Skopje, 24 March 2022 – Stronger and more independent municipal councils, innovative technologies for greater transparency and accountability of the municipalities and increased participation of the citizens in the decision-making process at local level are the key results from the first phase of “Empowering Municipal Councils” Programme. This is a Programme of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation which was implemented in 24 municipalities throughout the country in the past five years. As a part of the first component of the Programme, more than 420 municipal workers underwent over 100 trainings which helped them improve their knowledge and skills for 11 areas under the competence of the local self-government. At the same time, all 1,347 councillors in the country had the opportunity for digital networking, remote learning and certification via dedicated web platform developed within the Programme.
“I would like for us to increase the effectiveness and independence of the municipal councils for a more successful performance of our tasks and roles. Therefore, we should develop new skills and gain further knowledge from the area of local self-government, exchange experiences - all for the purpose of more effective presentation of the priorities of the citizens and supervision of the operation of the municipalities. Such projects and events are opportunities for exchange of experiences and presentation, and eventually solving challenges in line with the municipal opportunities", said Trajko Slaveski, President of the Committee of Councils of the Association of Local Self-Government Units (ZELS).
Apart from the support intended for the municipal councils, 33 socially inclusive projects were implemented in all of the 24 municipalities, selected directly by the locals via Community forums. Over 8,800 citizens attended the total of 126 forum sessions, whereby the gender equality principle was fully considered. The result from these sessions includes improved conditions in 11 kindergartens and schools, reconstructed road infrastructure in three municipalities, better quality of the service provisioning to the citizens in five municipalities, five new sports and recreational centres, new IT tools and equipment in two schools, four projects for improving the conditions for the vulnerable groups of citizens and new youth centres in three municipalities.
“The main benefit of “Empowering Municipal Councils” Programme” is the help for improving the quality of life of the citizens in all 24 partner municipalities; however, at the same time, tools and practices were established to reinforce the capacity of the councillors and the municipal administration and encourage citizen participation via the Community forums. Additionally, the project funded smaller projects as a result of the citizen participation, among which the purchase of fire engines. The abovementioned paved the road to establishing transparent, accountable and independent local self-governments which will be mainly focused on the needs and interests of the citizens. Switzerland remains a dedicated supporter of the good governance at local and national level in Republic of North Macedonia”, stated Véronique Hulmann, Ambassador of Switzerland to North Macedonia.
In order to improve the transparency of municipalities, equipment for live broadcast of the Council sessions was installed in 18 municipal councils, and e-stands were installed in the remaining six municipalities for performance of local services, web applications for direct communication between the citizens and the councillors or for inclusion of the citizens in the process for preparation of the municipal budget. Furthermore, web platform was developed for simpler and understandable display of the realization of municipal budgets, which is currently used by 40 municipalities and the City of Skopje. The innovation of this web platform received international acknowledgement by winning the third award at European level for its impact in the improvement of the life of citizens and the quality of democracy at the 2021 Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit, which was held in Seoul, South Korea.
“The “Empowering Municipal Councils” program in the last five years has proven that right approaches, education and innovative technologies can encourage and accelerate local development and set new standards for policy practice in the local governments. Implementation of this initiative has reaffirmed our vision that local development is an integral and key segment of the country’s overall progress and one of the most direct ways to contribute to improving the quality of life of the citizens”, pointed out Sanja Bojanic, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative.
“Empowering Municipal Councils” Programme was realized with total budget of CHF 3.5 million and implemented the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Local Self-Government, the Ministry of Finances, ZELS, Association of Financial Workers and the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women (UN Women).