Memorandum submitted by the Local Government
UK LOCAL GOVERNMENT
1. This memorandum outlines UK Local Government
activity in Serbia and Montenegro to date, indicates the scope
for future activities and comments on the barriers to delivering
these future activities.
2. The Local Government International Bureau
acts as the European and International arm of the Local Government
Association for England Wales. For the last 10 years the LGIB
has acted as managing agent on behalf of the Department for International
Development for the Know-How Fund Local Authority Technical Links
Scheme that has supported technical co-operation projects throughout
Central and Eastern Europe. The LGIB first became actively involved
in South East Europe when it responded to an FCO call for UK local
government staff to be seconded to the United Nations Mission
in Kosovo. As a result of the LGIB co-ordination 10 UK local government
employees were seconded to UNMIK, four were appointed municipal
administrators, including one in Pristina. Previously the LGIB
has co-ordinated the participation of a number UK elected members
in Council of Europe election monitoring missions throughout the
UK LOCAL GOVERNMENT
3. In the summer of 1999 the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office (FCO) invited the Local Government International
Bureau (LGIB) to devise and deliver a local government component
as part of their Independent Media and Civil Society Programme
for Serbia and Montenegro. This component had three main objectives:
To establish links between selected
local authorities in Serbia and Montenegro and UK counterparts.
To give local authorities in Serbia
and Montenegro a greater awareness of the functioning of local
government in a democracy.
To offer technical advice and expertise
on key local government issues.
4. The first and second phases of this initiative
featured outward missions to Yugoslavia in December 1999 and February
2000 by representatives of six UK local authorities involved in
this programme. As a result of these visits partnerships were
established between the following local authorities and communities:
Bradford Metropolitan District CouncilPodgorica
East Staffordshire Borough CouncilCacak.
Kent County CouncilNis.
London Borough of LewishamCukarica
District of Belgrade.
Norwich City CouncilNovi Sad.
Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough
5. These two visits established contacts
between the new partners at a local authority and community level.
They provided an opportunity for an in depth discussion on common
areas of interest with a view to drawing up costed proposals for
future co-operation. These visits were the first of their kind
made by a European local government delegation, at a time when
it was extremely difficult to obtain entry visas to Yugoslavia.
Each of the Serbian municipalities involved were key centres and
foci of opposition. In some small way UK local authorities can
feel that they have encouraged their counterparts on a road that
culminated in the "Bulldozer Revolution" of October
2000. Many of the local personalities that links were developed
with will play a significant role in Serbia's future, most notably
Zoran Zivkovic the Mayor of Nis who is now Yugoslav Minister of
the Interior and Velimir Ilic the Mayor of Cacak who co-ordinated
the occupation of the Yugoslav Parliament building in October.
6. The aim of the third phase was to further
develop these ideas for future exchanges but, more importantly,
to enable the Yugoslav visitors to experience UK local democracy
7. The LGIB invited three representatives
of each Yugoslav community participating in the programme to visit
the UK for a week. The representatives were chosen by the Yugoslav
local authorities in line with the agreed areas of co-operation.
Programmes were organised by the partner UK local authorities
to suit the interests of the visitors. In addition, the LGIB organised
a programme for the Chairman and Secretary of the Association
of Free Towns and Municipalities of Serbia. The programme featured
in depth discussions with the LGIB, the Local Government Association,
the Improvement and Development Agency and the West Midlands Local
8. As well as the general exchange visits,
the FCO financially supported UK local authorities to deliver
three technical exchange projects:
The FCO have just awarded funding for the continuation
of these projects in 2000-01. They have also approved financial
support for a new project:
Bradford Metropolitan District CouncilCity
Youth Drugs Education.
This initiative has also donated computer equipment
to the Yugoslav communities thereby enabling a regular e-mail
contact with each other and their new UK partners.
These projects have demonstrated the commitment
of the UK local authorities to provide practical support to their
Serbian counterparts. They have also enabled the Serbian municipalities
involved to receive technical advice and expertise in areas that
were identified as priorities.
9. This initiative has been one of the very
few practical development actions involving Serbia and an EU member
state. It has earned considerable publicity and is now seen by
many as a model for future activities in that country. As a result
the LGIB has been invited to present its experience to a number
of European and international forums:
Preparagraphgraphtory Meeting of
Citizen's Pact of South East Europe in Bar, Montenegro17-20
Szeged 2 Meeting of Stability Pact
Table 1 in Szeged, Hungary23-24 March 2000.
UNOPS International Consultation
on decentralised co-operation for human development in Rome, Italy9-13
Council of Europe Economic Forum in Skopje,
Macedonia16-18 November 2000.
10. Mr Bodo Hombach, Special Co-ordinator
of the Stability Pact for South East Europe, wrote to the Secretary
of State for International Development expressing support for
the initiative, stating that he found it to be:
"precisely the type of action I hoped for
when we . . . launched the Sister City Programme".
The LGIB welcomes the endorsement of the initiative's
intentions and stands ready with the participating and other UK
local authorities to assist further development as soon as funds
become available from FCO or elesewhere.
11. From the start, the LGIB and the UK
local authorities have expressed concern that without sufficient
funds to continue the programme there is a serious risk of losing
the goodwill of participating local authorities and extinguishing
the hope that has been kindled in Yugoslavia. Although the FCO
have awarded funds to support four technical exchange projects
during 2000-01 a considerable amount more could be achieved with
a higher level of financial support.
12. Each local authority partnership has
been encouraged to formulate a raft of costed proposals for future
co-operative projects. The local authorities have deliberately
not limited the number of ideas and proposals to enable them to
give a clear impression of the breadth of the ideas that UK/Yugoslav
partnerships have formulated jointly and an overall idea of what
is needed and what is possible.
13. It is highly unlikely that any of these
activities will take place without external financial support.
UK local authorities do not have the finances to fund such activities
themselves. The LGIB is actively pursuing the possibilities of
securing funds from the Stability Pact and the European Commission
for a strategic programme or individual projects. However, there
is considerable expectation amongst the local authorities on both
sides that as the UK Government has started this initiative they
have some duty to support its continuation and keep these fledgling
partnerships alive. At this time, there is no indication whether
the FCO will support UK local government activities in Serbia
and Montenegro during 2001-02. The Department for International
Development has expressed no interest in supporting initiatives
led by UK local authorities. Now the best hope is that UK local
authorities will be invited to participate in a United Nations
Development Programme initiative that will be led by Italian local
14. This method of support for the development
of local democracy has been widely recognised as a success. Because
of this pioneering work many more Serbian and Montenegrin towns
have contacted the LGIB to express an interest in developing links
in a similar way. Logically, substantially more funding should
be made available thereby enabling a full programme for both the
existing and potential new partnerships.
15. The LGIB have recently completed the
first phase of a similar programme that has developed three UK
local government partnerships with Kosovo:
Walsall Metropolitan Borough CouncilPristina/Prishtina
Chelmsford Borough CouncilPec/Peja
Arun District CouncilGlogovac/Gllogovc
Once again these partnerships have formulated
proposals for future technical co-operation. However, at this
time there is no indication whether the FCO will continue to have
resources to support these partnerships in 2001-02.
16. UK local government has a strong track
record in promoting democratic local self-government and exchanging
technical expertise in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
The activities before and after the revolution in Yugoslavia have
given UK local government opportunities to take a primary role
in the development of local democracy in Yugoslavia and Kosovo
and in South East Europe more generally. Discussions have already
taken place with the British Council on the development of a training
programme for young administrators from throughout the region.
There is also a considerable scope for the development of capacity
building projects aimed at the development of effective local
government associations throughout South East Europe. The LGIB
and UK local government recognises the importance of the FCO support
for this important work. All of these ideas however, need an appropriate
level of continued and sustainable financial support if they are
to come to fruition.