Decentralization and Local Governance:
Prospects for Reform

Project Goal
As part of this project, Centre Miko Tripalo plans to undertake a review of the functioning of local government that will result in a comprehensive and concrete reform proposal. The Centre’s experts will firstly asses the functioning of local government in three areas (territorial division, finance, local democracy and quality of local governance) on the basis of their research, as well as previously conducted analysis. Such an evaluation / assessment of the situation will be the basis for a draft reform of the above noted elements of the system, but also an occasion for opening a dialogue with local civil society organizations and local public administration about the efficiency, accountability and transparency of governance at the local level. On the basis of this document created in collaboration with local communities, the Centre will present a proposal for reform of local self-government via the media, internet and organized presentations of the proposals at the national and local levels. With the goal of improving governance at the local level, the Centre will collaborate with interested local authorities to launch a pilot project to introduce European standards of governance in selected local government units (in the spirit of greater efficiency, transparency and accountability of local public administration).

The project will consist of the following components:

  • Analysis and research of the functioning of local government (in the three above mentioned areas)

Assessment of the State of Local Democracy in Croatia

  • Drafting a report assessing the functioning of local government that will contain an initial proposal and ideas for reform
  • Organization of meetings / round tables with representatives of local authorities and NGOs to begin a dialogue about the research findings, analysis and initial proposals for reform, as well as to define possible areas for future collaboration in improving local governance
  • Finalizing a report on the functioning of governance at the local level (which will include the results of discussions with representatives of local civil society organizations and local authorities and recommendations for improvements)
  • Publication of the report in the media and on the internet and in various public forums on the local and national level
  • Pilot project for the introduction of European standards in public management in selected local government units (in cooperation with local authorities and civil society organizations)

Expected Results
In addition to creating comprehensive and practical recommendations for reform of local self-government, the long-term success of this project would be reflected in the increased responsibility of local authorities towards their own communities (in terms of implementing changes in quality of governance), greater involvement of local civil society organizations in governance and promoting a change in awareness of the local population about the need for more active participation in local politics and governance (in terms of expectations from and responsibilities of local politicians for a large part of the everyday life of their citizens).

In the spring of 2009, because of changes in election law, the citizens of the Republic of Croatia were able to elect their representatives to the executive local government directly, not through party lists, for the first time. The newly elected governors, mayors and heads of municipalities have become, more than ever, directly accountable to voters, and not as much to their party leaders and hierarchies. In theory, this change promises to encourage greater regulatory accountability, transparency and efficiency of local government, but it must happen in the perception and thinking of citizens as well, about their local representatives. Croatian citizens have a tendency to generally considered the national-level authorities responsible for most aspects of their everyday lives, while local authorities are often seen as relatively unimportant, or so saturated with local interests that any attempt to change or influence it would be futile. Local government, however, has a major impact on everyday life of its citizens, often without them fully understanding or appreciating this influence. Changes in thinking will happen slowly and probably only after the reform of the entire system of local self-government is underway, allowing for a fairer, more efficient and effective relationship between state and local governments.

In the past ten years, several major and ambitious projects proposing reforms of local government were initiated and many academic and professional articles were written diagnosing problems in the system of local government and speaking about the need for reform. Many experts proposed reforms, but significant systematic changes did not occur. Center Miko Tripalo has therefore recognized the need to undertake its own research and analysis of own and existing research resulting in an assessment of the functioning of local government (sort of a diagnosis). Furthermore, the Centre’s experts judge that the time to address the issue of accountability and democratic credentials of local government, with active participation of local civil society organizations, in order to began to systematically change the awareness of Croatian citizens about their role in improving the quality of local governance.

This project is funded with the help of