Moving Forward in the South and South West Serbia28 March 2014, Graeme Tyndall
It has been almost four years when a small enthusiastic, committed and knowledgeable team of domestic experts started to work on the implementation of an ambitious and a wide ranging development Programme in 25 municipalities in the South and South West Serbia. Although a bit more time will pass before we can fully measure and understand the impact of what has been achieved, just recently, one of our colleagues said: “EU PROGRES did something real in those municipalities.” And after many years working in development and project management of some less successful programmes, I dare say I agree.
Since mid 2010, EU PROGRES, with the financial support of the European Union, the Swiss and local and national governments, provided grants and technical assistance to local self-governments to implement 250 sub-projects. The work on capacity development of colleagues in municipalities, infrastructure projects, technical and planning documentation and improvements of local government services has been the core of this Programme. But we also supported our partners to implement dozens of small projects for the benefit of vulnerable populations. In implementation of the entire Programme we ensured to respect good governance principles and gender equality.
I am sure you will agree that effects are much more important than the number of projects. EU PROGRES enabled employment of 300 people. It complemented efforts of the national and local governments to attract several key commercial investments into the area. Using the technical designs developed with Programme’s support, the municipalities already secured funds for implementation of projects. Our initiatives contributed to better public services in education, health and communal affairs… and much more. When I met people with disabilities who got their first jobs thanks to EU PROGRES’ projects, when I witnessed the change in the quality of life of Roma families who got tap water in their homes, or when I learned that there were no waiting lists for enrolment of children in a kindergarten, when children attended school during harsh winter as their classrooms were finally warm thanks to a new heating system, I believe we did a good job together.
None of this would have been possible without strong partnerships: with the Government of Serbia and its ministerial representatives on the Steering Committee chaired and led by the European Integration Office which provided strong guidelines throughout Programme implementation; with the donors, the European Union and the Government of Switzerland, which in addition to providing funding remained supportive until the last day of the Programme; and above of all, with our partners in the field - local governments, civil society organisations, development practitioners or ordinary citizens.
I think we achieved what we wanted. We did it together. It was a privilege to be a part of this Programme.
EU PROGRES Programme Manager