Ethical research in post-conflict environments: A visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Our Director travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) with the University of Manchester to learn about the practical and ethical dilemmas, as well as sensitivities required, when carrying out research in peacebuilding environments.

It is easy to advise on doing business with a country using statistics and prescriptive export models, however, as with BiH, it is imperative to visit the country to understand what is going on and whether reality reflects all that is written. BiH imports almost twice as much as it exports and is still classed as transitioning into a free market economy (1). The Dayton Peace Agreement ended the war in BiH, yet this top-down implemented framework, meant to heal the wounds of ethnic division with a tripartite government (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats), still sees the country in political division and, some would say, inertia. This is evident by the slow progress made with accession to the EU, which stumbles over BiH acceptance of EU legislation over their own complex system and the need for equal rights of its citizens when BiH gives status to three ethnics groups.

Nevertheless, at grass roots level, the citizens of BiH are getting on with everyday life. Yes, there are language differences (consider using interpreters from the locality you are visiting) and yes, due to the lack of single economic space, there may be difficulties doing business across the entire country, however, for the more experienced and persistent exporter there are opportunities. UK companies looking for for further guidance should contact the DIT in-country team based at the British Embassy in Sarajevo.

BiH is a beautiful country. If it ever came off your list of travel destinations then you need to put if back on!

(1) US Commercial Service РBosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) 2016 Country Commercial Guide