Macedonia aims to have an accountable and transparent system of local government. This can be achieved when democratically elected representatives work together effectively to define development priorities in line with citizens’ needs.
Aware of the importance of effective local governance, Switzerland is funding the “Empowering Municipal Councils” project, which aims to build the capacity of municipal councils to enable them to become more effective and autonomous bodies. Through this project, members of the newly established councils of 24 municipalities in Macedonia are expected to become better at fulfilling their constitutionally assigned roles of legislation, oversight of the executive, and representation. They will be trained on issues such as municipal financial management and good governance.
As the implementing partner of Switzerland in this project, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed on 9 February 2018 cooperation agreements with the first batch of six municipalities: Chair, Ohrid, Strumica, Sveti Nikole, Valandovo and Veles. Municipal councilors from these municipalities will receive targeted training and support to help ensure that municipal budgets are planned and spent in line with citizens’ expectations. The six municipalities will also receive grants of CHF 50,000 each to address priority community concerns.
“Switzerland is very happy to have partnered with UNDP in this endeavour to address the needs for further development of municipal councils and provide their members with appropriate training, opportunities for networking and professional exchange both nationally and internationally”, said Swiss ambassador Sybille Suter.
“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 citizens’ needs. This idea is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, which commit us to building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.”
“This project will contribute to change the way the municipalities operate. 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 clearer and more visible manner. This will significantly contribute to improve their work and timely and appropriate resolution of the problems, "said Minister of finance, Dragan Tevdovski.
“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. Local democracy is essential to building a democratic society", said Suhelj Fazliu, Minister of Local Self-Government.
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.
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 UN Women. 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.