By Narine Sahakyan, UNDP North Macedonia Resident Representative, and
Fatmir Bytyqi, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of North Macedonia in Charge of Economic Affairs

Rethinking development planning

Motivated by the need to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and EU accession, while providing a platform that will allow us to tackle the current complex development challenges in our society, we started working on the design of a 20-year National Development Strategy (NDS) for the Republic of North Macedonia. The idea behind this strategic document is to showcase the vision for the country in the next two decades, move the country closer to achieving the SDGs in its local context, provide a much-needed focus on thematic areas where we can further improve as a society, but also pinpoint the capabilities that we need to build as a nation to deal with long-term and cascading global challenges.

In the design process of the NDS we wanted to: learn from the best development strategy design practices in public policymaking; develop an innovative methodology that will enable a whole-of-society approach when formulating the strategy; finally, we wanted this document to be done based on lessons learned from past and current national strategic documents, and what have been their strengths and weaknesses in writing them but also in their implementation and monitoring.  

For the past seven months, a dedicated team has been working on the key steps we need to take as a society to create this document and have a vision for the development of our country in the upcoming decades. Getting people from all facets of society involved in the public policymaking process will be key to the success of this process.

Leaving no one behind

We were guided by a simple premise in preparation for the development of the NDS: for a strategic document to be successful it needs to include, from its inception phase, those it intends to benefit. Since we are aiming to create a national development strategy for the entire country, the goal is to cast a wide-net early on in the process, and ensure broad societal participation in the creation of the strategy.  Our survey of citizens’ attitudes towards the upcoming NDS drafting process found that 59% of respondents believed it important to personally participate in the creation of the Strategy. Citizens are also united on what priorities the development strategy should tackle. They all believe that the development strategy should present a vision for the creation of more decent jobs, improving the quality healthcare, strengthening good governance and rule of law, and raising the standard of living. 83% of respondents expect that the National Development Strategy will contribute to the better alignment of different state priorities.

Encouraged by what we learned about people’s attitudes, we embed broad societal participation in all key steps of the drafting of the NDS. This wide consultative process will offer meaningful inclusion of different actors in the policymaking process and in building a national consensus on the country’s vision in the decades ahead. The NDS can also help us unite other strategic documents into a holistic approach for solving ongoing developmental challenges.  

What happens next?

The next step in the process of developing the NDS is embedding the principles we have outlined in the methodological approach in the actual formulation of the strategy.

We envisioned this strategy to be a living document. We wanted to move away from creating a static document and aim towards a dynamic document that will offer flexibility and agility. Something that we trusted is vital for a strategy whose lifespan will cover 20 years. Moreover, we designed the formulation of this strategy to be led by a quadruple helix, rather than just the government. We envision this quadruple helix to enabling continued engagement on development challenges between the government, CSOs, academia and the business community. Finally, we believed that the challenges our societies are facing are too complex and interconnected to be tackled in isolation, so we adopted a systems approach to solving them. One of the ways in which this approach translates to our strategy is that we will focus on identifying interconnected risks and potentials for the country over a time horizon using the Doughnut Framework, developed by Kate Raworth, and use it to build our societal capabilities.

This exciting new way forward for the country can only succeed if it is created in partnership with citizens, through a wide national consensus. With the envisioned flexibility and innovation, we hope this strategy will help our country respond to uncertainties and the long-term global challenges of the next 20 years. 

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The Government of North Macedonia started the preparations for the development of 2021-2041 National Development Strategy in early 2021, supported by a project implemented by the UNDP in coordination with RCO North Macedonia. UK GGF funding was secured for this process. 

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