Taking inclusion to a new level with My Municipality – a new tool for the public to communicate their priorities to local decision-makersMay 13, 2014
Today saw the Municipality of Tetovo take a major step forward in increasing the transparency, accountability and responsiveness of local government. The launch of an innovative new system called My Municipality is set to transform the way the public communicate their priorities to decision-makers, radically increasing the inclusiveness of the municipality’s policy-making processes.
With the My Municipality system, user-friendly touchscreens will be installed in the offices of the municipality offering citizens the chance to identify the three top priorities for themselves and their families from a list of local development issues and policies.
“The My Municipality solution is deceptively simple,” said Tetovo’s Mayor, Teuta Arifi. “What amounts to just a few touches of the screen for individual citizens will provide invaluable data to inform and guide policy-makers in the decisions and actions they take for the whole municipality. All the results of the citizens’ choices will be visible online and accessible to all.”
My Municipality was designed and implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and four pilot municipalities, Tetovo, Kumanovo, Prilep and Shuto Orizari, as part of a new project funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation for empowering Roma.
The four pilot municipalities were selected on the basis that each has a large Roma population with a high number of unemployed. With the new system, local authorities as well as UNDP and a range of NGOs and CSOs, will be in a much stronger position to develop effective measures for increasing the inclusion of marginalised groups.
The way in which the new system is being implemented, however, goes beyond the primary aim of the wider project, since it not only reaches out to marginalised groups but gathers data on the needs of the entire local population.
In this way, both the municipalities and UNDP will be able to collect valuable and accurate data and this will make it possible to follow changing trends in the needs of the different groups in the population, enabling much better informed actions at local level. This is especially important in the light of recent studies that have revealed a lack of appropriate data on the needs of vulnerable groups and identified shortcomings and institutional barriers to these groups expressing their needs.
The touchscreens are available in all local languages, including Albanian, Turkish, Roma, Serbian and Vlach.
The list of priorities the public can choose from are based on the municipalities’ local action plans for Roma inclusion. The areas listed include:
• More jobs
• Better education
• Better healthcare
• Better protection from violence and crime
• Better access to food
• Better environmental protection
• More equal opportunities for men and women
• Greater freedom from discrimination
• Better access to phone and internet
• Better access to clean water
• Better access to energy
• More support for people who are not able to work
• More transparent and responsive local authorities
The citizens will be able to specify their priorities in person at the offices of municipal buildings as well as at various events that will be organized in the pilot municipalities. Those citizens who are unable to visit the municipal offices will be able to complete a survey on the municipality website.
“Transparency and citizen inclusion are crucial to the progress of any municipality,” says Mayor Arifi. “And we believe that My Municipality will contribute greatly to bottom-up policy-making.”
The new process of identifying and acting upon public priorities will be subject to thorough and constant monitoring—measuring the number of users, analysing reports on citizens’ priorities, and ultimately the number of actions undertaken by the municipalities and the national authorities based on the identified priorities of the citizens.
UNDP will support the citizens’ priorities in each of the pilot municipalities with small-scale funds.
Concluding the launch of My Municipality in Tetovo, UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton offered the audience further insight into the background of the project: “The new tool was inspired by an online survey called ‘My World’ that was carried out by the UN to find out what ordinary citizens all over the world really want in the years to come,” she explained. “So far, more than 2 million people from 194 nations have voted, including 900 people from here. The UN is campaigning now to reach a goal of at least 3,000 participants from the country by the end of June. All this data will help inform world leaders about the priorities of their citizens. And the same idea lies behind ‘My Municipality’, only here it is being applied at local level, giving Tetovo citizens a chance to vote for the issues they want municipal authorities to treat as most important. This initiative reflects UNDP's broader commitment to helping local authorities improve people's lives. But we know this can't be done in isolation: it's crucial to listen to what people want and engage them in devising solutions.”