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Michela Telatin Ph.D., UNOPS Serbia Multi-Country Office Director

Better Public Services For All

Our greatest achievement is the tangible impact that our actions bring to people’s lives. We are proud of the progress made by the less developed municipalities in the three focus areas of the Swiss PRO: good governance, social inclusion and gender equality

UOPS is a United Nations agency that has the mission of supporting people in building better lives and supporting countries in achieving sustainable development. Being a project-based organisation, UNOPS has been implementing the Programme Enhancing Good Governance and Social Inclusion for Municipal Development – Swiss PRO for the last four and a half years, with the support of the Government of Switzerland.

What would you highlight as the most important contributions of the Swiss PRO Programme to the enhancement of the quality of life of Serbian citizens?

Our greatest achievement is the tangible impact that our actions bring to people’s lives. More than 20,000 citizens gained improved access to their civil, social and economic rights and public services thanks to the implementation of the Swiss PRO. We are proud of the progress made by the less developed municipalities in the three focus areas of the Swiss PRO: good governance, social inclusion and gender equality. This progress has also been captured by the Good Governance Index, which showed a general increase of more than 20%, with the most significant amelioration in the area of citizen participation and transparency, administrative efficiency and effectiveness of local self-governments, despite the period of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Who are the main beneficiaries of the support programme and why have they been chosen among other groups of citizens?

This programme focuses on providing support to 99 cities and municipalities in the regions of Šumadija, Western, Southern and Eastern Serbia. In collaboration with the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, the activities carried out have helped to improve the socioeconomic position of persons with disabilities, Roma, women, elderly people, the unemployed, youth and children.

Moreover, this programme supported capacity building for more than 2,000 employees of local self-government institutions to render them better equipped professionally to improve the provision of services to citizens. We have spent more than a decade supporting the growth of Serbia’s local self-governments in the mentioned aspects through our preceding programmes: EU PROGRES and European PROGRES, both of which were funded by the European Union and Government of Switzerland.

How were the areas of good governance, social inclusion and gender equality addressed through this programme and how did you measure your four-and-ahalf- year contribution?

The programme’s approach was to ensure that positive change at the municipal level could be translated into practise for the benefit of citizens. Through the provision of technical assistance to municipalities, the capacities of local selfgovernments were strengthened for the everyday application of good governance principles, social inclusion and gender policies. For example, by improving capacities for eGovernment at the local level, we enabled people to obtain essential documents or report communal issues to their local self-governments without waiting in line or being subjected to additional costs. By supporting local gender equality mechanisms, we improved the position of women living in rural areas, including those who are unemployed and victims of domestic violence. To illustrate, the Swiss PRO supported the operation of SOS lines in three districts, through which psychological and legal support was provided to more than 200 women who have been victims of domestic violence.

Our projects, which are supported by the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and other UN agencies, bring positive change to people by improving social municipal infrastructure and the competitiveness of small businesses while strengthening social inclusion

Many of the social protection services targeted children directly, such as sensory rooms in Svilajnac, Sjenica and Prokuplje, and personal escorts for children with disabilities, or counselling and socio-educational services for children in families that are at risk of child separation or with behavioural issues.

Thanks to the support of all its partners, such as the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities and the Office for IT and eGovernment, the contribution of the Swiss PRO to the different components of the good governance field of work is visible through the progress shown by the Citizen Satisfaction Survey, Good Governance Index and eGovernment Development Index. Furthermore, good governance is also about societal culture and the institutional approach to social services, which are more difficult to measure concretely in the short term. However, these aspects are fundamental to achieving comprehensive results in public sector reform.

Besides the partnership with the Government of Serbia through the Swiss funded-project, what is currently in the focus of UNOPS?

With its mandate in project management, procurement, infrastructure, human resources and financial management, UNOPS has been operating in Serbia for more than 20 years and has built strong relations with the Government of Serbia, line ministries and different national institutions. We’ve grown into a multi-country office over the last several years, with the establishing of our offices in North Macedonia and Montenegro to support governments in socioeconomic development, the environment and infrastructure, to be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals while supporting the EU accession process.

Our projects that are supported by the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden and other UN agencies bring positive change to people by improving, for instance, social municipal infrastructure, the competitiveness of small businesses and strengthening social inclusion. UNOPS has been a proven partner during emergencies – whether that was in the process of reconstructing roads, homes and schools following the 2014 floods or procuring and delivering medical equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic – and stands ready to offer its expertise to support government institutions in meeting international standards.

What added value has UNOPS brought through project implementation?

We listened to the needs of our partners and designed context-specific projects, while seeking collaborative partnerships with national governments and institutions, local self-governments, civil society organisations and other UN agencies.

We focused on the implementation of projects that give ownership to the national beneficiaries. Targets matter at UNOPS, but how we reach our targets is equally important. Working directly with decision-makers, but also being constantly present in the field and engaging with final beneficiaries, are approaches that have been proven by UNOPS over previous years to yield lasting results. Moreover, gender equality is at the heart of UNOPS development efforts and we ensure that gender considerations and results are taken into account during the implementation of our projects, because societal change is only meaningful if it is inclusive.

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