USAID supports the creation of effective local public institutions that are accountable and responsive to citizens’ needs. USAID is an advocate of local participation and building of public - private partnerships
DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES Local governments in Bulgaria are seeking to gain control over their administrative and fiscal destinies, to make responsible choices about their communities' futures, and to act on these choices effectively and accountably. Unfortunately local institutions are under-resourced and lack the authority to discharge their responsibilities effectively. USAID works with local governments to become more efficient, to improve local services, and to lobby more effectively for their interests at the national level.
USAID INVOLVEMENT Local Governance is one of USAID's top priorities and the Agency has numerous achievements in this area. Seven programs address three broad goals:
- Decentralize authority, responsibility and resources to local government;
- Increase ability to address community-building issues;
- Promote advocacy and public support for reform through media.
Local Government Initiative (2001–2007): The Local Government Initiative was launched by USAID in 1997. While previous assistance was focused at the local level, the current Local Government Initiative is focused around policy reform and local capacity building activities. The program is focused on decentralization policy reform which can only be achieved by working at both national and local levels.
Community Funds and Social Enterprises Program (2001 – 2006), completed in September 2006: USAID’s Community Fund and Social Enterprise Program is a five-year program which introduces new models for financial sustainability of Bulgarian NGOs by increasing participation of businesses, citizens, and local governments in the NGOsector.
Self-Representation of Local Governments (2001 – 2008): USAID supports the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria (NAMRB) in strengthening its role as a publicly recognized and statutory voice of Bulgarian municipalities, advancing the local government legislative agenda and assisting member-municipalities in improving their administrative and policy-making capacity.
Bulgaria City Links Project (2001 – 2007): The program’s goal is to continue to enable Bulgarian municipalities to better serve their constituents through effective collaboration and knowledge transfer between Bulgarian cities, as well as with US practitioners.
Support to Local Governments (2001 – 2008): The program aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local government through provision of technical and financial assistance to local governments and to indigenous local government support organizations. The program is focused on building public consensus for policy change and joint initiatives between all levels of government entities and their civic partners, supporting the implementation of projects by Regional Associations of Municipalities, municipalities and NGOs, and providing professional development and consulting services to local authorities and their civic partners.
Interethnic Interaction Program (1992–2007): USAID’s Interethnic Interaction Program works for establishment of sustainable mechanisms of cooperation between local municipal authorities and the local Roma and Turkish/Muslim communities. The program’s goal is to enhance inclusion of Roma and Turkish/Muslim populations as a result of improved living conditions attained by increased access to quality education, business opportunities, and social services.
Advocacy and Public Support for Reform through Media (2004-2007): The goal of this program is to promote reform in key areas of Bulgarian society through media advocacy and active involvement of independent media. USAID focuses on providing media support for rule of law reform, the fight against corruption, decentralization of local governance, resolving ethnic tensions, and supporting vulnerable groups. The program provides professional support for high quality coverage of the key policy issues in the Bulgarian media and assists other USAID-funded programs in achieving their goals by providing media support for their advocacy activities.
Some of USAID's major achievements in the field of local goverment include:
- Passage of Municipal Debt Act.
- Passage of Municipal Budgets Act.
- First ever Government of Bulgaria Fiscal Decentralization Program adopted in 2001.
- 15,000 Local Government practitioners trained.
- Over 90 Customer Service and Information Centers established.
- NAMRB developed as a nationally recognized advocacy organization.
- Sixty-seven Chitalishta (Community Centers) revitalized.
- Six Community Funds raised locally $416,037 in cash and $118,062 as in-kind contributions.
- 27 Social Enterprises established, generating an average annual income of $12,350 and 116 new jobs for people from marginalized groups.
- 7,400 children and young persons from different ethnic and religious origin participated in educational advancement projects.
- A network of Minority Leadership Institutes builds the capacity of local leaders: 365 graduates from the capacity building program and 149 certified trainers.
- Seven Conciliation Commissions for peaceful conflict resolution established and registered as Mediation Centers.