Transparent financing and increased allocations for the civil society organizations and interaction in communication with citizens and the civil society are just some criteria on the basis of which eight municipalities and cities across Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were selected as examples of best practices within the ReLOaD programme, funded by the European Union.
As one of the final activities of the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD) implemented in BiH, the Association of Municipalities and Cities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SOGFBiH) and the Association of Municipalities and Cities of the Republika Srpska (SOGRS), in cooperation with the ReLOaD project, implemented the process of selection of best practices in partner municipalities and cities.
21 municipalities and cities in BiH, which have participated in the four-year ReLOaD programme, were ranked in two key areas – transparency of the funding of civil society organizations from the budgets of the municipalities and cities and the engagement of citizens and civil society organizations in the decision-making process at the local level.
The main goal of the selection of best practices is to present the results achieved by the partner local governments in two priority areas and to recognize and promote the best practices in order to encourage further other municipalities and cities to apply those practices and adjust them to their own needs. This is also an opportunity to exchange experiences among the local governments with a view to improving transparency and effectiveness in as many cities and municipalities across BiH as possible.
The examples of good practices were identified within two cycles of evaluation of partner municipalities and cities, conducted by the Associations of Municipalities and Cities of the Federation and the Republika Srpska in cooperation with the ReLOaD team. The evaluation was carried out on the basis of pre-defined criteria and methodology.
Edin Demirović, senior specialist for local self-governance at the Association of Municipalities and Cities of the Federation, has said that their engagement in the ReLOaD project helped them improve cooperation with their members and increase their own capacities in the provision of services to the municipalities and cities.
“We have realized the need for continuing support in order for the project-based funding of the civil society organizations to be fully embraced by the municipalities and cities and also by the civil society itself and for all stakeholders to recognize the advantages of allocating funds in this way and build capacities required by this approach”, Demirović said.
Five municipalities/cities emerged from the consistent implementation of the transparent allocation of funds to the civil society organizations and were selected as examples of good practice – the Sarajevo Center Municipality, the Old Town Municipality of Sarajevo, the City of Banja Luka and the municipalities of Rudo and Vogošća.
Citizens in Focus
As the highest-ranked in this area, the Sarajevo Center Municipality allocates around 65% of funds for CSOs through public calls and has developed a manual for project implementation under the LOD methodology and a rulebook on co-funding of the CSO projects contracted under the European Union programmes and funds.
The Sarajevo Center Municipality says that since 2017, by applying good practices and the LOD methodology which they adopted as a tool for efficient and transparent project funding, thanks to their cooperation with the ReLOaD project, they have developed a transparent system of support for the CSOs which enables the funding of projects of strategic importance for citizens and have enhanced capacities of the CSOs.
The participation in the ReLOaD project is some kind of a challenge and it is really worth being a part of that story. Through great efforts, much work and new knowledge, we managed to apply new practices which strengthen the civil society organizations and local communities, while putting focus on citizens. Through the ReLOaD project, the Sarajevo Center Municipality staff had an opportunity to learn and apply new knowledge and thereby create an environment which attracts resources from the European Union funds and to improve the performance of their local community”, said Jasmina Fazlić, assistant mayor for the protection of war veterans, disabled war veterans and social protection and social activities.
All five municipalities, selected as examples of good practices in this category, introduced regular oversight over the project implementation, some of them significantly increased project-based allocations for CSOs and introduced consultations with CSOs prior to announcing a public call.
Citizen Survey and Measuring Satisfaction in Local Community
Significant progress was noticed in the category of engagement of citizens and the civil society in the decision-making processes at the local level in terms of an increased number of media outlets used for communication with the public, both one-way communication (websites, media statements, etc.) and two-way communication (social networks, Viber groups, public consultations and participation in working bodies, surveys, interactive internet applications for sharing suggestions or reporting problems).
Five cities and municipalities are examples of good practice in this category. In their communication with citizens, they are using a myriad of communication tools and engage civil society representatives in the working bodies. The City of Bijeljina is the highest-ranked, followed by the City of Banja Luka, the municipalities of Tešanj and the Sarajevo Center and the City of Trebinje.
The City of Bijeljina has said that the ReLOaD programme helps build capacities of employees, makes the process of allocating the budget funds more transparent, while the funds are channeled to addressing priority concerns of citizens in accordance with the Local Development Strategy of the City of Bijeljina.
Ankica Todorović, head of the Local Economic Development and European Integration Division of the City of Bijeljina Administration, has said that the project improved cooperation between the civil society, UNDP and the City Administration, while the non-governmental sector and the local community had an opportunity to improve their performance through adjustment of their work with the LOD methodology.
“The ReLOaD project is much more than just funding of the civil society organizations. It is a system which ‘teaches’ an organization through one project the way in which a project proposal should be drafted, a project successfully implemented and above all, public procurement, finance and everything that an organization may encounter during the implementation of project activities. After the implementation of the ReLOaD project, a CSO becomes stronger and is a partner to the city administration for other projects”, said Ankica Todorović.
The City of Bijeljina has established a practice of regular surveys of citizens on the current issues which are important for improving the quality of life. In 2019 and 2020 eight surveys were conducted and priorities were identified through an analysis, some of which have already been successfully addressed by the City Administration and others have been included in its work plans.
All five local communities have significantly increased the number of digital communication channels and the numerous pieces of information and opportunities for interaction with local authorities are now available to citizens via different internet platforms – android applications, social networks, websites and e-services. For example, the city Viber communities and “Citizen patrol” and “E-patrol” applications are active in Banja Luka and Trebinje, the Sarajevo Center Municipality developed an application “myCenter”, while a mobile application for reporting problems is active in Tešanj.
“An introduction of new practices which are changing the system of work of a local community in relation to the civil society organizations requires support, training, mentoring and understanding of the specificities of each local government. We had all the above through the ReLOaD project, which, in the end, yielded results that we are so proud of”, said Jasmina Fazlić.
Selma Osmanagić Agović, a local governance officer at UNDP BiH, is very happy that most of activities within the ReLOaD initiative have been implemented successfully.
“Together with our partners from the Associations of Municipalities and Cities of the Federation and the RS, we would like to congratulate the highest-ranked local communities and also other ReLOaD partner municipalities and cities because it is evident that all of them have made significant progress in terms of transparent and project-based allocation of funds to the civil society”, said Selma Osmanagić Agović.
Summary of the results of the analysis and the selection of best practices in the partner local governments in BiH, together with the conclusions and recommendations, are contained in the brochure which is available on the websites of the partner institutions.
The Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans is funded by the European Union in the amount of EUR 10 million and is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). ReLOaD is a regional project which has been implemented from 2017 through 2020 in six Western Balkan countries. The amount of around EUR 4 million has been allocated within the project for Bosnia and Herzegovina alone.