Helping communities manage roaming dog populations with UNDP in Bosnia
Recently, Amela Cosovic Medic, Sector Coordinator for Justice and Security for the United Nations Development Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina spoke about the UNDP’s work with IFAW at a VIP opening of the art exhibition called “Why Dogs?” at the Bela Vida gallery in Sarajevo.
At the event the Ambassadors from Italy, Great Britain and the Netherlands, along with other dignitaries and celebrities signed a declaration calling for humane and effective solutions to concerns about roaming dogs.
The exhibition featured works by Dutch artist Van Basave Euwen, British photographer Tom Stoddart, and photographs, paintings and sculptures by several Bosnian artists all illustrating the ancient bond between people and dogs. Below are Amela’s thoughts about the event. – Rebecca Brimley, IFAW Cats & Dogs Programme Advisor
One of the projects within UNDP's Justice and Security Sector relates to safety in local communities. In many of our communities roaming dogs have been identified as a serious threat to human security, to livelihoods, to tourism, and to local development. Many of these communities have requested UNDP’s assistance to find a solution to the problem, including Bihac, Jajce, Gradacac and Zenica.
UNDP had no experience in this area but has a clear mandate to work on the issue since it was identified as a human security threat through our Security Sector. We therefore contacted the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a member of ICAM, the International Animal Management Coalition for their advice.
IFAW is an organisation with global experience in working hand in hand with communities to help them develop humane roaming dog population management programmes. IFAW is a natural partner for UNDP because we share the approach of working with communities to help them develop their own plans.
This ensures that interventions are grounded in the communities and are sustainable as well as humane. Using a facilitated the planning process developed by IFAW and with on-going guidance from them, UNDP has already begun working with the Citizens’ Security Forums and a wide range of stakeholders in Sanski Most and Lopare. Representatives from the Security Forums were also at the event to share their experiences and answer questions.
Critically, the project goal from UNDP’s perspective is to reduce the risks that the current roaming dog population presents to the people of the communities. By working with a broad range of stakeholders, the project focuses on helping communities develop their own comprehensive programme targeting the causes of the problems these communities are facing and finding interventions to address them. We know from working with IFAW that doing this improves the lives for the animals, as well.
Through working with IFAW we have learned that all communities have different perceptions about their dogs and varying levels of tolerance for them and it is internationally recognised that there is no single intervention that will work for all situations.
We all know that there is a range of strategies available to communities but the right combination and the amount of effort that needs to be spent on each element will vary from community to community, depending on that community’s specific concerns, perceptions, available resources and the way they interact with their dogs.
Our project brings communities together to develop a shared understanding of their concerns and the factors that influence their dog population. Through working together in this way the stakeholders can align their agendas and unite their energies towards joint action.
Of course, we are never starting from scratch.
Wherever there is a roaming dog population, that local community will already be using some kind of intervention activity (sterilisation, shelter, culling, etc.) and may have very clear ideas about what they think the problem is and what the solution to the problem might be.
Through IFAW’s planning process UNDP works directly with community stakeholders, helping them reassess the impact and effectiveness of their current practices. Our team helps the communities to agree on the root of the problem:
- Where did the dogs come from?
- Are they abandoned, born on the street?
- Are they lost or dogs that have some form of ownership but are allowed to roam free?
When the community has agreed on the root causes, which will vary from place to place, the programme works with the stakeholders, helping them collect the information and data they need to then make informed decisions on the best and most feasible interventions available to them to use to address their concerns and works with them to design a long-term planning process to address the issue. Critically, communities recognize that animal welfare is at the root of their concerns, and that humane solutions are also the most sustainable.
The core principles are seemingly simple:
- Understand the root causes of the problems
- Collect real data on which to plan interventions
- Engage the community in the development of plans,which strengthens the plan and develops buy in to the interventions
- Develop plans that are practicable and sustainable
Experience has shown that in almost every street dog population situation there is direct human involvement and human behaviours are at the root of the problem.
Together with IFAW, UNDP is working to make a difference for roaming dogs and the Bosnian communities they inhabit.