal MoIs are implementing education programmes on hate crime within the scope of their permanent trainings that are mandatory for each and every police officer of each canton in FBiH;
- Started a unique training and empowerment programme (Equality Academy) for MPs, representatives of executive power and political parties on cantonal, entity and state level in 2015, 2016 and 2017;
- Based on our advocacy, four police stations in Sarajevo Canton, for the first time ever, appointed contact persons for LGBTI victims of human rights violations in 2014;
- Based on our advocacy, the Prosecutor’s Office of Canton Sarajevo appointed a contact person for the cases of LGBTI hate crimes;
- Started the only intensive informal educational programme in BiH for students of law and journalism/media sciences on LGBTI rights, in order to educate and influence the next generation of leaders and stakeholders (2012-2016).
- Highly increased visibility and mainstreamed LGBTI issues in BiH media by implementing different online, TV, radio and print media campaigns, giving a voice to the BiH LGBTI community and reaching out each year to more than 1,000.000 BiH citizens;
- Raised awareness of the public on LGBTI and women’s rights issues by organizing dozens of public events, street actions and protests (i.a. Merlinka LGBTI film festival in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017; theatrical reading of the revolutionary documentary drama “SEVEN” in 2013, 2015 and 2016; exhibitions “All human beings are born equal and free in dignity and rights”, two human rights marches on the occasion of the Human Rights Day in 2013 and 2016, Sarajevo Zero Pride on the occasion of 2016 IDAHOT, public performance Our Lives Exist Outside 4 Walls, STAND UP WOMAN! – Europeanization & Emancipation: A Case of Nafija Sarajlić – Themes and Reminiscences, Poetry and Museum of Razija Handžić: memory confiscation and systematic neglect of women’s contribution to culture, science and institutions; film screenings, discussions, exhibitions and film weekends)
- Accurately informed the public about the human rights conditions of LGBTI people and women through production of knowledge as well as through promotion and countrywide distribution of publications (i.a. donations to libraries, promotions and presentations during festivals). Thus, we have published over 100 publications that were printed in more than 50.000 copies in total;
- Improved critical feminist debates in Sarajevo by running the feminist lecture programme “Somebody Said Feminism?” (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017).
Community empowerment and movement building
- Provided accurate and relevant information on LGBTI rights and everyday life to the LGBTI community through the first and only BiH LGBTI info portal www.lgbti.ba;
- Offered the only specialized legal counselling and legal representation to LGBTI persons in BiH which resulted in first cases of hate crime or discrimination on the grounds of SOGISC before courts and BiH, as well as several recommendations by the Omdusman Institution;
- Offered the only constant peer-to-peer and psychosocial support programme to LGBTI people in BiH;
- Empowered LGBTI community and offered a safe place (i.a. through cultural events, monthly social events, community empowerment in Tuzla, Mostar, Sarajevo, Zenica and Banja Luka);
- Supported and led women’s rights movement development, by strengthening the BiH Women’s Network;
- Established the only non-formal academic feminist education programme – Žarana Papić’s School of Feminism through which we created a significant base of supporters, activists and adovocates for both feminist and LGBTI issues;
- Supported the development of LGBTIQ activist groups and associations in Tuzla, Banja Luka and Mostar and their street actions. Supported foundation and work of Banja Luka Association of Queer Activists (BUKA), Liberta Mo association and Tuzla Open Centre.
Organizational capacity building and networking
In the period of 2014-2017, members of Sarajevo Open Centre organized internal and/or attended different capacity building actions related to programme developments (rights of transgender people, same-sex partnership, rights of intersex people, specific topics related to women’s rights – gender responsive budgeting, gender analysis and mainstreaming, BiH Gender Equality Law and its implementation), enhancing skills in the areas of offering free legal aid, peer-to-peer counseling, documentation of human rights violations, advocacy and lobbying, campaining and messaging, as well as organisational (organisational security, steering board roles, i.a.) and financial management.
This process of capacity building, and establishement of different organisational procedures related to adminstration and financial managament led to high level of organisational development, that has scored 3,87 (out of maximum 4) on the Organisational Capacity Assesment conducted at the beginning of 2017.
Sarajevo Open Centre is a member of several networks of CSOs in BiH, as well as on the regional and European Level, and uses this to advance to its work toward its mission. We are coordinating the work of the Initiative for monitoring the European integration of BiH, an eminent network of CSOs.
You can download Sarajevo Open Centre’ strategic documents:
- Strategic Plan 2013-2015 (ENG)
- Strategic Plan 2014-2017 (ENG)
2.1 Annex 1 to the Strategic Plan 2014-2017, adopted in March 2016 (ENG)
- Strategic Plan 2018-2020
You can find more information on the links Reports, Partners, Team and Programmes.