Six municipalities selected for Swiss-funded program to strengthen local democracy

Feb 13, 2018

As part of an ongoing program to strengthen the role of municipal councils in the country’s local self-government system, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on 9 February 2018 signed cooperation agreements with six municipalities: Chair, Ohrid, Strumica, Sveti Nikole, Valandovo and Veles.  Municipal councilors from the six selected municipalities will received targeted training and support to help ensure that municipal budgets are planned and spent in line with citizen expectations, and the municipalities will also receive grants of CHF 50,000 each to address priority community concerns. 

The signing ceremony was attended by Swiss Ambassador Sybille Suter Tejada, Minister of Local Self-Government Suhelj Fazliu, Minister of Finance Dragan Tevdovski and UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton.

“This project is important because for the first time we put the focus on municipal councils - bodies that have an exceptional role as a control mechanism for the work of mayors, but also for the development of democracy through representation of citizens’ interests," said Suhelj Fazliu, Minister of Local Self-Government. “Local democracy is essential to building a democratic society.”

The project is funded with a total of CHF 3.4 million from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and is implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministries of Local Self-Government and Finance, the Association of Local Self-Government Units (ZELS), the Association of Finance Officers (AFO) and sister agency UN Women.

 “The Mayor is traditionally the face of local democracy in this country,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton. “Our aim is help the municipal council become a stronger partner, to ensure that every denar of local funding is spent to meet citizen needs. This idea is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, which commit us to building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.”

“Switzerland is very happy to have partnered with UNDP to help bolster the role of the municipal councils and provide council members with appropriate training, opportunities for networking and professional exchange both nationally and internationally,” said Swiss Ambassador Sybille Suter Tejada.

The first six municipalities were selected in the preparatory phases of the project in 2016 and 2017 to represent a cross-section of different municipal typologies: urban and rural; large and small; and financially healthy and in financial difficulty (with negative audit reports or frozen bank accounts). Another 18 municipalities will be selected to join the program through a series of competitive calls that will be issued in the course of 2019 and 2020. Of the total budget for the project, CHF 1.2 million will be reserved for small grants to be awarded to the 24 participating municipalities for priority community initiatives. 

“This project will contribute to change the way the municipalities operate," said Minister of Finance Dragan Tevdovski. “By strengthening the communication between the members of the municipality councils and the citizens, the needs and problems in the municipality will be addressed in a clearer and more visible manner. This will significantly contribute to improve their work and the timely and appropriate resolution of problems.”

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