UNDP has been one of the first development partners of the National Assembly of Serbia since 2004 and has helped the National Assembly introduce public hearings and mobile committee sessions, alongside a number of oversight tools. Building on these results, the Swiss Government started working with UNDP as a development partner to further parliamentary reform in Serbia and transfer practises and tools from the National Assembly to local assemblies.
On the margins of local self-government units for years, usually with no staff or means of securing better oversight, local assemblies started – with SDC and UNDP support – organising and digitalising themselves. Local budget portals are piloted by UNDP with the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities in 10 municipalities, based on the National Assembly’s portal for monitoring public budget spending. Tailor-made e-Parliament software was developed and introduced in Zrenjanin and Leskovac.
This software, developed on an open platform, includes DMS and E-voting and is available to all interested local assemblies; customisation is already underway in the Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and Niš Assembly. Another new tool is the Local Assemblies’ Accountability Index. An October 2018 Local Assemblies’ Conference in Novi Sad saw the launch of an annual platform for cooperation and policy dialogue.
Knowledge sharing between the National Assembly and local assemblies, especially in terms of advancing SDGs, is featured as best practise (e.g. in the UNDP and IPU 2nd Global Parliamentary Report 20171 , as well as in the UN Secretary-General’s 14th March 2018 Report on interaction between the UN, national parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union2).
In order to contribute towards the quality of legislative drafting, SDC and UNDP supported the Belgrade Faculty of Law in preparing a Legislative Drafting Monograph, the first of its kind in Serbia, and introducing a Legislative Drafting Course in the regular curricula. During this course, over 400 participants – from the National Assembly, ministries, local administrations, independent bodies, as well as students – learnt legislative drafting techniques and examples.
With the support of the Swiss Government and UNDP, the National Assembly of Serbia formed its cross-party “Focus Group for Monitoring the Government’s implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, focusing on localising SDGs and engaging members of the youth. The main objective is to monitor the work and activities of the Inter-ministerial working group on SDGs; adopt laws supporting the implementation of the SDGs; amendments to the Law on the Budget for SDGs; raise awareness of the importance of the SDGs among MPs, local communities and citizens, especially youth. It is expected that the National Assembly will develop a permanent control mechanism for the implementation of the SDGs in Serbia; supporting both national and local governments, CSOs and citizens’ activities on the implementation of the SDGs.
UNDP is currently strengthening one in every three parliaments worldwide and supporting an election every two weeks.