The second phase of the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD2), worth 13.5 million euros, has officially begun and will continue to strengthen partnerships between local authorities and civil society.
ReLOaD2 will ensure continuation of strengthening partnerships between local authorities and civil society in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, by expanding the successful model of transparently financing civil society organizations’ projects from municipal budgets. In addition, this project will support greater civic engagement and work on empowering youth in local communities. Special focus on youth should include young people getting first job experience, internships as well as an opportunity to provide solutions in their local communities.
RELOAD is a very successful and important initiative for the European Commission. We hope that its second phase, that we are glad to support with even more funds – more than EUR 13.5 million– will continue to help with building and consolidating lasting and strong partnerships between civil society organisations and local governments in the Western Balkans” concluded Alessandra Viezzer, Deputy Head of Unit in European Commission, DG NEAR – Western Balkans Regional Cooperation and Programmes. “These partnerships produced impressive results, in particular in the context of the COVID pandemic – providing better services to more than 100,000 citizens. This proves once again that a strong civil society supported by local authorities is crucial because it has a direct impact on people’s lives, promotes democratic participation and, ultimately, contributes to strengthening democracy, which is a core part of the political criteria for EU accession”.
In the Republic of Serbia, Reload has so far supported 5 local governments. One of them is the City of Kragujevac, which in the previous phase of the project was declared the champion of good practice in cooperation with local civil society organizations.
“The ReLOaD project has greatly contributed to the city of Kragujevac fully accepting and implementing the project approach in transparent financing of civil society organizations. The result is many initiatives that have improved the quality of life of all citizens. These include teaching children and young people about the importance of protecting the environment and supporting people with autism to live in the community. Through mentoring support, we will help other local governments in Serbia to improve their administration through ReLOaD,” said Gordana Damjanović, a representative of the city of Kragujevac.
In the next, four-year phase, Reload will cooperate with 7 new local governments in Serbia and local civil society organizations.
Around 300 civil society organizations will implement projects in 50 local government units during the four-year period, from 2021 to 2024. It is planned that about 40,000 people will benefit from these activities .
The second phase of the ReLOaD project is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
*For the European Union, all references to Kosovo should be understood in full compliance with Resolution 1244 (1999) and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence. For the United Nations, references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).