Revitalized local communities representing voices of all citizens
The MZs are the fundamental local structure of citizens and as such the best to articulate the needs of citizens and channel citizen participation in the municipal decision making processes. Once traditionally strong, the MZs have weakened since 1990s and now operate without clearly defined functions, assignments and budgeting. Furthermore, the citizens themselves have become discouraged and lethargic due to poverty, limited reform progress, and scarce participatory approaches at the local level. Thus causing an even greater need to revitalize the work of Local Communities and increase community-led initiatives to cater for specific citizens’ needs, especially those of marginalized and vulnerable groups.
New vision of local communities in BiH
The project focuses on developing and realizing a new vision of MZs in BiH – one that would enable empowerment and inclusion of women, youth and other marginalized groups into the economic, social and political mainstream. The project will also strengthen the capacities of MZs to engage in local decision-making and represent citizens’ needs in the creation of municipal plans and budgets. It will also seek to connect MZs with civil society organizations for co-creation of community- led initiatives and to serve as a democratic space for civil initiatives.
Through direct field work and activities, the project will include a total of 136 Local Communities, from 24 local governments.
Benefits of the project for community development
The Local Communities will become a place where citizens can directly voice out their concerns, immerse in constructive dialogue, and be involved in the local development. Improved MZs, as grassroots community groups, will represent a foundation for bottom-up approach in making changes in local governance. The MZs will strive to include and represent women, youth and other marginalized groups and with commitment of citizens and authorities create participatory and more accountable local governance in BiH. The long-term impact of the project will be seen in more responsive and engaged citizens, effective and citizen-centred municipal service delivery, and ultimately increased general trust in public institutions.
MZs show promising results and dedication
From 2001 to 2012 the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has been engaged in various projects to foster sustainable municipal development and to enhance community- based participation. Support to MZs has shown visible results in raising awareness among MZ stakeholders about their democratic rights, increased capacities to engage in decision making and significant improvement in communication between MZs and municipal authorities. The project Strengthening the Role of Local Communities (Mjesne Zajednice – MZs) will be a continuation on these good foundations and previous SDC interventions.
The project represents a joint initiative and is equally supported by the Governments of Switzerland and Sweden. The total value of the project is 8 million CHF and should be implemented by mid-2019. It will be implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in BiH in partnership with the BiH Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, the Ministry of Justice of the Federation of BiH, the Ministry for Administration and Local Self-Government of Republic of Srpska, the Government of Brcko District and both Associations of Municipalities and Cities.