Macedonia has had a long, challenging journey from a successor state of the former Yugoslavia to a free-market democracy striving for membership in the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In 1989, the U.S. Congress passed the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act, which authorized financial support for the people of Central and Eastern Europe who had made a firm commitment to democracy and the market economy. USAID administered SEED funds in close coordination with other relevant U.S. government agencies.
Starting in 1993, USAID opened its mission in support of Macedonia's transition to a democracy and free-market economy. Since then it has provided about $530 million in assistance to Macedonia, implementing a comprehensive program that has supported rule of law and democratic reform, sound economic policy, and regional stability in partnership with the people of Macedonia.
Early assistance to the country focused on strengthening the foundations of a free-market economy. USAID sought to stimulate development of small and medium-sized businesses crucial to the market transition through labor redeployment, improved credit availability and reforms of the legal and regulatory environment.
USAID also worked to strengthen the institutions underlying Macedonia's fledgling democracy, including development of bottom-up mechanisms that provide the means for people to have input on public policy issues.
USAID’s democracy assistance supported Macedonia's implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which brought the 2001 ethnic conflict to an end, by helping to enact the legal framework for decentralization, supporting peaceful and fair parliamentary elections, and facilitating an accurate and widely accepted national census. As the country has moved forward, USAID’s assistance has focused increasingly on helping Macedonia to prepare for EU and NATO accession.
To promote economic growth, USAID has worked on the macroeconomic level to improve the business environment and investment policy, while assisting industry sectors to increase their competitiveness and productivity.
To support both democratic governance and economic growth, USAID has implemented programs to address issues in all levels of the education system, with a particular focus on helping the Macedonian educational system to provide the technical knowledge, creativity, and soft skills necessary for youth to successfully enter the workforce, while reinforcing the appreciation for diversity that underpins a stable democracy in a multi-ethnic society.
USAID assistance to Macedonia has been built on three broad goals:
- Fostering a competitive market economy led by the private sector,
- Supporting the transition to transparent and accountable governance and empowering citizens through democratic structures and processes, and
- Strengthening the education system so students gain core skills needed for employment.
Although its programs have changed considerably over time, the USAID commitment to the basic foundations of democracy and free markets has not wavered. USAID made significant contributions to support civil society, effective local governments, independent media, rule of law, free-market systems, and sustainable private enterprise growth.
Today, USAID's assistance focuses on:
- Deepening support for civil society and good governance,
- Spanning the gap between labor supply and demand through coordinated workforce development interventions,
- Supporting the Macedonian government's interethnic education efforts,
- Fortifying implementation of enabling business legislation, and
- Expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.
USAID's activities in Macedonia are building on the foundations constructed since 1993. Local NGOs in all sectors -- nurtured and sustained with USAID assistance -- have been empowered to lead new initiatives in activities ranging from Roma education to microfinance. Underscoring the importance of these organizations, 12percent of USAID's 2012 program budget is implemented directly by local NGOs, up from only 2 percent in 2010. That percentage is expected to increase to 39 percent in 2013.
Some 20 years since its independence, Macedonia has made enormous progress in its transition from a communist economic system to a modern democracy; USAID has been a steadfast and committed partner in this process. As Macedonia moves closer to EU accession, USAID expects to phase out funding.
Last updated: November 29, 2013