Local Governance Programme South Caucasus

Programme description

Title: Local governance programme South Caucasus
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia
Lead executing agency: Armenia: Ministry of Territorial Administration; Azerbaijan: Centre for Works with the Municipalities, Ministry of Justice; Georgia: Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Ministry of Finance, Parliamentary Committee for Regional Policy and Self-Government
Overall term: 2013 to 2016

Context

By ratifying the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the three countries of the South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – have made a commitment to strengthen local governance and democracy and to create the requisite legal and institutional frameworks. In all three countries, the local government system is still weak, and municipalities’ compliance with the principles of good local governance – such as transparency, a focus on citizens’ needs, citizen participation and accountability – is still inadequate.

Objective

Local self-government and good local governance in the South Caucasus are strengthened.

Approach

The programme cooperates with government agencies and civil society organisations at the national level, with pilot regions and municipalities, and with transnational networks in all three countries of the South Caucasus. Experience gained through cooperation with the municipalities is utilised to provide advice at the national level in order to bring about country-wide change. The sector-specific topics addressed by the transnational networks are defined on the basis of the countries’ own reform programmes.

  • Good local governance: This component focuses on promoting examples of best practice relating to transparent, citizen-oriented and efficient municipal financial management and improved local services, with the aim of strengthening municipalities’ performance capacities.
  • National frameworks for municipal development: This component aims to improve the policy and administrative framework by advising on national standards for local governance and implementing participation-oriented local and administrative reforms.
  • Governance at sub-national level: This component is designed to improve coordination and cooperation between the municipalities on the one hand and regional and central government on the other, e.g. by advising on the preparation and implementation of regional development strategies.

Results achieved so far

By establishing citizen service offices, it has been possible, in many municipalities in Georgia and Armenia, to improve access to the local authorities and ensure the smooth and transparent handling of citizens’ enquiries and requests. In Georgia, the relevant ministry has adopted the strategy on the introduction of citizen service offices as the national standard, in recognition of the municipalities’ positive experiences in this context.

With GIZ’s support, the Government of Georgia has prepared a national policy/strategy for regional development. The Local Governance Programme has provided strategic development advice to three regions and has involved the municipal and the national level as well as civil society and the private sector in this process. The strategies have been adopted by the Cabinet and are now being implemented. The reforms supported by the GIZ programme are consistent with the EU’s structural approach and are helping align the country with the EU.

In Georgia and Armenia, the Programme is advising the Finance Ministries on creating the necessary frameworks for results-oriented budget management and is assisting the municipalities in managing the transition to the new system. The advice provided is intended to ensure effective and efficient use of public funds and improve budgetary transparency for local councils and citizens. It also encourages the exchange of information and experiences between municipalities, which is helping to raise awareness of tried and tested mechanisms that support citizen participation in the budgetary process, with a view to establishing these mechanisms on a sustainable basis.

The expertise of German local authorities has been put to good use in forging links between towns and cities in Germany and the South Caucasus within the Caucasus Cities’ Network. Network members engage in regional cooperation on topics such as improving municipal services, local economic development, and management of solid waste and contaminated sites. For example, with the Network’s support, a digital register of contaminated land was set up in the heavily polluted Azerbaijani city of Sumgait as a basis for sustainable urban development.

Having developed a culture of trust through its cooperation with partner institutions, GIZ is a valued partner in the field of local governance reform. This has established the basis for more intensive regional cooperation, in line with the goals of the Caucasus Initiative launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).