The First ReLOaD Western Balkans Conference1  held in Skopje presented the experiences of cooperation between the local authorities and the civil society with a focus on transparent funding for civil society organizations (CSOs) across the Western Balkans. The two-day conference was opened by Mr. Suhejl Fazliu, Minister of Local Self-Government, Ms. Liselotte Isaksson, Head of Sector – Civil Society and Social Inclusion, Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programmes, DG NEAR, European Commission and Ms. Narine Sahakyan, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative.

The conference brought together more than 80 practitioners from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia to discuss better transparent funds disbursements to CSOs.

“Citizens of the Western Balkan countries want to be part of the European Union. To live in democratic societies, with development prospects, with good education, health, sharing common values, building bridges with their neighbours, with the citizens of Europe. Therefore, I welcome the cooperation at all levels in addressing these challenges. We are stronger when we help each other on the road to our membership in the European Union”, said Minister Fazliu.

The representative of the European Commission, Liselotte Isaksson, noted that local authorities should become more aware of the resources that the civil sector has in place, and the civil sector should be more prepared for implementation of projects so that they can work together and improve the services in the municipalities across Western Balkans.

Deputy UNDP Resident Representative Narine Sahakyan emphasized that municipalities have major challenges in providing care for vulnerable and marginalized groups. This programme covers 50 municipalities from the region, which with the financial support of the EU and in cooperation with the civil sector will be able to provide additional social services for 40 000 citizens who need it most.

The conference was hosted by the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD) and co-organized by UNDP in Skopje. Supported and financed by the European Union it seeks to strengthen partnerships between the local governments and CSOs in the Western Balkans with a focus on transparent funding for CSOs across the region.

1 This event is organized by UNDP with the European Union, consistent with United Nations rules, practices and procedures. References to Kosovo in this document accordingly shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).

* For the European Union, this designation used is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UN Security Council resolution 1244/99 and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence

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