Georgian Government joins hands with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the governments of Austria and Switzerland to promote reforms in regional and local development.
The initiative, launched on 20 March 2018, will help Georgia to implement the country’s new vision of decentralization and local self-governance, while focusing on local economic development, engagement of citizens in decision-making and the increased competence of local civil servants. The programme will be implemented in 2018 – 2021, with the total budget of 5.5 million USD.
Speaking at the launch of the new initiative, Irakli Kobakhidze, Georgian Parliament Speaker, stressed that regional and local development is one Georgia’s strategic priorities in the coming years.
“Georgia kicks off the ambitious reform of local self-governance, aiming to increase decision-making powers and financial resources of the regional and local authorities. Our medium–term goal is to increase the consolidated financial resource of the municipalities to at least 7% of GDP,” Irakli Kobakhidze said.
Zurab Alavidze, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia, informed about key priorities of the new initiative. “We will pay particular attention to the decentralization of governance, local economic development and to building capacity of the national and local institutions to make sure that they can deliver quality services to the citizens,” Irakli Alavidze said.
Gerhard Schaumberger, Head of the Austrian Development Agency South Caucasus Office, and Olivier Bürki, Regional Director of Cooperation of the Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus, noted how Georgia can benefit from the experience of Austria and Switzerland in the field of regional and local development.
“As Austria, we are glad that the government of Georgia is committed to empower municipalities in the years to come. We look forward to strengthening our partnership also on the local level particularly for better jobs and income through this multi-donor effort,“ Gerhard Schaumberger said.
“With more than 700 years of practice in decentralization and the principle of subsidiarity, Switzerland has demonstrated the merit of strong local and regional self-governments. We are glad to share this experience as an input to the further implementation of decentralization in Georgia,” Olivier Bürki noted.
The event concluded with the presentation of the comprehensive nation-wide research which examined Georgian citizens’ views on the local public services delivered by the municipalities and central government. The research focuses on a range of issues, including the quality of roads, public kindergartens, cleaning service and citizen engagement in decision-making. It provides comparative analysis with the similar studies conducted in 2013 and 2015, and includes recommendations for local authorities based on public perceptions and expectations.
The 2017 research was commissioned by UNDP, Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) for the South Caucasus and Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC), and carried out by the Georgian research company ACT.
“The study shows that only one out of six citizens has contacted local authorities in the past two years. Citizen engagement into decision-making process and quality local services were named as most important prerequisites for the success of decentralization and self-governance reform,” said Niels Scott, Head of UNDP in Georgia.
UNDP and the governments of Austria and Switzerland have been supporting regional and local development in Georgia since 2012. The previous rounds of this complex programme focused on assisting Georgia to develop strong policies and legislation, train local civil servants, and develop and implement regional and municipal strategies and action plans.