Sustainable development - particularly in cities - must be both environmentally responsible and socially inclusive. This is especially true for the Europe and Central Asia region where more than two-thirds of the population resides in urban areas.
City governments and mayors in the region face difficult challenges as a result of climate change, economic transformations and demographic shifts in their cities. They are under increasing pressure to find sustainable solutions to transforming urban centers into resilient and sustainable communities, and they must achieve all of this by reducing energy costs, improving quality of services, reducing waste, providing socially inclusive urban environments and creating economic opportunities for their citizens.
When social accountability mechanisms are in place, cities are able to provide better services to their citizens, particularly to the poorest and marginalized citizens. What are social accountability mechanisms? Essentially, they are tools to increase transparency, citizen participation and feedback, often with the use of Information and Communications Tools (ICTs) - and methodologies that accurately capture and quantify the needs and demands of citizens so that service providers and policy makers can make informed decisions about sustainable urban development.
In Skopje, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, representatives from local government, civil society and the private sector from five selected cities from South East Europe: Durres, Banja Luka,Sarajevo, Skopje, and Pristina have met on 19-20 March to learn more about social accountability and to hear how ICTs are used effectively for increased accountability, improved service provision and enhanced citizen dialogue.
Participants at the Skopje Workshop - Local Governance in Service of Citizens: Strengthening Social Accountability – have also learned about the findings from the Social Sustainability and Accountability Initiative, which was developed by the Europe and Central Asia Social Development Department in collaboration with the World Bank Institute’s Urban Practice and the Urban and Water Department of the Europe and Central Asia Region. This initiative is part of the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Sustainable Cities Initiative and the World Bank-Austria Urban Partnership Program.
The main objective of the Social Accountability Initiative was to increase knowledge and awareness of social accountability issues among city stakeholders and assess the current social accountability mechanisms in place in the selected municipalities and discuss with the participants opportunities and constraints to develop new approaches and ICT tools to improve collaborative governance aspects at the city level. In the long term, this shall contribute to strengthening the integrity in public service in the pilot cities.
The cities shared the findings from their assessments and pointed out some specific challenges they are facing, such as “lack of trust in local government” (participant from Banja Luka), “the Municipality… often seen as totally detached from its citizens" (participant from Durres, Albania), and “the growing citizens' apathy towards the local government " (participant from Sarajevo, BiH)Representatives of these five cities and other key stakeholders from Non-governmental Organisations, central and local government officials and local government associations’ representatives from South East Europe, have exchanged ideas, good practices from other cities in the Region including System 48 from Indjija, Pula’s e-governance, and proposals for each pilot city.As stated by a participant from Prishtina, this Social Accountability Initiative came exactly in time as this issue was not yet discussed in the Municipality Prishtina."
The Workshop aimed to support and encourage participants to clarify strategic areas for reform that are both relevant and viable, to ultimately help transform subsequent ideas into concrete action plans. These action plans shall be discussed during the NALAS International Municipal Fair in Fall 2013.
World Bank Europe and Central Asia (ECA) Sustanable Cities Initiative