Within the scope of the Integrated Local Development Project (ILDP), a joint project of the Government of Switzerland and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), nine new partner local governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Sarajevo.
The MoU was signed by representatives of municipalities of Bosansko Grahovo, Čajniče, Foča-Ustikolina, Glamoč, Novo Goražde, Ostra Luka, Pale-Prača, Pelagić and Petrovo.
As part of the signing ceremony for the MoU, the Head of Cooperation and Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy in Switzerland in BiH, Ms. Barbara Dätwyler Scheuer, recalled that the project has yielded good results up to date, as 80 municipalities and cities in BiH apply a unique approach to integrated development planning, as well as all 10 cantons in the Federation of BiH.
“Today more than 80% of municipalities and cities in BiH and all 10 cantons use integrated development strategies. This has a considerable impact on people’s lives. A municipality, which defines its priorities in a strategic development plan attracts more funds. I am very happy that we also will have less developed municipalities, willing to move forward, as partners in this project. This is important, since we do not want to leave the citizens of less developed municipalities behind and contribute to inequalities in this country.”
The heads of the partner local governments are ready to act as agents of change to continuously improve the lives of citizens in their local communities.
Thus, the Mayor of Municipality Foča-Ustikolina, Mr. Zijad Kunovac, emphasized that he expects the future development directions of the local community to be defined through a strategic document: “We want to become recognizable throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina as a municipality where businesses will come to invest in, while at the same time working on developing our potential in the tourism sector," said Kunovac.
The UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Mr. Sukhrob Khoshmukhamedov, emphasized that the joint project of the Government of Switzerland and UNDP has greatly improved the process of planning and development management at the local level. He agrees that it is necessary to further support underdeveloped local communities in order to help them develop and improve the competitiveness of their economies in the market.
The heads of the newly elected partner local governments expressed their hope that through the new development strategies they would develop better-quality development projects, but also implement the ones that have already begun.
The Mayor of Municipality Oštra Luka, Mr. Dragan Stanar, emphasized that citizen satisfaction is of crucial importance: "I expect the strategy to contribute to creating a better environment for the life of the people in the Oštra Luka Municipality."
An opportunity to share experiences
The signing of the MoU was also an opportunity for partner municipalities to share their experiences and convey their expectations regarding an integrated approach to local development.
Ms. Jelena Kuzmanović-Šalipur, representative of the Rudo Municipality, one of the partner municipalities within the ILDP project, emphasized the complexity of the development strategy process itself, emphasizing the need for engagement and commitment from everyone:
"In order to approach planning properly, both in a strategic and integrated manner, the involvement of the broadest community is needed, thus the participation of people who will be motivated and committed to work on the strategy and have a serious approach," said Kuzmanović-Šalipur.
The attendees also discussed ways in which citizens should be involved in the planning processes because ultimately, the development strategies aim to increase the quality of life of all citizens.
Ms. Jelena Senta, a representative of the Municipality of Ravno, cited examples of citizen involvement that they applied in the Ravno Municipality.
"We involved citizens in different ways. The municipal development team was composed of representatives of the municipal administration, as well as other stakeholders from the local community, hence we held more than 25 meetings last year. Afterwards, we included citizens through partner and focus groups in accordance with specific topics. All of this helped us to recognize the needs of our community," said Senta.
Finally, representatives of the partner local governments agreed that the strategies at the local level must be aligned with the strategic documents at higher levels of government and emphasized the importance of mutual cooperation between the local governments.