Strengthening local government in Kukës region

Kukes Regional Council; UNDP

The Kukës Region, a mountainous area in northern Albania, is the country’s poorest region. It has the lowest incomes, high unemployment, poorly managed and dysfunctional infrastructure, and its land is still contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance from the 1999 Kosovo conflict.

Albania does not have a tradition of local governance; however, decentralization and regional development have been at the top of the government’s agenda, as the country aspires to obtain EU membership. Devolution of power to local authorities in Albania dates back to 1999, when the Strategy for Decentralization and Local Autonomy was followed by a new legislative framework, regulating local autonomy. However, devolution of power and delegation of authority was not backed by sufficient capacities in local governments to exercise such powers and deliver on new responsibilities.

Against this backdrop, in 2005, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Albania rolled-out the Area Based Development programme in the Kukës region to strengthen local institutions at the regional, municipal, and commune levels to drive their own development agenda. The programme focused on developing local governments’ capacity to govern in a participatory manner and on supporting the leadership capacity of local communities to promote their own development.

Development results

Greater openness of local governments to peoples’ participation in decision making processes has promoted citizens’ interest and capacity to play a greater role in local governance and support to local development, and improved the living standards of the people in the Kukës Region. Since the programme has been rolled out, the region has enjoyed a 50 percent rise in the number of families with improved access to health care centres. Almost 1,600 households are linked to markets, urban centers and services by the access to a new major road; and 1,220 families are benefiting from irrigation infrastructure. The number of people with access to safe drinking water has also increased by as much as 155 percent. Community improvement projects implemented by local enterprises have also generated employment and livelihood opportunities for local residents.

Enhanced performance

A survey has shown a rise in public satisfaction with the quality of local services, and independent assessments conducted in 2005 and 2007 suggest that some 80 percent of respondents believe that the relationship between communities and local government authorities has improved after the programme was launched. Citizens’ sense of ownership of infrastructure projects funded by the programme has also increased, with more than 80 percent of respondents stating that the small community projects contributed greatly to the community, and over 90 percent saying that they would contribute to the infrastructure’s maintenance. Overall, rates of satisfaction with the government also increased between 2005 and 2007.

Support to the capacity development process

National investments

The programme was designed on the basis of a working partnership between UNDP, the local governments in the Kukës Region, and community based organizations. The local governments designed and implemented policies and projects in partnership with their communities. Public access centres have been created to encourage and empower citizens’ participation in local governments’ decision making process and a ‘Terms of Partnership’ document was developed under the chairmanship of the Kukës Regional Council to clarify the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in the partnership. The Terms of Partnership has become the basis for local ownership and sustainability of development outputs.

Communes and municipalities established units to facilitate the implementation of the local projects and to develop Commune Development Plans, coherently with regional and national plans. They also covered part of the project costs, took ownership of the projects, worked closely with community based organizations in their implementation, and demonstrated greater responsibility in maintaining the infrastructure developed by the projects.

Development partners’ support

UNDP worked with local governments to strengthen policies, organizational mechanisms, and individual skills. Support to endogenous capacity development processes focused largely on promoting participatory approaches to local governance and for the prioritization of development needs; facilitating the building of partnerships between community organizations, local governments and other stakeholders; developing leadership and project management capacities. UNDP’s engagement with the Kukës Region focused on strengthening the capacity of local governments to engage communities in decision making process and local governance, and to support communitybased organizations to take leading roles in sustaining and improving the quality of life in their respective communities. UNDP programme promoted and supported the voluntary establishment of 185 community based organizations, totaling 5,122 members. It also supported the development of the leadership capacity of the members of community based organizations and local government staff, by providing them with tools and training on civic participation and organizational management; in total, 158 training sessions were held and over 3,660 people benefited from them. The series of training sessions resulted in the formulation of 21 Commune and 2 Municipal Development Plans. The programme also trained around 650 local government staff on decentralization and local governance, who later led participatory and inclusive processes for the development Commune/Municipal Development Plans.

Find out more

Please contact Vladimir Malkaj, Human Security and Local Development Cluster Manager, UNDP Albania
Phone: +355 (4) 2400 721

Year of publication: 
LenCD "Capacity: Results"
Themes and sectors: 
Decentralisation and local government
Themes and sectors: 
Public administration
Themes and sectors: 
Urban management

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