The first Annual Conference of Local Assemblies that gathered more than 150 representatives of local parliaments across Serbia was organized by the Assembly of the Autonomous Province (AP) Vojvodina and the City of Novi Sad, and supported by the Swiss Government and UNDP.
The Conference was initiated by the Assembly of the of AP Vojvodina to enable regular discussions, knowledge sharing and exchange of best practices among members of local parliaments from all over Serbia.
The Conference began with the presentation of free e-parliament software now available to all local assemblies. This digital platform, developed by UNDP and supported by the Swiss Government was recently piloted in Leskovac and Pancevo.
At the ceremonial opening, the representatives of the local assemblies were addressed by Damir Zobenica, Deputy Speaker of Assembly of Vojvodina, Milos Vucetic, Mayor of Novi Sad, Veroljub Arsic, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Serbia, and Branko Ružić, Minister of Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government.
The Head of Governance of the Swiss Cooperation Office, Sascha Muller, highlighted the Swiss Government’s support for introduction of public hearings in local assemblies’ practice. Such hearings, organized in partnership with UNDP, not only enhance the transparency of local assemblies’ work but also contribute to citizen’s voices and needs being heard, thus ensuring improved local decision-making. The importance of local assemblies is also reflected in the fact that they are involved in allocating budget funds, creating the necessary legal framework and calling the executive branch to assume responsibility, added Sascha Muller.
UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Steliana Nedera said that the role of UNDP is to connect diverse actors, ensure innovative solutions and technologies, and, together with the national and local partners, create better living conditions for all, leaving no one behind, which is the essence of the Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG progress, EU integrations and reaching national development priorities are inseparable processes, added Nedera.
During the two-day conference in Novi Sad the participants discussed in panels the importance and benefits of increased engagement of citizens in the work of assemblies, amendments to the law on local self-government and introduction of digital innovations, from e-parliaments to open data. Participants also discussed how local assemblies can contribute to SDG progress.
Prior to the conference, a hall dedicated to SDG awareness and oversight was inaugurated at the Assembly of Vojvodina Province. The new hall, which was renovated and equipped with the support of the Swiss Government, and in partnership with the Assembly of Vojvodina and UNDP, will be a place for meetings with youth, Civil society organizations, citizens, while also enabling inter-parliamentary exchange and policy dialog on SDGs.
The Conference and SDG hall opening were organized within the project “Strengthening the Oversight Function and Transparency of the Parliament” Project, supported by Switzerland and implemented by UNDP. The Project is aimed at achieving a more transparent and efficient work of the National assembly and local assemblies across Serbia.
First Annual Conference of Local Assemblies is an integral part of a series of events and activities held on the occasion of the commemoration of this year’s 73rd anniversary of the United Nations. The central theme of the anniversary is the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted by more than 150 member states, including Serbia, at the UN headquarters in New York in September 2015.
Progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals contained in the Agenda 2030, European integration and achievement of the national development priorities are inseparable processes. Thus, this event, that is being implemented through the Development Partnership Framework 2016-2020 between the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the UN Country Team in Serbia, contributes to the efforts of the Republic of Serbia in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 16, as well as the EU accession process.