EU allocated €13.5 million for strengthening partnership between local authorities and civil society

The second phase of the Regional Program for Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD2) commenced with focus on further strengthening of the partnership between local authorities and civil society

ReLOaD2 will provide for the continuation of strengthening partnership between local authorities and civil society in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia by expending the successful model of transparent budget funding of CSO projects.  The project will also support stronger civic engagement and work on engagement of youth in local communities.  Special focus is placed on the youth by creating an opportunity for them to have the first ever working experience, traineeship, and opportunity to have solutions in their local communities.

Second phase of the ReLOaD project is funded by the European Union (EU) in the amount of €13.5 million and is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It will encompass 50 local self-government units from the six IPA beneficiaries from the Western Balkan.

“ReLOaD is a very successful and important initiative for the European Commission.  We hope that the second phase of the project, that we gladly support with higher amount – more than €13 million – will continue to assist in development and strengthening of lasting and strong partnerships between the civil society organizations and local authorities in the Western Balkan.  These partnerships yielded impressive results, especially in the context of COVID pandemics, offering better services for more than 100 000 citizens.  It again proves that the strong civil society, supported by the local authorities, is of key importance due to its direct impact on lives of people, and in the end it promotes participatory democracy and contributes to strengthening of democracy, which is a fundamental part of the political criteria for the EU accession”, said Alessandra Viezzer, Deputy Head of Unit Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programmes at Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission.

Nedžad Salman, Assistant Minister of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina spoke of the challenges for transparent funding of civil society and of all done so far by the ReLOaD initiative to solve the issue.  “I want to thank the European Union for their financial support and all other institutions and civil society for their participation.  I also want to thank the UNDP Project Team for cooperation and positive results.”

In her speech, Tamara Srzentić, Minister of Public Administration, Digital Society and Media in Montenegrin Government underlined the significance of the  ReLOaD project which “achieved an important progress in the government sector, and also in many non-governmental organizations in Western Balkan which have direct impact on the quality of life in many communities.  In Montenegro alone,  ReLOaD introduced new, transparent and progressive practices in five municipalities, including 16 training programs for over 250 participants from the local self-government units and non-governmental organizations.  Furthermore, ReLOaD supported 50 projects in Montenegro that were implemented by 37 non-governmental organizations of different scale, experience and scopes.”

“It turned out that the cooperation between local authorities and civil society had a positive impact on wellbeing of citizens in local communities and on development processes in the entire region, which is the main principle of ReLOaD2”, said Steliana Nedera, UNDP Resident Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that she was looking forward to “continue supporting ReLOaD2 in the development of credible civil society and promotion of partnership in Western Balkan, in line with the EU accession agenda.”

During a four-year timeframe, from 2021 to 2024, around 300 civil society organizations will implement projects in 50 local self-government units.  It has been envisaged that around 40 000 people will benefit from the said activities.  Insufficient engagement of youth is another challenge faced by the Western Balkan, and the ReLOaD2 will also work on that.  Based on the vast experience from the ReLOaD1 and previous project interventions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ReLOaD2 will continue dealing with key issues and challenges in the region.