Towards Systematic and Integrated Local Development Planning and Management
Authors: Marina Dimova, ILDP Project Manager, and Adela Pozder-Čengić, MTS Project Manager
Placed within the overall complex and precarious political and socio-economic context of Bosnia and Herzegovina and facing the challenges that arise from the multi-facetted needs and scarce financial resources, in recent years local development processes have become more vivid autonomous and responsive to local needs. While local development requires a collaborative effort on the part of different governmental, non-governmental and private sector actors the key focus is placed primarily on the role and capacities of local government, which is best-positioned to use leverage and lead the implementation of local policies intended to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life.
Through its local development and local government projects acting in a complementary manner, the UNDP BiH has adopted an integrated approach to support local development in this country. This approach encompasses the entire local development cycle from planning through to the implementation of strategies, as opposed to fragmented assistance to only one stage.
Local development planning in BiH
Local governments and communities in BiH are familiar with local planning. Various strategic planning exercises have been implemented over the last ten years, through the support of the international community, and participatory strategic planning applied in many localities. However, local development strategies were mainly of an economic nature and dealt less, if at all, with other important areas of life, such as social or environmental issues. To date, more than 80% of local governments in BiH possess their own development strategies. However, the limited organisational capacity to transform these strategies into concrete projects combined with the chronic lack of financial resources has left most of them without any follow-up implementation, which would yield concrete development results.
In order to support the first stage of the local development cycle - local development planning, in 2008 the Integrated Local Development Project (ILDP), a joint initiative of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the UNDP BiH, embarked on the creation of a unified policy vision and practical approach to local development planning in BiH. A wide policy-formulation process, which incorporates the relevant state, entity, cantonal and local level institutional partners, academia and non-governmental organisations, resulted in the Policy Vision on the Guiding Principles for Local Strategic Planning in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the new Integrated Local Development Planning Methodology (MiPRO) , adopted by the entity governments in 2009. MiPRO is an instrument for proactive and accountable local development planning that rests on the principles of integration and social inclusion. It guides local planners through each step of the planning process, provides advice and tools and offers examples of good practice. MiPRO, together with its supporting material, is probably one of the most comprehensive local planning systems developed in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
What are the implications of the usage of the standardised local planning methodology in BiH? Firstly, it comes as a handy tool that unifies local planning practice country-wide. Secondly, it affirms integration of the social, economic and environmental aspects of development and ensures that no sector or the benefits that it brings to communities is left aside, whilst having a multiplier development effect. Thirdly, local strategies are linked to those of higher levels of government and therefore local priorities are embedded into the broader picture of country development while financial resources from higher levels of government are channelled to address the priorities identified within local strategies. Furthermore, this approach enables a linkage between spatial and strategic planning. Last but not least, MiPRO makes it possible to create realistic local strategies that can serve as operational development management tools, providing concrete project initiatives, clearly defined implementation timeframes, allocate responsibility for monitoring and evaluation and provide linkages to municipal budgets, as opposed to merely ending up as a forgotten document buried in a municipal draw.
In the absence of an overall legal and institutional framework to regulate the domain of strategic planning in the country, both the policy vision and the new standardised planning methodology are seen as the conceptual and methodological blueprint for socially inclusive sustainable and integrated development planning in BiH.
The newly designed local planning methodology has already been applied in practice by 23 local governments in BiH through the process of elaborating their local strategies and has resulted in the first generation of integrated strategies, which were adopted by the relevant municipal councils/assemblies in early 2011.
Some of the key challenges that arise during the process of integrated local strategic planning can be exemplified in a number of ways, for example when the linkages between local and higher government level strategies and budget processes are unarticulated, non-existent and leave a substantial policy vacuum to be filled. Strong support and commitment provided by the mayors and municipal councils/assemblies proved to be another critical and “unlocking” factor in relation to the overall success of the planning process, given the fact that they not only have a decision-making role but also are of strategic importance when setting the institutional and executive framework for strategy implementation. Experience has shown that additional effort is required when undertaking a country-wide approach, particularly where policymakers at the local level are concerned, in order to strengthen the overall institutional capacity of local government to successfully lead strategic planning processes in an integrated and inclusive manner. Partner communities have clearly demonstrated that they are both capable and enthusiastic in their willingness to engage in the process of policy-formulation. Yet, this is not a default situation and substantial time, resources and effort is required to facilitate and build trust in order to activate local communities.
Going beyond the concrete products of the planning processes that have been initiated in 23 local governments in BiH, namely the adoption of integrated local development strategies, amongst the main achievements behind the pilot application of MiPRO is the instigation of a new quality dimension to local development planning in BiH, thus enabling replicable sustainable and systematic local planning throughout the country. Furthermore, attitudes, understanding and the planning culture within local governments engaged in the project have been positively changed and transformed into a more forward-looking vision aimed at the next logical steps that will focus on the management and effective implementation of development strategies. Importantly, the principle of social inclusion has been applied in practice within policy-formulation at the local level through the creation of a social development plan within the integrated strategies, designed in cooperation with the local communities and socially excluded groups. This approach has proven useful in bringing to the fore and raising awareness on the social implications of strategic planning and in encouraging local government to devote more attention to the needs and problems of socially excluded community groups. In addition and for the first time in the practice of local development planning in BiH, the annual financial framework of local strategies has been subsumed within the municipal budgets, which has had the effect of immediately placing the local strategies into implementation modality in 2011.
The shift from strategic planning to effective strategy implementation and local development management
The practical application of integrated local development planning in BiH has brought forward the demand to look more closely at the second stage of the local development cycle - i.e., effective implementation of local strategies.
The shift towards integrated strategies in BiH implies a shift in the administrative organisation and functionality of local government. In other words, integrated strategies that encompass objectives ranging from economic to social development and environmental protection require adequate multi-sectoral municipal structures in order to ensure quality strategy implementation. Amongst a myriad of relevant aspects within this domain, the local development management function of local government is a key enabling factor for ensuring the impact of strategy implementation.
The current situation in BiH shows that the local planning function is to some extent anchored within the municipal administrations. Yet, the overall responsibility for strategy implementation is either almost non-existent or captured by the local political elite, without any adequate organisational infrastructure to enable its operation. As a result, key development management features, such as coordination and implementation of priority projects, the overall absorption capacity, the monitoring and evaluation of results and the continuous realisation of a development strategy, remain unaccomplished.
The response to these needs was jointly conceived by the ILDP and the Municipal Training System (MTS) Project, a UNDP managed initiative funded primarily by the Swedish International Development Agency, with the aim of instituting a sustainable model for the capacity development of local government employees in BiH. Through the MTS Project the Local Government Training System in BiH is being institutionalised in order to serve local government in it endeavour to strengthen its capacities and create more professional accountable local development management and service delivery.
An innovative concept for local development management in BiH was first designed and then transformed into a practical training course for local government leadership and practitioners. The concept rests on the idea that successful local development management requires, above all, committed leadership and an adequately anchored local development unit capable of taking the operational lead in the overall coordination and implementation of a strategy’s priority projects. This implies the need for professionals equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to efficiently deal with the growing complexity of territorial, economic and social development aspects within a given locality.
By the end of the first quarter of 2011, local development management training had been successfully delivered to more than 290 representatives from 57 local governments in BiH. As a pioneering vision of modern and effective management for local development processes the training outlines the critical factors for successful implementation of local strategies, provides practical models, minimum structures, functions and organisational arrangements for the operational management of local development and offers guidance on the main tasks in the strategy implementation process. Ultimately, the training course offers all necessary practical aspects, which together enable the establishment of the local development management function within local government. The visionary model for local development management, coupled with some technical assistance provided through pilots to several local governments, has started to materialise and transform into practical administrative solutions at the local level. For example, as a result of these efforts, some 12 local governments in BiH are in the process of revising their systematic and organisational set-up and establishing Local Development Management Units to handle their local strategy implementation. These newly formed units are usually comprised of core members from the Municipal Local Planning Teams, those that led the elaboration of the strategies. Local Development Management Units use the Annual Strategy Implementation Plan as a framework for their work and ensure that all projects that are to be supported by municipal budgets and or external sources are aligned with planned priority activities.
These first achievements have paved the way for the systematic and replicable application of innovative integrated local development management country-wide.
The future: measuring local development policy delivery
The third stage within the local development cycle – evaluation of policies and next strategy formulation – arrives as the next point on the horizon. Evidence-based practices accumulated during the first two stages of the local development cycle will certainly help local government to effectively evaluate the effects of strategies and to revise their strategic direction by applying a sustainable and integrated approach towards development. Such actions will enable local government to accurately assess achievements against development objectives and help them move progressively towards social and economic advancement for the benefits of citizens.
Local strategic planning in BiH has progressed conceptually and operationally over the past 2 years and has evolved from a rather ad-hoc effort to a unified approach towards strategising at the local level, abreast of European Union principles.
The transition from strategic planning to strategy implementation was achieved via the innovative concept of local development management, which sets the framework and offers the tools for the establishment of the local development management function.
In order to effectively sustain such an approach and transform it into a country-wide practice further efforts are needed to achieve a critical mass of local governments in BiH that embrace the idea. In this light, the role and support of higher levels of government as well as the Associations of Municipalities and Cities is of crucial importance. Such an endeavour will directly translate into strengthened project development and administrative absorption capacities and thus lead to the realisation of concrete priorities aimed at enabling employment, agriculture and rural development, improved public infrastructure and quality of service delivery, a favourable business environment and a better quality of life for the citizens of BiH.
Internet referenca: http://www.swiss-cooperation.admin.ch/bosniaandherzegovina/en/Home/Projects/Rule_of_Law_and_Democracy/Integrated_Local_Development_Project_ILDP
Internet referenca: http://www.undp.ba/index.aspx?PID=36&RID=92