Regional Local Democracy Programme
What is the Programme about?
Regional Local Democracy Programme (ReLOaD) is a regional initiative financed by European Union and implemented by UNDP is six Western Balkans countries, namely: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.
The Programme aims to strengthen participatory democracies and the EU integration process in the Western Balkans by empowering civil society to actively take part in decision making and by stimulating an enabling legal and financial environment for civil society and pluralistic media. More over its objective is to strengthen partnerships between local governments and civil society in the Western Balkans by scaling-up a successful model of transparent and project-based Civil Society Organisations (CSO) funding from local government budgets towards greater civic engagement in decision-making and improvement of local service delivery.
ReLOaD will focus on institutionalising the interaction between local governments and CSOs, while strengthening capacities of all relevant stakeholders to engage more productively in such partnerships. Importantly, the underlying intention of the project is to replicate and sustain a transparent, development-oriented and project-based approach to funding of CSOs by municipal budgets that contributes to realisation of legitimate local priorities in line with local development strategies. Moreover, mechanisms for monitoring/evaluation of projects activities and results implemented by CSOs will be created and adopted, while a monitoring baseline for local government/CSO relations will be defined introducing appropriate tools.
The main results to be achieved under this Programme are as follows:
· Local governments and CSOs have basic understanding on the comprehensive transparent model for funding of CSOs from municipal budgets.
· A model of transparent and project-based funding of CSOs by local governments is introduced and institutionalized in all participating local governments, and thus promoted and anchored across Western Balkan countries.
· Services delivered by civil society organisations address the needs of local communities within partner local governments across the Western Balkans countries.
· The capacity of civil society organisations and local governments in implementation of municipal grant schemes and delivering of good quality projects is strengthened.
· Enhanced regional networking and dialogue of civil society and local governments across the Western Balkan countries enable multiplication of good practices.
· Diversified dialogue and cooperation mechanisms between local governments and CSOs. (specific for Bosnia and Herzegovina)
In Albania, in general, local government lacks adequate capacity to ensure proper cooperation and funding of civil society. This statement was reconfirmed in the EC Albania 2016 Progress report, noting the need for adequate resources to implement training plans for the staff in the new municipalities. It also emphasized that the fiscal framework regulating the activity of civil society organisations was still not conducive to their development and needs to be revised. On the other hand, public funding remained limited and is not legally regulated at central and local level.
The Albanian Government has made clear its commitment to establishing healthy environment that will encourage civil society independence, efficiency and sustainability. To that end, the Government programme 2013-2017 emphasizes the necessity of reforms in regard to: i. Improving legal and fiscal framework for the activities of non-profit organisations; ii. Increasing transparency of work of public institutions through publicizing opportunities for cooperation as well as rules and procedures for applying for public funding of non-profit organisations’ projects; iii. Submitting new legal initiatives to a broad consultative process with the CS, iv. Building capacities of civil society organisations to provide services which the State is incapable of delivering yet.
To this end, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania approved on May 27, 2015 the Road Map for Drafting Policy and Measures for Enabling Environment to Civil Society. This document sets out a targeted programme of priority areas of action that the Albanian Government is taking to improve environment for cooperation with civil society. In addition, the Law on the establishment and functioning of the National Council for Civil Society was adopted in November 2015 with aim to ensure institutional collaboration between government and CSOs in favour of expanding democracy, consolidation of good governance, increased transparency in public decision-making through better involvement of civil society in this process.
In order to address these challenges, the Programme will support 10 municipalities through a grant of EURO 1.130.952, from which 80% is the contribution of the Programme and 20% the contribution from municipalities that will part of the Programme in a three years period.
The beneficiaries of the grant scheme will be the Civil Society Organisations that will be encouraged to implement projects related with the local development strategies. The aim is to enforce the participatory democracy in local level as well improvement of quality of life for citizens.
The initiative is an important step of participating countries towards transparent project-based funding for CSOs, enabled through regional scaling up of a successful model and characterised by intensive cross-country dialogue and exchange. It also makes important contributions to a more mature level of collaboration between local governments and civil society, fostering local democracy and vibrant communities.
It started on 1st of February 2017 and will be implemented in a three year period. The final beneficiaries are CSOs, citizens and local communities of participating local governments which will benefit from more inclusive and transparent local decision-making processes, as well as from improved and diversified local service delivery.
What have we achieved so far?
The Programme was launched in the presence of representatives from municipalities, civil society organisations, Delegation of European Union to Albania, international partners, UNDP etc..
The inception phase is finalised on May 2017 and all the activities foreseen to be implemented under this period are successfully realised:
1. Establishment of the project structures. Project Board, Board of Partners and Project Team are in place. The Project Board comprised representatives from European Commission and UNDP. The Board of Partners for Albania includes representatives of Delegation of European Union to Albania, Ministry of European Integration, Minister of State for Local Issues, Agency for Support of Civil Society, Albanian Association of Municipalities, Association for Local Autonomy, European Movement Albania/CSO, UNDP and TACSO (observer). These institutions represent the main bodies dealing with local government and civil society organisations both in central and local level. The first meeting of Board of Partners is organised on 11 May 2017. During the meeting are approved the annual activity plan for Albania and criteria for selection of municipalities.A public call to civil society organizations, academic institutions and individuals for membership in the Advisory Group of the ReLOaD Programme in Albania is launched. It will be opened from 5th to 19th of June 2017.
2. Organization of kick-off meeting on 26th of May 2017 in Tirana, with the presence of around 60 participants from Delegation of European Union to Albania, Agency for Support of Civil Society, municipalities, civil society organisations, international partners, UNDP etc.. The meeting aimed to inform all participants on the ReLOaD Programme and discuss the way of collaboration with all the stakeholders. All the participants welcomed the initiative as a tool to improve participatory democracy in local level. Both representatives from municipalities and civil society organisations ensure the staff for their collaboration and contribution during the implementation phase.
3. Promotion and awareness raising. Three regional meetings are organised in Shkodra, Vlora and Tirana with representatives of all municipalities in Albania aiming to inform them about the ReLOaD programme. The representatives of municipalities are informed on the objectives and main activities of the programme including criteria for selection of municipality and LOD methodology.
4. The public call for a national consult to conduct the assessment of existing in-country mechanisms for disbursement of public funds to CSOs and provide specific recommendations for improvement is launched according the Terms of reference. The assessment will serve as a baseline in Albania as well as a stepping stone for preparation of recommendations for improvement and alignment of practices in this field.
5. Criteria for selection of municipalities are developed and approved by the Board of Partners. They include mandatory, specific and convergence criteria, aiming to ensure transparency and inclusiveness. Due to general election (to be organised on 25th of June 2017) and in consultation with stakeholders, it is suggested that the call for proposal for selection of municipalities will be launched at beginning of July.
Who finances it?
|European Union||EURO 8.5 million|
UNDP and local governments
|EURO 1.5 million|
|Total||EURO 10 million|