The sustainable development of the three largest municipalities in Bulgaria, i.e. Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna, has not been accompanied by an efficient structure of local self-governance that enables citizens to participate in the process of policy making and implementation. The governance of these municipalities does not ensure in practice the necessary conditions for citizens to take part efficiently in solving issues of local interest and being provided with public services that take into account the specificity and requirements of the local context of a large city. The main goal of the project is to create an environment for identification and provision of opportunities for active participation of citizens and their organizations in the process of policy making and implementation in Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. The project envisages the carrying out of surveys to identify the problem areas related to involvement of citizens in policy making and implementation in cities with division into districts as well as good practices related to participation of citizens of European cities with similar division. The findings from the surveys will be used in proposals for legislative changes that will be discussed broadly by experts and the public and then submitted for approval to the relevant institutions at central level. The main project outcomes will be: surveys of the changes needed, drafted proposals and recommendations for legislative changes and a campaign to support the latter changes. The target groups are the structures of the civil society and businesses, interested in improving the quality of life through participation in the process of policy making and implementation in municipalities with division into districts.
Summary of project results
The main goal of the project was to create an environment for identifying and providing opportunities for active participation of citizens and their organizations in the process of forming and implementing policies in Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. In the pursuit of the project goal, the following activities were carried out:
- two significant studies to support decision-making, the formulation of public policies and debate, as well as consultation and discussion held to validate the findings;
- a forum-process was held (the methodology used was based on the "Public Forum" model), consisting of 9 structured public discussions held in the 3 cities with district divisions, as well as a public campaign implemented (within 3 round tables and a national conference) to support legislative changes creating conditions for active civic participation in the municipalities with district division, which received support for the proposed legislative changes.
Indicators of the positive impact of the project also represent the results that arose as an effect/resonance from the implemented activities, which can be summarized as follows:
- Demonstrated influence on the way of decision-making in the field of policies in cities with district division;
- The created conditions for positive legislative changes, in order to promote civil participation in the formation and implementation of local policies in municipalities with district division;
- Increased capacity of civil organizations to participate in determining local priorities;
- The inclusion of civil society structures with pressure for changes as an impact factor to make the improvement process effective and successful;
- An incentive was created to increase the initiatives of local authorities in which citizens and civil organizations take part;
- Additional incentives for the implementation of more good governance practices.
The proposed legislative and institutional changes are a good basis for further development of the process of democratization in the governance of cities with district division; 2) Partnerships created during the project will contribute to mutual understanding and facilitation of the process of civic participation; 3) An additional positive impact will be the increased capacity of stakeholders.