Decentralization seen as key to democracy and development in Central and Eastern Europe

Dec 3, 2015

Panelists discuss key aspects of fiscal decentralization in Moldova, Serbia, and Ukraine (Photo: UNDP Ukraine)

Kiev, Ukraine – Decentralizing national administrations is a necessary step towards boosting social and economic development in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, government and civil society representatives said at the closing of a conference hosted by the Ukrainian government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The conference brought together more than 150 participants for two days of formal and informal discussions on how to lead successful anti-corruption and decentralization efforts.
Ukraine is in the midst of one of the most ambitious decentralization and local governance reform exercises Europe has witnessed in a decade. Its ongoing decentralization process was taken up as a priority by the post-Maidan government in 2014, and has included a comprehensive package of constitutional changes, fiscal decentralization and tax reform.
“Despite great challenges, Ukraine is moving forward developing democracy at the local level,” said Vyacheslav Negoda, First Deputy Minister of Regional Development of Ukraine.
“Decentralization can bring government closer to the people while at the same time increase its responsiveness, transparency, and accountability”, said Neal Walker, Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Representative at UNDP Ukraine. “Structural and institutional local governance reforms reinforced with capacity development, broad communications efforts and a system-wide, rather than a sectoral, approaches can improve peoples’ lives and build trust between the government and the people”.
Participants said local administrations have a major role to play in accelerating the delivery of services and allowing people to participate in local decisions, including vulnerable groups. That vision is embodied in Sustainable Development Goal 16, which specifically addresses the link between peaceful and inclusive societies on the one hand, and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions on the other.
Many countries in Europe and the Eurasian region are currently working towards putting in place local governments that meet citizens’ opportunities and aspirations, and ensure their voices and views are taken into account in local decisions.
For example, with the support of UNDP, Albania recently conducted a process of territorial administrative reform and local elections that reduced the number of local government units from 374 to 61, improving service delivery dramatically. Local elections, involving a new quota for women, were held in June 2015 which resulted in 61 municipalities that are slimmer, better staffed and composed of at least a third of women.
The conference also served as the launch of a new regional project that will support anti-corruption efforts in six municipalities in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia It will be supported financially by the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by UNDP and Partners for Local Development in Romania.

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