People Know What’s Good for Them
Maka Dziryorashvili points out at her house at the far end of the dusty street of Tsilkani settlement for the internally displaced persons. This is where she’s been living since 2008, when the armed conflict forced her family out of their native village near Tskhinvali. In the neighborhood of identical cottages, one larger, bright-colored building catches the eye.
- In 2013 Georgia launched a reform of local self-governance, aiming to promote more engagement by citizens in decision-making.
- UNDP, together with the governments of Switzerland and Austria, is helping Georgia to find its own model of regional and local development.
- All nine regions of Georgia now have development strategies and action plans that are based on consultations with the residents.
- Up to 60 community meetings were conducted all over Georgia to inform people about the new opportunities they now have to make the work of local authorities more effective.
“That’s our new kindergarten,” – explains Mrs. Dziryorashvili. “And we, the people, voted that it’s our most urgent need. For the first time ever we decided how our municipality funds should be spent”.
The Tsilkani settlement on the outskirts of Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi is one of the hundreds of communities across the country that have been encouraged to bring self-governance practices into Georgian reality. On one hand, local habitants are being invited to voice needs of their communities and on the other - local authorities are learning how to define priorities and use scarce resources in a way that benefits people the most.
This initiative is part of a broader project supporting Georgian government in their efforts to implement self-governance reform in the country. The project, called “Fostering Regional and Local Development in Georgia” (in short FRLD), is operated by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and financially supported by Austrian and Swiss governments with a total budget of USD 6.2 million through Austrian Development Cooperation and Swiss Cooperation Office for the South Caucasus.
“The village kindergarten was one of 500 projects financed from Regional Development fund managed by the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure. FRLD helped us to introduce very transparent and fair system of scoring projects proposed by communities. Simultaneously, they worked with municipalities on improving their skills to define priorities. Local priorities are included into action plans and further into regional strategies. These projects need to correspond with broader context defined by strategies. As a result, the system became much more efficient and distribution of these funds doesn’t happen centrally any more,” - explains Otar Konjaria, Deputy Head of Local Self-Government Development and Decentralization Policy Division in the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia.
- The new kindergarten in Tsilkani serves more than 200 families displaced after the armed conflict in 2008.
- The kindergarten provides jobs for 25 local residents.
- For Maka Dziryorashvili and her co-villagers, their new life starts with creating better prospects for their children.
The Ministry is the key partner of the project, working out and implementing policies that push forward the reform. As a result of this partnership, two major laws supporting decentralization to regions and municipalities and development of regions and mountain areas were adopted in 2014 and 2015. Furthermore, regional action plans for 2015-2017 have been developed by regions themselves.
The FRLD project uses several methods to help increase the involvement of people in decision-making process. Over 20 municipalities in six pilot regions of Georgia have been helped in 2015 to prepare specific project proposals that responded to most pressing needs of local communities.
“Last year a certain amount of money at the ministry’s fund was designated for our village,” – says Iveri Meladze, head of the Tsilkani community. “Before nobody was asking us what we would like to spend these funds at. But this year we gathered and voted for a new kindergarten,” – says Mr. Meladze while showing the premises. Spacious, bright and warm-colored building will fit around 80 children from the settlement who now need to be taken to a day-care in a nearby village.
“The new kindergarten is the best decision for our community. Not only children will benefit. Around 25 local people will find jobs here,” – says Maka Dziryorashvili, one of the most active citizens of Tsilkani community.
Self-governance reform is one of the most important changes Georgia is undergoing right now. Comprehensive and integrated approach is essential to make this transformation smooth and place people’s interest at heart of the reform process.