Strengthening Local Democracy – Kick-off of the ReLOaD2 Programme in Serbia

September 16, 2021

Signatories of the cooperation agreement within the ReLOaD2 Programme

Belgrade, September 16, 2021 - Today marked the beginning of the second phase of the Regional Programme for Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOadD2), funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). On this occasion, seven local self-government units signed cooperation agreements within the ReLOaD2 Programme, which is to last from 2021 to 2024 and which in Serbia comprises a total value of 2 million USD.

With their signing of cooperation agreements, the cities and municipalities participating in the programme (Novi Sad, Kruševac, Vrnjačka Banja, Topola, Subotica, Vladičin Han, and Babušnica) have committed themselves to, with the aid of the UNDP, instituting more transparent procedures for financing civil society organizations (CSOs). This includes establishing clearer and more transparent criteria for selecting initiatives funded by local budgets, monitoring the spending of allocated funds, and reporting the results to the public. Additionally, the ReLOaD2 Programme will promote and support youth engagement and the implementation of youth initiatives.

Civic initiatives to be co-financed by local budgets and ReLOaD2 funds shall contribute to improving the living conditions of citizens in these local communities by offering them new services and enhancing the quality and coverage of existing ones. The UNDP will assist selected CSOs in creating public services in line with European Union standards.

Gordana Čomić, the Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue in the Government of Serbia, asserted: "The Ministry supports this program because it is our belief that democracy is built at the local level. The Ministry will prepare a manual, guidance on implementing the Law on Planning Systems at the local level, and instructions on how to share information and involve all interested parties in the dialogue from the outset. This program changes the communication between the elected members of local governments and the citizens," added Čomić.

Nenad Petković, Gordana Čomić, Francine Pickup, Nicola Bertolini and Aleksandar Prica

The UNDP Resident Representative in Serbia, Francine Pickup, cited the excellent efforts of the CSOs which had participated in the previous phase of the program, such as the Association for Supporting People with Autism in Kragujevac, adding: "Committed staff and CSO volunteers  are in direct contact with citizens and are best able to recognize their needs. Because of their work in the field, knowledge, and experiences, CSOs are in the best position to indicate the priorities that need to be financed from limited local budgets. Our goal is to help both CSOs and local government units to more efficiently implement existing legal regulations, for the benefit of all citizens. "

"This program is crucial to establishing understanding between local governments and CSOs that play a very important role in the community," stated Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation in the EU Delegation to Serbia. "We hope that other municipalities and cities will observe the partners in the ReLOaD2 Programme, and expand the examples of good practice throughout the country. We also hope that through this program we will help young people to engage and take a more active role in their communities," Bertolini added.

The Regional Programme for Local Democracy in the Western Balkans 2 (ReLOaD2) is financed by the European Union, and implemented by the UNDP in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*,North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

*  For the European Union, this designation is without prejudice to position on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence. For UNDP all references to Kosovo shall be understood in the context of the UN Resolution 1244/1999.