UNDP launches new EU-funded project to strengthen civic engagement in local governance

September 21, 2023
Multiple people sitting in chairs in conference room, seen from behind with a person holding a phone camera at the stage.
Photo: Bora Akbay

Community-based organizations and municipal partners to receive US$3.5 million in grants aimed at solving local problems

Ankara, 20 September 2023 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today launched a EUR6 million project, funded by the European Union (EU), which aims to strengthen the engagement of civil society organizations (CSOs) and volunteers in local-level governance in Türkiye. A core component of the project is a US$3.5 million grants scheme that will open for applications from all 81 provinces in October 2023. The grants will be awarded to community-based organizations that partner with municipalities to address priority concerns for local citizens, such as expanding green spaces in urban areas, ensuring that persons with disabilities can participate fully in community life and protecting local communities from climate-driven flooding. 

In the wake of the devastating earthquakes that hit the country in February 2023, the grant programme has been expanded to include a focus on disaster prevention and response. UNDP Goodwill Ambassador Mert Firat, actor and co-founder of the Needs Map CSO, joined the launch event, sharing insights on the importance of volunteer action, drawing on his experience in responding to the February earthquakes.

“The earthquakes showed us how much of a difference an active and engaged civil society can make,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton. “By leveraging the energy of civil society and volunteers to meet priority needs, our project will create local-level platforms that help make local government more efficient, accessible and responsive to the local community.”

The three-year project will be implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Union of Municipalities of Türkiye (UMT) and the Directorate General for Relations with Civil Society at the Ministry of Interior (MoI), and with support from the Directorate for EU Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

“Civic engagement is vital for fostering democratic values, as it empowers citizens to actively participate in the democratic process, ensuring their voices are heard, their concerns addressed, and their rights protected,” said Alexander Fricke, Head of Section at the EU Delegation. “It helps cultivate a sense of shared values and responsibility while holding public administrations to account and promoting social inclusion.” 

Emphasizing the importance of local administrations as service providers to the citizens, UMT Secretary General Hayri Baraçlı said, “Civic participation helps express citizens’ expectations, shape the decisions of local governments and monitor the quality of services delivered.” 

“Strengthening the institutional and financial capacities of civil society organizations, supporting voluntary structures, promoting volunteering in our country while also enhancing the dialogue between central and local public institutions and civil society is vital,” said Mustafa İspirgil, the MoI’s Director General for Relations with Civil Society .

The project will promote the involvement of volunteers in local governance, including by providing support to the development of a legal framework for volunteering, raising the profile of volunteer activities and conducting a regulatory impact analysis for a future Draft Volunteering Law.

“Volunteering is an expression of people’s fundamental desire to help others,” said Mert Firat, the UNDP’s Goodwill Ambassador in Türkiye. “Our experience in coordinating the work of thousands of volunteers after the earthquakes proves that this is a ‘natural resource’ with huge potential to do good in the world.”

In addition to the grants programme, the project will complete an analysis to identify what works and what can be improved in current civil society participation in local decision-making mechanisms; develop civic engagement strategies and two-year action plans for seven pilot provinces: Çanakkale, Elâzığ, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Manisa, Mersin and Trabzon; and create civic engagement task forces consisting of public, civil society and university representatives.

For more information about the Civic Engagement Project please visit: www.sivilkatilim.org.tr

For more information: 

Bahar Paykoç, UNDP Türkiye Communications Officer, bahar.paykoc@undp.org