Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Local Government International Bureau


  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 region.


  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 Council—Podgorica (Montenegro).

    —  East Staffordshire Borough Council—Cacak.

    —  Kent County Council—Nis.

    —  London Borough of Lewisham—Cukarica District of Belgrade.

    —  Norwich City Council—Novi Sad.

    —  Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council—Subotica.

  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 in practice.

  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 Government Association.

  8.  As well as the general exchange visits, the FCO financially supported UK local authorities to deliver three technical exchange projects:

    —  East Staffordshire Borough Council—Cacak Municipality

    Small Business Support and Development.

    —  London Borough of Lewisham—Cukarica District of Belgrade

    Citizen Participation and Customer Service.

    —  Norwich City Council—City of Novi Sad

    Management of Public Utilities.

  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 Council—City of Podgorica

    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, Montenegro—17-20 March 2000.

    —  Szeged 2 Meeting of Stability Pact Table 1 in Szeged, Hungary—23-24 March 2000.

    —  UNOPS International Consultation on decentralised co-operation for human development in Rome, Italy—9-13 May 2000.

  Council of Europe Economic Forum in Skopje, Macedonia—16-18 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 authorities.

  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 Council—Pristina/Prishtina Municipality.

    —  Chelmsford Borough Council—Pec/Peja Municipality.

    —  Arun District Council—Glogovac/Gllogovc Municipality.

  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.

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