YK women oversee Bosnia vote

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 06/96) - Two Yellowknife women are among a select group from around the world who helped organize the recent Bosnian elections.

Debbie Nider and Rosemary Cairns flew to Bosnia to act as long-term observers for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE.)

Bosnia, left to rebuild itself after a four-year war that ended in 1995, is under close watch by the OSCE to ensure the provisions of the Dayton Peace Agreement are being met.

Nider and Cairns were among those sent by the OSCE and the United Nations to organize Bosnia's Sept. 14 elections.

Both women couldn't comment on much of what they saw in the country, including the effectiveness of the peace agreement.

Nider, a federal and territorial elections returning officer, went to Bosnia at the end of May and left that country Sept. 27.

She worked out of Prnjavor, about four-and-a-half hours by car northwest of Sarajevo and found it a wonderful experience, part of something worthwhile in Bosnia.

"It was a fantastic opportunity to help rebuild the country," Nider says. "Also the international experience with the exchange of culture and ideas was great."

Cairns, co-ordinator of operations for elections in the NWT, monitored polling stations on the other side of Bosnia in Trebinje, southwest of the capital of Sarajevo.

She returned to Canada at the end of September after a six-week stint in the country.

Like Nider, Cairns was responsible for overseeing the short-term observers who monitored the polling stations in different areas of Bosnia.

Cairns will make a report to the OSCE on the fairness of the elections and whether or not they followed the peace agreement.

She says the country has a long way to go before it recover from the war.

"Much of their industry was destroyed, and there's not a big economic base right now," Cairns says. "Their rate of reconstruction depends on the rate of foreign aid."

The Red Cross was delivering more than 4,000 meals to residents of Trebinje each day she was there.

Cairns also learned a great deal about their electoral system. The major difference between the Bosnian elections and Canada's is that Bosnia brings all ballots to a central polling station to be counted.

Both Cairns and Nider may be returning to Bosnia next spring to work on the municipal elections that were postponed twice.

They were supposed to be held during September's presidential elections and were rescheduled to November, but have now been set for the spring.