Final Conference - "Financing of CSOs from Municipal Budgets"
The final conference of the project "Strong CSOs for positive social change" was held on 26.06.2019 in Vodenica Mulino, Skopje.
The conference presented the key findings of the project, as well as the changes made by the project during the implementation period, with a particular focus on supporting CSOs from municipal budgets. Boris Sharkovski Program Director of the Local Community Development Foundation Stip and the project coordinator noted that the project has resulted in concrete recommendations and draft solutions for improving the existing mechanisms for financing CSOs from municipal budgets.
The Mayor of Kriva Palanka, Mr. Borjanco Micevski, stated in his speech that after a pre-established methodology developed as a result of this project, for the second year, a public call for funding of CSOs was published and funds were allocated for them. He also noted that in the past period they have increased cooperation with CSOs with a kind of partnership collaboration. As a recommendation for the other municipalities, Mr. Micevski pointed out the online platform as an excellent tool for communication and gathering information from the citizens, which they have established together with the municipality.
Ms Eli Chakar of the Ministry of Local Self-Government emphasized that the cooperation of the institutions with the organizations has increased, but that there is still work to be done. Regarding the financial support, she noted that last year during the allocation of funds, in some of the Ministries, it was noted that some of the procedures were not fully elaborated, and funds were allocated to CSOs by the local government and several Ministries. She recommended to work on increasing transparency and establishing clear criteria for funding CSOs. She also pointed out that CSOs should make a greater contribution to the work of institutions and especially local authorities, by making available their expertise and knowledge and transferring competencies from local government to CSOs. According to her, CSOs have great potential and should be used.
Ms. Ardita Dema Meheti also gave a speech. She emphasized that the preparation of methodologies for allocation of funds to CSOs through the project "Strong CSOs for Positive Social Change" is an excellent mechanism and should be shared with municipalities that were not part of the project. She expressed interest, ZELS to share the good practices, and to point out to other municipalities to create such methodologies. She noted that ZELS, in order to improve the work of the municipal administration, they detect their weaknesses by themselves during their work every year and therefore they plan and deliver trainings for the municipal administration on properly defined topics and areas. She emphasized that ZELS is ready for future cooperation with civil society organizations.
Mr German Filkov from the Center for Civil Communications pointed out that it took them about 3 months to collect data, for research in 2016 regarding support of CSOs from municipalities, which speaks about (in)accessibility of public information and transparency. Another thing that he thinks should be emphasized is the lack of proper planning and alignment of support with local community priorities, as there is a large gap in all municipalities between the priority areas of citizens on the one hand, and the priority areas supported by municipalities through the item 463 - Transfer to NGO. Besides this, he considers that this item is too broad, involves transfers to legal entities, and in some cases transfers to private entities - public limited companies, private sports clubs have been detected.
Following the panelists' discussion, a discussion was opened by guests attending the conference, ranging from criticism of CSOs for greater engagement and influence to local authorities, to criticism for non-transparent allocation of funds by local governments, budget cuts with the budget rebalances, and lack of cooperation with municipalities.
Practices, examples of good and bad management of municipal support, and guidelines and recommendations for improving the conditions were shared during the discussion.
Here are the key conclusions and recommendations that emerged from the discussion:
To create a single portal that will collect data and information on all advertisements, available funds and support for CSOs
To create a classification of CSOs by scope and area of work, to be well known which organization is working on what field
Item 463 - Transfer to NGOs is too wide, it contains non-CSO transfers and needs to be changed
The existing support for CSOs not to be cut, but to gradually increase and the planned, especially implemented support budget
Municipalities to think about institutional support for the work of CSOs, but also for support in terms of providing work space, overheads, etc.
Encourage decentralization and delegate competencies from the municipality to CSOs that have the expertise and capacity to do the job
To stimulate cooperation and exchange of good practices between municipalities, but also between CSOs and municipalities
Monitoring and evaluation of the effects of the CSOs' financial support.
The conference "Financing CSOs from Municipal Budgets" was organized and held by the Local Community Development Foundation Stip, in partnership with Alka and CDI within the project "Strong CSOs for Positive Social Change" and this project is supported by the European Union.