The Committee aims to support local communities in their efforts to promote local development working into two basic directions.
Photo courtesy of www.kpetkov.eu
Holding Organisation: NGO "Glas" ("Voice") (initiator), Initiative Group of representatives of 8 NGOs Status: Initiative group Financing: Self-financed People involved in the project: Experts, mayors, civil society representatives, local community members Public Partners: Municipalities: Belovo, Blagoevgrad, Galabovo, Pernic, Popovo, Sofia & others; Association of Bulgarian cities and regions Private Partners: NGOs like Association "Glas", Association "Best To Be“; Belgium - Bulgarian Association BEST2B, INFRANEU, etc. Creation Date: September 6th, 2012 Sources & Links: www.kpetkov.eu; e-mail: krpetkov à abv.bg Contact Persons: Prof. Krastyo Petkov
The Committee aims to support local communities in their efforts to promote local development, working into two basic directions:
- In the area of interactions between local communities and local authorities - to regulate interactions in such a way as to achieve better balance between both sides;
- In the area of interactions between local authorities and central national authorities - to enforce decentralisation, subsidiarity and alleviate the pressure of central authorities over local authorities.
The activities of the Committee are activated in case of a specific problem and are organised voluntarily.
The inability to influence decision-making processes through a bottom-up approach is a well recognised problem in Bulgaria. This results in many conflicts and hampers local development initiatives. It is important to strengthen citizens’ control over the activities of the local and central authorities, to alleviate the excessive centralisation in the relations between national and local governments and to protect the rights of disadvantaged local groups.
The idea is to support the establishment of a new type of state, i.e. society and nation: “State of citizens and local communities”; “Society of freely organised citizens”; “Open civilian nation".
The local context
There is a retrograde trend in Bulgaria, one which is gaining strength, towards excessive centralisation in the decision-making mechanisms that affect both the relations between national and local governments, and the relations between local authorities and local communities. This is contrary to the spirit and principles of the Bulgarian Constitution and the European values and standards.
An example of this is the financial discrimination: such are the cases of funneled budget funds and programmes with European funding predominantly being granted to municipalities with mayors coming from the ruling party. Such vicious practice has been continued, to one extent or another, by several successive governments. Another example relates to the attempts of administrative removal of selected mayors from office without legitimate grounds.
As to the relations between local authorities and local communities, there are plenty of examples of ungrounded decisions that are generally against the interests of disadvantaged groups.
The starting point
Representatives of different local communities highlighted problems in the two areas outlined above, leading us to establish an Initiative committee and sign a Charter addressing two basic problems:
- The recurrence of administrative, police and court pressure imposed by the central government on majority-elected mayors of municipalities and respective municipal councils. Such cases are Popovo, Galabovo, Kuklen, Kardjali, Haskovo and other municipalities;
- A business decision supported by the Sofia municipality to close street vendors selling books in a famous market in Sofia affecting the destiny of about 20 owners of street stands, their families and dozens of suppliers and customers.
How does it work
The Committee works to defend the rights and interests of the local communities and their leaders, guided by the following principles:
- Reinstatement of the practices of financial and budget decentralisation in local government;
- Protection of the constitutional rights of the majority-elected leaders of municipalities and town councils (also ruling out any administrative removal of mayors from office without legitimate grounds);
- Encouraging all progressive forms and good European practices of local government in the regions and communities;
- Strengthening the citizens’ control over the activities of the local and central authorities;
Whilst abiding by the above principles, the Committee:
- Closely watches the development of the processes connected with the problems outlined above;
- Publicly addresses stakeholders;
- Makes their positions public and regularly informs European institutions;
- Supports media coverage of the development of different cases;
- Makes appeals to all activists and experts from the NGO sector in Bulgaria and the EU-member countries as well as to independent media and opinion-shaping leaders in the regions to give their support to our rights protection initiative; and
- Makes positions in dialogue with local communities, prepares and organises signing of petitions to protect local community interests.
Participation and governance
Participants are: Constituents of the Committee and supportive experts; Representatives of the public (municipalities, associations) and non-governmental (NGOs) sectors; Local citizens / Representatives of the civilian society; Representatives of the affected communities. The activities of the Committee are activated in case of a specific problem and are organised voluntarily. Positions and stances are prepared in active dialogue with local communities and all stakeholders. They are public and thus subject to public scrutiny.
Added value of the project
The initiative works against the narrow decisions of closed groups of decision makers. It involves local communities affected by such decisions in public debates and increases citizens' impact on policies. It uses its knowledge, expertise and networking to promote local development through strengthening the voices of local communities.
Pressure of centralised mechanisms over local communities; Absence of dialogue; Lack of reasonable decisions at the local and national level.
The path to change passes through:
- Civilian self-organisation and coordination between different persons and organisations;
- Self-organisation in horizontal civilian self-government system, without any central command centre or leader;
- Civilian self-organisation based on consent and not on democratic centralism – i.e. where the minority shall obey the controlling majority;
- Self-organisation not by means of acceptance and expulsion but by means of voluntary partnership between independent subjects.
Proposals for change
Since the activities of the Committee are activated in case of a specific problem, perhaps it is time to undertake preventative actions.
Other valuable projects
Protecting rights of home-based workers in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe: http://www.homeneteasteurope.com/