First projects selected through the Community Forums in the municipalities of Valandovo and Sveti Nikole implemented

Valandovo schools “Goce Delchev”, “Straso Pindzur” and “Josip Broz Tito” received new computer labs and school media, while “Rahilka Goneva” kindergarten in Sveti Nikole got a new roof and PVC doors and windows through the “Empowering Municipal Councils” project, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and implemented by UNDP in cooperation with 24 municipalities.

The projects started through a series of Community Forums with the participation of over 700 residents of both municipalities, where these projects were proposed and selected by the forum participants as the top priority ones. Both projects were financially supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation with 2.7 million denars each, while the municipality of Sveti Nikole participated with additional 870 thousand denars in the renovation of the kindergarten “Rahilka Goneva”.

“Today we are visiting “Rahilka Goneva” kindergarten, which was reconstructed as part of the “Empowering Municipal Councils” project, where new roof and new doors and windows were installed in order to increase the energy efficiency of the building, while at the same time, conditions have been adapted for the installation of the (existing) equipment for a sensory room. This reconstruction provides better conditions for 450 children, 30 staff and 20 people who are part of the center for people with disabilities, which is located in the kindergarten. This building had not been renovated since its opening in 1982 and was in desperate condition, while even when there was minimal rainfall, roof was leaking and windows were in an even worse situation, which was extremely unsafe for children staying in day care in the kindergarten” – said Sasho Velkovski, mayor of Sveti Nikole.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation supports the empowering of municipal councils in 24 municipalities across the country with 3.36 million francs, as key bodies for the development of participatory democracy and transparent and accountable municipal work.

“The implementation of this project is of great importance for the municipality of Valandovo and for the quality of the educational process in the schools in the municipality. We are especially grateful to the Swiss Embassy and UNDP for implementing the projects “Empowering Municipal Councils” and “ICT Lab with Appropriate Hardware and Software Equipment and School Media”. We are wholeheartedly grateful for the support and we hope to implement many more joint projects that will contribute to greater democracy, increased accountability and a more transparent society” – said Pero Kostadinov, mayor of Valandovo.

“Over the past years we have helped improve municipal services throughout the country in the areas of education, environment, culture, water-supply, communal services and urban planning” – said Swiss Ambassador, Sybille Suter Tejada, during her visit to Valandovo. In her speech, she noted that “Empowering Municipal Councils” project will make considerable contribution in the openness of the institutions which will increase the trust of the citizens for their elected officials. Also, by applying the Community Forums, the budgetary processes at local level will gain more legitimacy and trust by the citizens.”

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation “Empowering Municipal Councils” project is implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in line with the global Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations and the Program’s priorities in the country, including strengthening of local development and self-government.

“Our work in North Macedonia is in line with UNDP’s global efforts to help countries build strong, resilient and transparent democratic institutions on both the central and local level. This is taking us a step closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set out by all UN member countries for 2030” – added Narine Sahakyan, UNDP Resident Representative.

The project is implemented in 24 municipalities, in partnership with the Ministry of Local Self-Government, the Ministry of Finance, ZELS, the Association of Financial Workers and the UN Body for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). To date, a series of activities to strengthen the capacity of councilors and their networking have been implemented through the project, such as increasing the transparency and accountability, and civic participation in decision-making at the local level.

To date, 60 forum sessions were held within 15 forum processes across the country, attended by over 4,000 citizens, residents of selected municipalities, while in 9 newly included municipalities forum processes will begin in March.

Switzerland has been supporting North Macedonia in its political, social and economic transition since 1992. The current goal of the Swiss country programme is to improve the quality of life of citizens in North Macedonia by strengthening democratic institutions and practices, promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and protecting natural resources. Switzerland adds value through expertise, funds and constructive engagement with its long-term partners in North Macedonia. Today Switzerland ranks among the largest bilateral cooperation partners of North Macedonia and remains committed to the stability and prosperity of the region.