Gasparikova: Strong institutions and the rule of law are necessary on the path to prosperity

May 6, 2023

Daniela Gasparikova, UNDP Resident Representative for Montenegro

UNDP/Duško Miljanić

Montenegro should maintain its commitment to the rule of law, strengthening institutions and building trust with citizens, because that is the only way to build a long-term resilient and prosperous society, despite any present challenges, Daniela Gasparikova, UNDP Resident Representative for Montenegro, said.

Gasparikova spent four years at the helm of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Montenegro. In an interview for the MINA News Agency at the end of her mandate as the UNDP Resident Representative, she says that she is proud of the results of UNDP during the previous four years. She points out that the results achieved in challenging circumstances additionally confirmed the strength of the partnership between UNDP and the Government of Montenegro, as well as that they would not have been possible without the strong support of many national and international partners.


"Montenegro's accession to the European Union (EU) has been a significant driving force in achieving Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda, with the two processes complementing each other. The UNDP's mission in Montenegro is to facilitate the progress of society. By contributing to the creation and implementation of key development policies that enable inclusive, gender-responsible, green economic development, as well as key reforms, such as those in the fields of public administration and digitization, I am convinced that we have justified the status of a reliable partner of the state and all its citizens", she said.

Reflecting on how challenging it was to be a part of development processes during the past four years and how she sees the future development directions of Montenegro, Gasparikova recalls that not long after she assumed the role of the UNDP Resident Representative, Montenegro, like the rest of the world, faced a serious "stress test" and a crisis embodied in the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

"Crises are always a moment of truth – not only for individuals and communities but also for institutions. Montenegro faced a crisis at the moment of implementing serious reforms. According to the UNDP Human Development Report at that time, Montenegro was among the countries with a very high level of development, yet it faced the challenge of finding adequate mechanisms to preserve and improve the quality of life of its citizens. The pandemic exposed inequalities but also encouraged the entire Montenegrin society to identify the shortcomings of its development strategies and immediately take major steps, such as increasingly recognizing digital transformation as an essential component of improving the quality of life," she adds.

In close cooperation with the Government of Montenegro and other UN agencies, civil society organizations and the EU, as a key development partner, UNDP supported the development of solutions that would strengthen the health system, accelerate the digital transformation of institutions and enable the widespread use of digital tools, she states.

"With the COVID-19 electronic certificate, which was developed with the support of UNDP, Montenegro was integrated into the digital system of EU countries for the first time. This momentum was used to engage in the development of services for the electronic enrollment of children in kindergartens as well as the enrollment of first-year students at the University of Montenegro. Consequently, almost 90% of students who enrolled online at the faculty or applied for accommodation and food in a student dormitory did it electronically. Private universities are being included in this system, too," Gasparikova said.

She adds that this is one of the numerous examples that shows the importance of efficient and transparent transformation of all public sectors to provide reliable services to citizens. "Public policies and strategies must rely on 21st-century knowledge and skills, be accessible to everyone, innovative, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of all citizens. Digitization of public administration services is gaining momentum, and with further support, it becomes an unstoppable process that leads to greater transparency and building trust in institutions. This is an enormous task, and it is not realistic to expect only one line ministry or sector to be responsible".

However, according to Gasparikova, despite the progress achieved in numerous segments, it is noticeable that Montenegrin society is not utilizing its full potential.

"Dialogue on socioeconomic progress, economic development, democratization, open institutions, fight against corruption, and security cannot be led without involving representatives of the entire population, including women. The social potential of women has not yet been fully utilized. Montenegrin society continues to face discrimination against women through the traditional division into male and female roles and jobs, which leads to vertical and horizontal segregation in the labor market and decision-making places, leading to a high degree of various forms of violence against women in all spheres," Gasparikova says.


She warns that discrimination against women takes many forms. For example, women with disabilities are doubly discriminated against due to their gender and disability and face obstacles in education, health care, and employment...

"Multiple discrimination undoubtedly leads to social exclusion, poverty, and unfavorable health outcomes. Through the reform of the disability determination system, which UNDP is implementing with the financial support of the EU, we recognized the importance of moving from an outdated medical model to a human rights model. We also recognized the need for greater inclusion of women with disabilities in the labor market, as an important mechanism for empowering women, and advocating for equality, social inclusion and economic growth. It is essential to create accessible and inclusive workplaces, which requires dedication from the government, employers, and the entire society," Gasparikova said.

She acknowledges that gender equality is a development ambition that no country in the world has yet fully achieved. "Working on advancing women's rights is a comprehensive goal within the EU accession process and achieving the 2030 Agenda. The challenge of achieving gender equality is a universal goal, like universal and human rights. For UNDP and partners, this is not a women's issue, but a development and social issue," Gasparikova says.

"Opening a dialogue on sensitive social topics such as femicide, misogyny, and sexist hate speech aimed at women who are active in public life, enabled Montenegro to use the knowledge and lessons learned from UNDP globally. With our continued support to public administration and the civil sector, Montenegro received its first Gender Equality Index, as an important instrument for creating a more comprehensive picture of the state of gender equality in Montenegro and the progress achieved. However, it is not the only one, as UNDP has developed numerous other tools such as Gender Mirror, a research on violence against women in politics and the perceptions of employees in public administration about equal equality," she states.

These tools are essential for decision-makers, policymakers, and civil society organizations for directing policies and programs towards the emancipation of women and the reduction of gender inequality.

Gasparikova believes that the issue of climate change and Montenegro's capacity to adequately respond to the climate crisis will also be a challenge in the coming years. 


However, her mandate ends on a note of encouragement since Montenegro is a responsible global partner in fulfilling the obligations of the Paris Agreement. She also reminds that, with the support of UNDP, Montenegro initiated a social dialogue on just transition as a process that implies the gradual abandonment of coal as a source of energy and focuses on people, primarily the residents of the Pljevlja region.

"What makes us hopeful are young people who, as our research has shown, are very much aware of the importance of climate change and the desire to take the necessary climate actions because they see themselves as part of the solution. As many as 74% of young people from Montenegro believe that climate change is a huge problem at the global level. Three-quarters of young persons are ready to change their lifestyle and reduce the impact of climate change. Half of the young people in Montenegro walk daily, try to reduce the amount of waste, rationally use electricity and water and buy environmentally-friendly products whenever possible," Gasparikova says.

She believes that UNDP's technical support to the Government in determining the level of ambition related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been helpful to policymakers in making informed decisions.

"Although adaptation to climate change is a less discussed issue, it is one of the ways to prepare for future changes in weather conditions, and I am glad that UNDP is supporting the Government of Montenegro in the development of the first National Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Additionally, at the end of last year, Montenegro successfully exported and disposed of almost 90% of the identified hazardous polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These toxic and carcinogenic substances are among the most toxic organic pollutants that do not degrade in nature over time and were once widely used in the electricity generation and storage industry, construction and mechanical engineering industry. Montenegro has made significant progress towards joining the countries that have managed to establish a system of environmentally friendly PCB management, something that only 23 countries in the world have managed to do," Gasparikova says.

She is satisfied, as she points out, that during the past four years, she has contributed to the maturation of Montenegrin society.

"The process of democratization of society is complex and challenging, so it is very encouraging to see that Montenegro has recognized it as a continuous process that never ends. I believe that in the future, by shifting the focus from short-term political cycles, the institutions and the entire society will focus their full potential on defining a common vision of development and its long-term, continuous and systemic realization – which certainly takes longer than the mandate of one or two governments. Progress towards EU membership is possible only if with a general social consensus around this vision and an unambiguous commitment of all structures to strengthen transparent and solid institutions, build the rule of law and create conditions for a better quality of life for everyone, without exception," she points out.

This, she adds, is not only the expectation of someone whose job is to be at the service of the development of society. The more important is that young people in Montenegro expect this. "The reason young people are leaving their countries globally is not just seeking better earnings or better education. On the contrary, they are looking for a system of private and public institutions which they can trust to provide them with equal chances for success and adequate protection when needed."


She observes that the situation is similar with young people in Montenegro – data from UNDP research show a certain degree of dissatisfaction among young people, both young women and men, with the overall quality of life. This is caused by inadequate employment opportunities, poor quality of education and insufficient availability of cultural, sports and other content for young people. On the other hand, it also shows that young people see themselves as part of change and part of the decision-making process in local communities and the creation of youth policies. This is an important starting point for decision-makers in creating policies and programs that cater to the needs of young people," Gasparikova says.

Gasparikova points out that UNDP has long-term initiatives, supported by the EU and other partners, that aim to create a society that caters to everyone without leaving anyone behind.

"Young people are the present and the future. That is why it is important to hear their needs and create an entire social ambience in which they will think critically and initiate changes. Harnessing the potential of young people is key to advancing the progress of Montenegrin society as a whole," Gasparikova concluded.