Strengthening relationship between local governments and CSOs is necessary for building a better future in the region

UNDP Albania

October 5, 2023
Strengthening relationship between local governments city and municipal administrations and CSOs is necessary for building a better future in the region.

the Third Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2) Regional Conference in Sarajevo

Sarajevo, October 5, 2023 — During the past two days, the Third Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2) Regional Conference was a platform to share experiences and promote critical conversations to improve collaboration between local governments and civil society throughout the Western Balkans region. The conference, held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, brought together participants from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo  Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia in engaged debates about existing practices, difficulties, and the influence of socio-political events regarding civil society on local levels.

The conference was a key step toward regional development and strengthening local democracy. The event intended to assess current state of affairs and support building an enabling climate that encourages robust cooperation between Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and municipal/city governments. 

“ReLOaD has given the possibility to many CSOs do develop their ideas and handle issues left aside. It has enabled youngsters to participate actively and bring their energy and contribution in the social life and decision-making processes in Kavaja Municipality. For us as an institution, ReLOaD has provided a supportive model for CSOs and has continuously supported the strengthening of municipal staff capacities, through training, mentoring and various activities,” said Arben Meta from Municipality of Kavaja. 

The panel discussion aimed to establish the groundwork for a more powerful and flourishing community, unified in their commitment to change, with the primary goal of empowering communities and fostering innovation and inclusivity.

“Civil society organizations act as a bridge between citizens and authorities. The stronger the cooperation between civil society and government, the better the results. This is a symbiotic relationship that needs to be fully embraced – and understood as beneficial to both sides even where civil society asks difficult questions, challenges decisions of governments, or advocates for policy change. To support better cooperation between civil society and local governments, the EU has allocated over 21 million euros for the ReLOaD Programme in the Western Balkans. The EU will continue to stand by local communities to improve local services and the quality of life for citizens”, said Deputy Head of EU Delegation to BiH Adebayo Babajide.

Around 110 participants - representatives of ministries, European Union, local governments, CSOs and board forum members have focused on boosting cooperation and trust, presenting a complete overview of the ReLOaD2 programme's achievements, actions, and expected outcomes in the Western Balkans. Furthermore, thematic discussions allowed direct interaction that focused on recognizing the challenges within the legislative framework for funding CSOs, which are common to all. Although attempts are made to overcome these issues, there is still a need to improve transparent funding for civil society that will ensure proper implementation of the existing regulations. Recommendations are oriented to improving accountability and efficiency on local and regional level, emphasizing the significance of improved communication, knowledge exchange, and capacity building. 

Ms. Suela Koçibellinj from CSO Vizion OJF stated: “ReLOaD2 is a great project which is offering a model to facilitate the process of collaboration between civil societies and local governments in Albania and as such to increase the local democracy. Being in the field, the LOD methodology, has increased the impact of the projects as a win-win situation for LG, CSOs and beneficiaries. It has increased the role of the LG directly focusing on their actual needs, it has increased transparency in the competition among the CSO applicants as well and has delivered direct help through local actors creating the framework for future development in the region.”

The Third ReLOaD2 Regional Conference proved to be an incentive for stakeholders to continue collaborating and accelerating the change in the Western Balkans, marking a critical step toward improved local democracies. ReLOaD2, an initiative implemented in 62 partner local governments in the Western Balkans, is funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). So far, it has supported 277 CSO projects, benefiting 31162 citizens in the region. With the budget of USD 15.06 million, ReLOaD2 will continue to contribute to the mentioned processes by the end of 2024.