The second phase of the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD2), was presented today at the UN House in Sarajevo.
ReLOaD2 will ensure continuation of strengthening partnerships between local authorities and civil society in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo[*], North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, by expanding the successful model of transparently financing civil society organizations’ projects from municipal budgets. In addition, this project will support greater civic engagement and work on empowering youth in local communities. Special focus on youth should include young people getting first job experience, internships as well as an opportunity to provide solutions in their local communities.
The second phase of ReLOaD is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the amount of EUR 13.5 million. It will include 50 municipalities and cities across the six IPA beneficiaries from the Westen Balkans.
ReLOaD is a very successful and important initiative for the European Commission. We hope that its second phase, that we are glad to support with even more funds – more than EUR 13.5 million-- will continue to help with building and consolidating lasting and strong partnerships between civil society organisations and local governments in the Western Balkans” concluded Alessandra Viezzer, Deputy Head of Unit in European Commission, DG NEAR - Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programmes. “These partnerships produced impressive results, in particular in the context of the COVID pandemic – providing better services to more than 100,000 citizens. This proves once again that a strong civil society supported by local authorities is crucial because it has a direct impact on people’s lives, promotes democratic participation and, ultimately, contributes to strengthening democracy, which is a core part of the political criteria for EU accession”.
Nedžad Salman, Assistant Minister of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina accentuated the challenges concerning transparent financing of civil society and shown appreciation for the achievements in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. “I would hereby like to thank the European Union for financial support, to thank to EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina and all other institutions and civil society for participation and support. I also extend my appreciation to the UNDP project team for cooperation and good results.”
In her speech Tamara Srzentić, Minister of Public Administration, Digital Society and Media of Government of Montenegro highlighted the relevance of ReLOaD “since it made important advances in the governmental sector, but also in the work of many NGOs in the Western Balkans, which directly tackled the lives of many communities. Only in Montenegro, ReLOaD introduced new, transparent, and progressive practices in five municipalities, along with 16 training programmes for over 250 participants from local self-government units and NGOs. Additionally, ReLOaD in Montenegro supported 50 community projects implemented by 37 NGOs of different scale, experience, and field of action.”
“Cooperation between the local governments and civil society has proven to have positive impact on wellbeing of the citizens in local communities and the development processes of the whole region, which is the main principle behind the ReLOaD2”, stated Steliana Nedera, Resident Representative of UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that she is looking forward to “continue with the EU-UNDP partnership, and with this, now ReLOaD2 programme, support the development of credible civil society and promoting partnership in the Western Balkans, in line with the EU accession agenda. ”
Around 300 civil society organizations will implement projects in 50 local government units during the four-year period, from 2021 to 2024. It is planned that about 40,000 people will benefit from civil society projects with a special accent to youth, meaning that ReLOaD2 will work on solving insufficient youth engagement in the Western Balkans. Based on the extensive experience from ReLOaD1 and previous project interventions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ReLOaD2 will continue to address key issues and challenges in the region.
[*] For UNDP all references to Kosovo shall be understood in the context of the UN Resolution 1244/1999