In Georgia, USAID Promoting Transparent and Accountable Local Governance

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Transparency.  Accountability.  Responsiveness.  Civic Participation.

These are all key pillars of USAID’s newly-announced 2020-2025 development strategy for Georgia.  The strategy emphasizes support for citizen-centered governance that is transparent and accountable at all levels, from national institutions to local government in the smallest, most remote communities.

Robust local governance, where citizens play an active role in shaping how their communities are governed, is crucial for any country to build a stronger democracy where elected officials earn the trust of the people they represent.  USAID is promoting stronger local governance in Georgia by supporting its participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an initiative that promotes transparent and accountable governance in countries around the world.

To help Georgia meet its commitments under the OGP’s local governance component, USAID is partnering with local governments in five municipalities (Akhaltsikhe, Batumi, Kutaisi, Lanchkhuti, and Ambrolauri) to help citizens have a say in the development of their communities by providing direct input into how some of their taxes are spent.

USAID’s Good Governance Initiative recently worked with local authorities in these cities to launch online platforms empowering citizens to directly participate in the municipal budgeting process. Residents use the platforms to propose public projects they want to see funded and implemented, and to vote on proposals submitted by others.

This is what we call “participatory budgeting,” and it represents democracy in action - allowing citizens to directly influence government policies about the issues that matter in their communities.  In the long term, it increases public confidence in the democratic process, building bridges, and trust, between elected officials and the people they serve.

So far, several projects have already made it from the proposal to the implementation phase.  In Batumi, one group of residents received funding to hold the city’s first-ever Kite Festival, which was so successful it has become an annual event.  Another citizen-proposed project, a citywide outdoor basketball tournament, will promote a healthy lifestyle among the city’s residents.  In fact, the participatory budgeting process has become so popular in Batumi that the local government increased the budget fourfold, with additional projects to be implemented in 2021.  Meanwhile, in Akhaltsikhe, participatory budgeting has already resulted in a citywide greening activity that has made the community more liveable.

In some cities, including Kutaisi, the process is still underway, with project proposals being submitted by local citizens from all walks of life – teachers, students, business owners, persons with disabilities, civil society representatives – anyone with an interest in the future of their community. In other cities, the voting process has finished and winning projects are being identified (Akhaltsikhe, Ambrolauri and Lanchkhuti).  By participating in these activities, citizens engage directly in the local democratic processes that govern their communities.

Maka Kachkachishvili, a civic education teacher in Kutaisi, was proud to participate in the participatory budgeting process.  She also used it as an opportunity to teach her students about their civic responsibility.

“Citizen engagement plays an important role in the development of a city and a country. I am really happy that Kutaisi is already implementing participatory budgeting,” said Maka.

“I am a civic education teacher and my pupils already know that they can submit their ideas to the City Hall and help shape their community’s future.  I address my colleagues in the teaching profession, especially civic education teachers, to encourage their pupils to get engaged in participatory budgeting and contribute their ideas for improving our city.”

Municipal budgeting is just one way that USAID is promoting transparent and accountable governance in Georgia’s regions.  USAID’s Good Governance Initiative is working with local officials in six other cities (Gori, Lagodekhi, Ozurgeti, Senaki, Telavi, and Zugdidi) to develop open data management practices, an important step toward more transparent local government.

 

 

Last updated: November 27, 2020

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