Opening remarks by UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton at “Improving Municipal Governance” Workshop and press conference on integrated and inclusive local development planning

Sep 19, 2018

Mr. Suhejl Fazliu, Minister of Local Self-Government

Mr. Nicola Bertolini, Head of Operations for the European Union Delegation

Mayors and Heads of the Regional Councils

Representatives of municipal administrations and regional development centers

Members of the media

 

  • It’s a pleasure to welcome you all here today.
  • We’re delighted that so many representatives of local self-government joined us in the morning for our workshop on “integrated and inclusive local development planning,” and that so many Mayors are here now for our announcement of more than one million euros in small grants.
  • This event is part of the “Improving Municipal Governance” project that UNDP is implementing together with the Ministry of Local Self-Government, the Ministry of Finance and ZELS.
  • Our 2.3 million euros in funding comes from the European Union, for which we are very grateful.
  • As most of you are well aware, UNDP has been a partner to the country in realizing the idea of decentralization from the very first days, both by supporting policy at central level and by working directly with virtually every municipality in implementing in a wide range of development projects.
  • On that note, I am happy to see so many friends, both new and old, in the audience today.
  • At UNDP we are as aware as anyone that decentralization still falls far short of its promise, and that many responsibilities have been devolved to the local level without sufficient funds to match.
  • We know, as well, that many municipalities have inherited a heavy burden of debt, and that most municipalities depend on allocations from the central budget to cover even basic expenditures.
  • We see, too, that local-level capacities to secure and manage funding from other sources are quite limited, and that the deficit is particularly acute in small and rural municipalities.
  • And we recognize the persistence of deep gaps in living standards and life opportunities between urban and rural areas; between different regions; and between Skopje and everywhere else.
  • Addressing these needs is a core priority for UNDP in this country, not just through this EU-funded project but also a range of other initiatives supported by, among others, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden.
  • These efforts reflect a conviction that is shared by both the EU and the UN – and one that is also central to the Government program: namely that, “without developed local self-government, there is no democracy.”
  • This idea is captured in the Sustainable Development Goals, which (under Goal #16) commit us all to ensure “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.”
  • At UNDP we understand that it is at the local level that decisions are made that affect people’s welfare most directly, whether in education, healthcare, public safety, culture or recreation.
  • For this reason, among the many activities now under way that are designed to improve local living conditions and public services, we are particularly pleased to be able now to assist 30 of the country’s 81 municipalities in preparing integrated and inclusive development plans, and using those plans to identify a priority project to be implemented in each participating municipality.
  • In line with the guiding principle of the Sustainable Development Goals – “to leave no one behind” – we are focusing our support on the municipalities that face the biggest obstacles to development.
  • It was on this basis that the 30 municipalities that are represented here today were chosen.
  • We realize, of course, that many development challenges are best addressed at the regional level, through inter-municipal cooperation, rather than with each municipality going it alone.
  • So we are also funding one priority project for each of the eight regional development centers.
  • These regional projects have already been defined, and they give a good sense of the challenges that are currently at the top of the local agenda: four regions will focus on solving the stray dog problem; two will upgrade facilities designed to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to enjoy their right to a normal life in the community; one will clear a huge garbage dump from a local river; and one will address public safety by installing energy-efficient lighting outdoors. 
  • On a project by project basis, the funds may look quite modest, at 26,000 euros for each municipality and 34,000 euros for each region, but the total commitment exceeds a million euros.
  • Moreover, this program is just one component of a much broader effort aimed at refining national policies and building municipal capacities to put local government on stronger foundations and, after so many years, transform decentralization from a disappointment to a democratic dividend.
  • As I think you know, UNDP is committed heart and soul to local development, so we thank you for your engagement and look forward to working with you all to create better lives for local people.
  • Thank you.

 

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