Community Forums will decide the projects that should be implemented in the municipalities

25 Community Forum moderators were awarded certificates within the framework of the project “Empowering Municipal Councils”

Citizens of 40 municipalities will decide what kind of projects should be realized in their place of residence by participating in Community Forums in the following couple of years. It is a tool for civic participation in the decision-making process on a local level, which has been established and has been operating successfully in this country for longer than a decade, and now it is being conducted within the framework of the project “Empowering Municipal Councils”. It is a program worth 6.6 million dollars, funded by the Swiss Government and the Ministry of Local Self-Government, and co-funded and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with national and local partners.

“Switzerland, through the Swiss Cooperation Programme North Macedonia, has been supporting the local self-government and decentralization for over 15 years. The introduction and implementation of Community Forums is a result of this cooperation, which significantly contributes to empowering and involving citizens in the decision-making process”, emphasized Véronique Hulmann, Ambassador of Switzerland to North Macedonia.

In order to implement the Community Forums successfully, ZELS and UNDP carried out a certification process for forum moderators in the period between September and December 2022. After completing the training sessions and the tests, 25 people in total were officially awarded certificates today.

“This process of reviewing the knowledge and skills of moderating the forum process should be carried out in order to maintain the standard of high-quality implementation of Community Forums through the Association of Local Self-Government Units and to formulate good practices that provide self-sustainability to ZELS”, said the president of ZELS, Orce Gjorgjievski.

“What really matters from the point of view of social capital and civic engagement is not merely nominal membership, but active and involved membership. Forum moderators play a key role in this process because their task is to spark a wide-ranging discussion, to involve all stakeholders, and to provide equal opportunities for participation of all members of the local communities”, underlined Armen Grigoryan, UNDP Resident Representative.

The Community Forums enable citizens to obtain appropriate tools and a space for their ideas and visions for new initiatives to be heard and reviewed by local decision-makers. By broadening the network of licensed moderators, the capacities for this activity are not only strengthened, but public awareness is also raised.

“The citizens are becoming increasingly aware of their role in the local community and of the fact that their opinion matters outside of the elections too. The responsibility of the central and local authorities is to create an environment in which the citizens will be involved on a local level in the creation of services and in the process of making decisions on all important matters that have an impact on their everyday life”, stated the Deputy Minister of Local Self-Government of North Macedonia, Zoran Dimitrovski.

The second stage of the project “Empowering Municipal Councils” will encompass the realization of a wide variety of activities for empowering the development of municipal councils and improving the quality of life of citizens in local communities in the upcoming four years. In order to attain this goal, efforts will be made in order to advance the capacities of municipal advisors, to involve the citizens themselves in the decision-making process, to improve legislation, to digitalize the services, to increase transparency and to fight against corruption. One of the key aims of the project is to adhere to the principles of equal gender-based representation and equal opportunities for all citizens in the process of implementation of all project activities.