Support to the further implementation of local administration reform

Local administration reform initiatives of Turkey stands in the midst of the robust reform agenda of the Government of Turkey, with an aim of strengthening the basis for citizen-centered service delivery with an increased responsiveness to the expectations and needs of the disadvantaged groups, improved efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability in the public administration system, last but not least for reinforced grounds for pluralistic and participatory democratic order.


UNDP in Turkey has been working with its national counterparts to support the local administration reform process in the country since 2005 by the financial support of the EU.

Based on the results of the first phase of Local Administration Reform Project (LAR Phase I), including but not limited to contribution to the improvement of legislative framework, developing of some basic online tools responding to the evolving planning and budgeting needs of the local authorities, creation of resource persons pool for the local authorities, LAR Phase II aimed to contribute ensuring effective, transparent, inclusive and participatory local government in Turkey, in particular through full implementation of the new legislation adopted in 2003-05 through institutional capacity building of the Union of Municipalities of Turkey (UMT) and  Ministry of Interior (MoI); strengthening the capacities of the citizen assemblies and other means for community participation; capacity enhancement of the local authorities through domestic and international municipal cooperation.

Highlights

  • The project launched in September 2009 and completed by November 2011.
  • In the scope of the Project, a standardized training curricula is drafted.
  • The Project worked with UMT officials to develop a communications strategy and a communications toolkit for its staff and members.

Launched in September 2009, the second phase of the Project was completed by November 2011. Some of the key results as well as milestone outputs of the Project implementation realized so far are summarized below.

The Capacity of Local Authorities will be improved through a National Training Strategy

In compliance with its mandate, the Union of Municipalities of Turkey (UMT) has the responsibility of providing and /or overseeing the training programs to the local authorities. The practice, however, is that various organizations, including the regional local authorities, NGOs and private companies, are developing training programs those may have inconsistent or outdated information, repetition of other training modules; in brief, trainings designed for the local authorities lack any standards or have consistency.    

Findings of the needs assessment underlines the importance of a fully fledged National Training Strategy for the local authorities in Turkey, whose topics can be updated and customized on evolving needs of the local authorities and changes in the framework of local administration. In the scope of the Project, a standardized training curricula is drafted.  The said strategy has been validated at a workshop composed of the representatives from the various organizations local authorities, NGOs and service provider private companies.

The Institutional Capacity of the Union of Turkish Municipalities is strengthened through fully fledged Communication Strategy and its Action Plan

UMT acts as the national association for all municipalities in Turkey.  It sought assistance from the Project in improving its planning and communication capabilities.   In its early stages the Project assisted the association with the formulation of new strategic plan which was adopted by its Board of Directors in May of 2010.  

The Project then worked with UMT officials to develop a communications strategy and a communications toolkit for its staff and members.  These were designed to enhance relationships between the association and its members and to strengthen the UMT’s lobbying activities with the central government. Ten training sessions on communication techniques and best practice experiences from the EU were subsequently conducted for UMT staff and selected press officers from local governments across the country. 

Both the Strategy and its Action Plan were endorsed by the General Council of the UMT in last May and put into action. 

Community Participation

Community participation in local government decision making in Turkey is at low level compared to most EU member states.  At the request of the GDLA, the Project launched three major initiatives in 11 pilot municipalities to identify ways to improve this situation.  The first was to examine the operations of newly established citizen assemblies and provide guidelines and advice on how to streamline their organization structures and relationships with the local municipal mayors and councilors. Secondly, the Project worked with the locally elected neighborhood muhtars to assist them in carrying out their responsibilities more effectively and identifying new ways to stimulate higher levels of community participation.   Lastly, the Project prepared a critical analysis of the existing local government electoral system in Turkey which illustrated the shortcomings it presents for developing positive relationships between elected councilors and local residents. 

As a result of these consecutive activities, small scale actions were designed by the citizen assemblies and are now being implemented in each pilot to showcase the benefits of new forms of community participation. These small scale actions are designed as means for community empowertment. The Ministry will promote the use of Guidelines developed for inclusive and representative citizen assemblies in due course for empowered citizens and representative local governance structures. 

White Paper on Local Government Reform

Local administration reform is at the center of the reform efforts of the country in its EU accession process. Several major local government reforms were carried out in Turkey during the last decade. The current government has intention on implementing further reforms to strengthen the local government system in Turkey over the next few years which finds its expression in the government program.  The Project supports this accelerated will of the Government through development of a White Paper on Local Government Reform. The White Paper is planned to be developed by mid October 2011 and is expected to be endorsed by the MoI by the end of November 2011.

The said paper, which brings the top notch local government experts, academics and practitioners together, will be a joint effort of the UNDP, Ministry of Interior and the EU in this field. Undoubtedly, stakeholder consultations are an essential component of creating ownership and hence greater results and sustainability of the White Paper. To ensure broader consultation and stakeholder involvement, semi-structured interviews, comparative analysis of the major trends and best practices in decentralization and local government reform in the EU and regional consultation meetings are some means to engage the stakeholders to the process.

The White Paper will provide the Government of Turkey with a comprehensive set of policies and priorities on what should be done over the next five to ten years to achieve its objective of creating a more effective and responsive local government system in Turkey.  

Conclusion

Representing a continuum, both phases of local administration reform program, are addressing to one of the core pillars of the ongoing reform process of the country on the way to the EU accession, which aims at strengthening the local administration system as a whole and improving the institutional capacities of the local authorities.

The program is designed and implemented to strengthen the basis and human and institutional capacities for citizen-centered local administration with an increased responsiveness to the expectations and needs of the disadvantaged groups and improved efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability. In the long term, it will also bring about strengthened sustainable human development and democracy with abolished discrimination, deprivation and social exclusion on different axis.