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Final Conference “Local authorities and citizens together for better communities” of the “LINK 4 Cooperation” project

Through continuous cooperation and strengthening of the capacities of local governments and civil society organizations (CSOs), with the mandatory inclusion of citizens in decision-making processes, Bosnia and Herzegovina can make stable progress on the way to the EU, it was announced from the Final Conference “Local authorities and citizens together for better community”, held in Sarajevo on Friday, December 8, 2023.

The Conference was organized within the framework of the three-year project “Strengthening local participation and cooperation through partnership of Public Authorities and CSOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina- LINK 4 Cooperation”, funded by the European Union, supporting the realization of 22 projects of CSOs with grants. Through project activities, the capacities of a total of 12 local governments and 40 CSOs from the territory of BiH were strengthened, and the citizens of 12 local communities were given the opportunity to express their opinions more quickly and easily and co-create decisions in cooperation with the authorities.

Ajša Adrović-Bešlagić, program manager, opened the conference on behalf of the European Union in BiH with an opening address, stressing the importance of CSOs that act as a bridge between citizens and authorities. “The stronger the cooperation between civil society and the authorities, the better the results. Twelve municipalities spread across Bosnia and Herzegovina benefited from this project, and the European Union will continue to stand by local communities in order to improve local services and quality of life for citizens. Building trust should be a priority,” added Adrović-Bešlagić.

The Conference gathered over 80 participants, representatives of local authorities and CSOs from 22 local communities of BiH, as well as representatives of donors, relevant state institutions, NGOs and the international community, with the aim of pointing out the importance of building and strengthening the capacities of local authorities and CSOs as of the main partners in the construction of participatory democratic processes.

The central event of the conference was the awarding of the Council of Europe’s European Lable of Governance Excellence (ELoGE) to local government units that successfully completed the ELoGE program, based on the self-assessment of local governments in relation to the 12 principles of good democratic governance. Out of a total of 12 local governments that participated in the ELoGE process, the Municipality of Jablanica, the City of Prijedor and the Municipality of Žepče received this prestigious designation.

The awards were presented to the local governments by the deputy head of the Council of Europe’s Center of Expertise for Good Governance, Niall Sheerin, who said on this occasion: “Taking the obligation to apply the ELoGE Standard, the local governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina agree to measure their performance in relation to each of the 12 of the principles of good governance, thus raising awareness and thinking about one’s own practice of democratic governance.”

“ELoGE is a confirmation that we are on the right track to achieve a high level of good governance. Applying good management practices can help the municipality of Žepče to achieve greater efficiency, transparency and accountability, and to better respond to the needs of its citizens. This will result in a stronger local community and a better quality of life for all citizens”, said the mayor of the Žepče Municipality on the occasion of the awarding of the ELoGE.

The project coordinator, director of the Local Democracy Agency Mostar, Dženana Dedić, emphasized on this occasion the importance of good governance and effective civic participation at the local level as pillars of democracy that encourage innovative solutions and trust in local governance, which leads to the creation of resilient, inclusive and sustainable communities.

Darko Kasap, deputy coordinator of the Office for Public Reform, expressed the Office’s strong support for reform at the local levels of government in BiH, and for the efforts of the European Union, CSOs, and citizens to build a more modern and transparent local governments that meets Union standards. “A more democratic and inclusive local governments can help promote stronger engagement of citizens, can stimulate socio-economic development and improve public services, and thus stop the departure of young people, especially from less developed areas, to larger cities or abroad,” Kasap pointed out.

At the Conference, the e-participation tool for citizens was presented, which is implemented through 12 smart benches purchased and installed from the project budget. Thus, for the first time in BiH, smart benches will serve as a tools of communication between citizens and local authorities. With the help of innovative technology integrated into the benches, citizens of Berković, Jablanica, Kostajnica, Maglaj, Mostar, Nevesinje, Novi Grad, Prijedor, Ravno, Trebinje, Zavidović and Žepče will now have the opportunity to participate in the creation of decisions related to their local communities through new technologies.

The project “Strengthening local participation and cooperation through partnership of Public Authorities and CSOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina- LINK 4 Cooperation”” started its implementation on January 1, 2021 and will last until December 31, 2023. Its value is over EUR 540,000, of which the European Union provided over EUR 490,000 in grants. The project consortium consists of the Local Democracy Agency (LDA) Mostar, the Local Democracy Agency (LDA) Zavidovići, the Local Democracy Agency (LDA) Prijedor, the Center for the Development of Herzegovina (CRH) and the European Association for Local Democracy (ALDA), and the associated partner ALDA Skopje.