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Regional Governance Workshop

Skopje 15 - 17 March 2016


Programme (draft) 

The SDC Western Balkans Division organizes annually a Regional Governance Seminar to provide thematic inputs and promote learning and exchange amongst Western Balkan Division staff and selected partners. This year's seminar focuses on the topics i) Interface of governance and fragility – implications for governance portfolio development and ii) Regional development to empower municipalities.

For a comprehensive multi-media documentation of the Seminar's findings and learning click on the image below!


Regional Governance Workshop Skopje 15.-17. March 2016

Documentation and Conclusions by the WBA management

Workshop programme and List of expert participants




- Module 2: Different concepts of fragility and their link to state building, peacebuilding, democracy and good governance

   Presentations: Interface between Governance and Fragility,Fragility in Macedonia

- Module 3: What has really worked “out of fragility”?

   Document: Draft interview Guide

- Module 4: Assessing the theory of change and the relevance of out of fragility of three governance case examples.

   Documents: Group Work Guide - Case studies 1 ; Group Work Guide - Case studies 2 ; Group Work Guide - Case studies 3 ; Factsheet Notary Phase III ; Factsheet ILDP II ; SAEK II Factsheet

Findings Case Study "Dialogue and Trust Building" as a contribution to out of fragility (inspired by an approach from BiH at local level):

  • It is important to generate clarity about the different concepts: -> Social inclusion, fragility, dividers and connectors are concepts all related to each other;
  • Not all dividers lead to fragility;
  • It is also important to in-depth research what really are the divisive elements: is it divides between different ethnic communities? Or the divide between communities and government? -> It may be a wise approach to try to address all potential dividers rather than to underestimate an important divider;
  • SDC's goal is a "legitimate State" -> this goal may be additional to or combined with the more specific goals/objectives of projects supported by SDC;
  • It can be challenging to separate causes versus consequences of fragility; Consequences may further drive fragility;
  • The approach in the BiH portfolio working on local level primarily builds on the concept of social inclusion as part of state building process: a legitimate state for all, with accountable state-citizen relations;
  • The working group concluded that the approach is a relevant contribution to out of fragility;

Findings Case Study "Notary as an alternative access to judiciary" as a contribution to out of fragility (inspired by an approach from Kosovo):

  • Before, the transactions now legalized by notaries have of course also taken place, but in an informal way; the formalization of transactions of land, property etc. can add to transparency, reduces conflict potentials and adds to trust.
  • Particularly women benefit from the legalization of property ownership, as the informal system favored men; the formally established ownership of land and property also by women contributes to a reduction of the social and economic exclusion of women from society;
  • Though notary services do cost, they are quite affordable and therefore accessible (inclusive) to many citizens;
  • Notary reform monitoring is now a part of the EU annual progress monitoring, contributing to political pressure to maintain/continue the reform in a transparent way; However there remains the challenge to keep the quality of services high and notaries to remain impartial -> crucial to maintain the trust of citizens into the notary system;
  • The notary reform is complementary to the large and challenging judiciary reform (which would be a very important contribution to out of fragility); however the working group was wondering if labelling support towards the Notary reform as "a niche" is adequate? The term "niche" may be understating the results both in relation to rule of law, democratization and out of fragility.


Findings Case Study Raising public attention towards "Anti Corruption in the Health Sector" as a contribution to out of fragility (inspired by an approach from Kosovo):

  • If citizens are aware that measures against corruption are taken, this may increase their trust into public institutions and services;
  • If institutions deliver more appropriate services they are perceived more legitimate by citizens; It is however important that the fight against corruption in health is not reduced to a "doctor bashing" as for them demanding out of pocket contributions (what in fact is corruption) is also a (somehow legitimate) survival strategy, in an overall corrupted system;
  • However, as citizens are so used to corruption in the health system, and have many coping strategies, a increase or decrease in corruption in the health sector will not automatically also lead to an increase or decrease in fragility (this reflection related to  Serbia where there is a health system with a public health insurance in place); in other contexts where the health system is very bad, the non-access to life saving health services greatly adds to fragility, as it adds to permanent stress of almost all citizens (this reflection related to contexts like Kosovo, where the health sector is very poor);
  • Raising public attention towards corruption in the health sector contributes to out of fragility to some degree, a real out of fragility contribution would however require large scale and (some of them) costly additional efforts, e.g.
    • Continuous political pressure by citizens for health reforms by publicly embarrassing health policy makers with their failures (e.g. children not receiving life-saving treatments) in an organized way, e.g. through powerful patient associations;
    • Merit based recruitment and promotion system in health;
    • A working health insurance system to assure the financing of larger investments necessary for quality services on the one hand, and inclusive service delivery to all, independent of their financial means on the other hand;




- Module B: The Rational for Regional Development

   Document: Conference paper - Peter Heil

- Module C:  Regional Development and the local government and practitioner's perspective

   Document: Interview Structure for Module C

- Module D: Findings from the assessments on RD made by all five SCOs for their respective countries

   Document: Findings from the Assessments on RD ; Questions for RD panel discussion Biljar

- Module E: The way forward in RD, adapted to the specific contexts

   Document: Guide for RD Working Groups in Country Teams

      • PLEASE SEE Peter Heil's Conference Paper attached for a summary with major conclusions! It is excellent!
      • Every country and the world is a build-up of (functional area based) regions; their diversity is an asset: every region has a (unused) potential for development;
      • Convergence in income EU wide is not the objective of the cohesion policy, but reduction of disparity to acceptable levels; the EU cohesion policy has been effective on that objective -> see maps in PPP Peter Heil;
      • Cohesion policy is based on solidarity as Peter formulated it, or non-egoistic behaviour of the richer regions, as one of the Macedonian mayors explained it. Some of the new member countries greatly benefitted from cohesion but are not perceived to challenge solidarity by their attitude towards the refugee crisis; this may or may not impact negatively on the future availability of cohesion funding.
      • Regional identity is limited in many new member or candidate countries. Identities however can develop along good RD/cohesion programs. A constitutionally backed up regional government/institution with political legitimacy has proven to help drive effective RD. All successful economies in Europe are politically fairly decentralised.
      • The key instrument promoted by the EU in RD are "integrated investment measures" combining all available means and instruments for well-defined RD objectives in a dynamic planning process -> this is a governance/public planning and monitoring challenge; one of the Macedonian mayors also stressed the importance of predictability for investors beyond the electoral term of a government.
      • Good RD strategies include a budget, a responsible agency, a timeline, and a monitoring/reporting system; all candidate countries have IPA 2020 planning and local economic development strategies, that can be used as the basis for RD strategies (rather than develop new ones);
      • There are NO mandatory structures or institutions (ie. RDAs are as such optional) for IPA/cohesion funding eligibility except the auditor;
      • Let's stand for values: Regional Development/cohesion does not work without a bottom up philosophy. The European Code of Conduct on Partnership (Commission Regulation) in RD can be used for a principle based approach towards participative RD with a relevant role of local governments and other sub national stakeholders;
      • Local government can have direct access to IPA RD funding, however experience showed that this resulted only from a proactive approach of local governments, who developed their own ideas (rather than to wait for a respective central government decision) and subsequently managed to convince both central government and the EC;
      • Cross party concensus on RD/cohesion is essential for sustainability;
      • Staff turnover in RD/cohesion policy units has tended to be lower than in other sectors of the public administration, as staff could see that these policies really matter for a country; a retention policy may still be important for good IPA/cohesion funding absorption rates;
      • Use (good) public statements (related to RD) of important stakeholders as benchmarks for political commitment and monitoring of progress;
      • New member countries benefit from 2-3% of GDP in cohesion funding. Similar size of cohesion funding can still be expected for future member countries. This figure can also be used to compare against current domestic funding levels of regional development (ie. 1% of GDP for RD in Macedonia, according to the law);




- Module 1: Non-merit based recruitment and promotion system in public sector – what could be ways out of the vicious circle?

   Presentations: Support to Public Administration Reform in Albania ; Effects on Municipal Capacity Development


  • Clientelism, that leads to the political appointment of unqualified staff, is devastating to the performance of the public sector, and undermines international (reform) support; the studies acknowledge the large scale of the problem;
  • Peformance based budget support may be a suitable donor response in clientelism prone contexts; in PBBS, a merit based human resource recruitment and promotion system may be a suitable performance indicator, also fitting with the machine room indicator criteria as recommended by Jesper Steffenson (RGS Pristina, 2015);

- Module 3: Cost Effectiveness and Cost Benefit Case Studies

  Presentations: Empowering Municipal Council Macedonia ; SDC inputs on SAEK ; Case studies costs effectiveness benefits

The discussion about the three examples led to the following key elements in the practical application of economic assessments:

  • Be explicit in your statements, including about the assumptions you made for the estimates; it increases plausibility and helps to sharpen the project logic
  • Choose specific and relevant parts within the project (e.g. interventions or outcomes) for C/E or C/B analysis, and don't expect to cover all in one C/E or C/B figure.
  • Ensure the link to the monitoring/tracking of the cost-effectiveness / cost-benefit dimension to be in a position to later on confirm or correct your estimate, e.g. in the annual reports or the end of phase reports;
  • Think early about CE/CB and reflect on it already in the tender document by inviting the bidder's proposals;
  • The Credit Proposal serves as starting thesis and therefore shall be pragmatic but plausible and as said above, explicit;
  • Monitoring and End of Phasereport serve to track and confirm the thesis made in the CP
  • Stick to conservative estimates, it's easier to be credible, or include a sensitivity analysis

- Module 4: Conclusions and strategic guidance by the WBA Division management

On governance reform as a contribution to out of fragility (day 1)

  • It was confirmed that fragility corresponds with a lack of good governance. The state building goals (in response to fragility) therefor reach out to the six good governance principles and vice versa;
  • Fragility is a universal concept/feature applying to any context, including topics and processes in Switzerland. The SCOs in Albania and Serbia may therefore prepare to address fragility in their new cooperation strategies in a meaningful way, too (though fragility in these two countries is perceived less developed than in Kosovo, Macedonia and BiH);
  • The WBA management feels that the divisions' approach to dealing with fragility in and through the governance portfolio is adequate, but reflections need to continue, i.e.
    • Continue Political Economy analysis in regular context analysis and monitoring; as the nature of fragility, and on how it can and needs to be addressed, emerges from a thorough context analysis;
    • Consider the concepts of Social inclusion, fragility, good governance and PEA as complementary tools that help to identify similar challenges and solutions by approaching them from different perspectives;
    • Be explicit about fragility and our response (including using fragility related language and terms) in prodocs, credit proposals, cooperation strategies and with partners. Adopt a more politically aware discourse, i.e. by acknowledging both in analysis and intervention strategy that development problems pertain for reasons of interest, power and exclusion primarily, and only secondarily for the lack of resources and/or capacities.

Note: these findings are in line with CHR focal point who concluded on the occasion of the fragility workshops for the new CS in BiH, Kosovo and Macedonia that "Bad governance is a symptom of fragility and governance programs are means to reduction of fragility. The more fragile a country is, the closer governance and fragility reduction will get."

On Regional Development to Empower Municipalities (day 2)

  • It was re-assuring for the WBA management that the EU policy on Reginal Development (Cohesion) corresponds with a territorial (functional area) approach and is strongly result oriented. It corresponds with the Swiss approach towards Regional Development;
  • The learnings of the workshop should inspire amendments (rather than enlargements) to our current RD portfolio e.g. on the vision building (what is the purpose of RD?) and the essential role of other than the public sector in RD, such as the civil society and the private sector (i.e. aligning with the partnership obligation of the EU – see The European Code of Conduct on Partnership link with the Module B documentation above). A more inclusive RD process may also contribute to "out of fragility".
  • Monitoring and reporting on governance outcomes is important to legitimize that the WBAs' RD portfolio is funded through the governance budget line (and not through the E&I budget line, which would also be an option);

Merit based recruitment and promotion/Public Sector Reform PAR (day 3 discussion)

  • SCOs are encouraged to consider support to PAR (i.e. with a focus on sub-national level) as an option in their new Cooperation Strategies; Support towards PAR might be particularly interesting as it is a comprehensive reform involving many stakeholders and many governance reforms at the same time, necessary to e.g. address corruption and nepotism in the public sector.

Cost Benefit and Cost Effectiveness

  • It is visible that a remarkable progress in the SCO's capacities to assess C/B and C/E has been made over the past four years when the topic was first treated in a combined session of the Regional CFA and Governance Seminar in Sarajevo. Statements are better substantiated and can in some cases even build on past experiences and analyses which add significance.
  • We need answers to the entirely legitimate, but at times critical questions from Swiss politicians and tax payers as well as from our partner countries if the resources we invest are worth the results achieved.
  • In that light, it is better to have an approximate and plausible estimate than no answer at all; something is better than nothing.
  • SDC will continue to demand for economic assessments (cost benefit, cost effectiveness) in credit proposals, Annual Reports and end of phase reports;

WBA Regional Governance Seminars

  • The approach towards knowledge generation and management based on a rolling planning (i.e. in the identification of topics for the RGS) was effective.
  • The quality of the governance portfolio has increased over the last nine years generally, and over the last five years related to the topics treated in the regional governance seminars. It is important that SDC no longer expects associations and municipalities to "function like projects" but increasingly supports them with institutional support or performance based budget support in their own public management cycle; from a democracy promotion perspective it is important that SDC no longer exclusively works with (municipal) executives, but also legislatives; etc.
  • The WBA division contributed substantially to the (normative) governance policy papers of SDC;
  • Consider Public Administration Reform – what is it about, and what potentials for support by/cooperation with SDC are there as a topic for a future Regional Governance Seminar. There is a strong link between clientelism in the public sector and the role of political parties influence on the public sector; these two topics may be treated commonly. Political parties as stakeholders in the democratisation process, and possibilities to support change processes in political parties have also been recent topics treated by the DDLG network;







 Key Reading Documents