Municipal Funds for Local Development Support Citizens’ Initiatives
In the beginning of June Sofia hosted a joint meeting of nine Bulgarian municipalities for sharing experience and best practices in the establishment of Municipal Funds for Local Development. Mayors and experts presented the results achieved so far and outlined the challenges they have faced in the past 4 years.
With the support of “America for Bulgaria” Foundation and AGORA Platform, 9 Bulgarian municipalities created funds for encouraging citizens’ participation in improving environment and quality of life in their respective cities, towns and villages. Through these funds the municipalities ensure resources for coping with issues of high interest for the local population.
Funding is provided on a competitive basis for initiatives of local NGOs, libraries, youth organizations, civil society unions, associations of property owners etc.
In 2017 and 2018 the Municipal Funds in Montana, Lyaskovets, Kustendil, Smolyan, Peshtera, Svilengrad, Boychinovtsi, Dryanovo and Karlovo supported 67 citizens’ initiatives worth 170 000 BGN. Most of them were small project, dealing with everyday life challenges that people encounter. Additional 80 000 BGN are envisaged for initiatives in 2019.
The mayor of Monata, Zlatko Zhivkov shared that before the Municipal Fund was established he has often encountered applications coming from pro-active citizens on different ideas and projects. He is of the opinion that the Fund is a very rational idea that provokes people to take the initiative and compete with each other for the realization of their ideas.
Peter Paunov, Mayor of Kustendil presented the activities and projects realized with the support of the Municipal Fund since its establishment. The main idea behind its creation was to stimulate the local community in implementing projects in priority areas such as public works and greening of the town and surrounding villages. In the first year since it was operational the Fund supported 13 out of 14 submitted projects. In 2019 the resources available in the Fund will be raised up to 42 000 BGN, given the number of projects already submitted as well as their improved quality. The session for 2019 is ongoing and 21 new initiatives are expected to start in due time.
The Municipal Fund in Dryanovo has funded 6 projects so far. Among them a project with participants from the United Kingdom that live in villages in Dryanovo municipality. Their idea was to organize a festival that will gather at one place all groups of different nationals living in Dryanovo (Bulgarians, Germans and Englishmen) and present their cultural specifities.
The Municipal Funds are managed differently and while those in Peshtera, Kustendil, Smolyan, and Svilengrad are administered by the municipal administration, the others are technically supported by external administrator.
Transparency of work and activities under the Funds are supervised by public boards and public and consultative councils, in which representatives of the municipal administrations, AGORA Platform and civic organizations are involved. The approved candidates conclude agreements with the relevant municipal administration.
According to participants, the most valuable feature of the Municipal Funds is the involvement of local people, united by a common goal - improving their everyday life. It is not a rare case that approved projects also attract additional resources in the form of donations and voluntary work.
Photo: Mayor of Montana, Zlatko Zhivkov
Photo: Mayor of Kustendil, Peter Paunov