Toolkit of GOOD PRACTICES on Citizen Participation!


Civil District Council


Country: Bulgaria

Context

The idea of ​​creating a Civil District Council in the Vladislav Varnenchik district, Varna municipality emerged during the election campaign in 2007 when it was officially proposed by the district’s mayor.
Initially a survey was conducted among the local residents and the first report was presented for the period of September – October 2007, showing unequivocally that this is an original local idea that has to be developed in time.
The main factors and circumstances that should be considered in the practical realization of this project are as follows:
Firstly, there were many unresolved issues in administrative services, leading to misunderstandings and waste of time and of financial resources.
Secondly, there was an issue of ambiguity in the majority of the inhabitants regarding the district’s development in the short and long terms. Only few people knew what was being done, who was doing it and why. This sometimes led to misunderstandings on the actual performance of both the District Administration and the Municipality of Varna.
Thirdly, there were constantly increasing requirements and duties arising from Bulgaria’s EU membership application. Administrative operations had to be fully compliant with European standards within two years.
Last but not least, people had the willingness to react appropriately and to demonstrate they appreciated the concern shown towards them.

Measure

The main goal was that the Civil District Council appeared as the first significant step towards local civil society development in its two main dimensions - effective civic control and active citizenship.
The Civil District Council is intended as a consultative and advisory body set up on a voluntary basis and working with the mayor's administration for the practical realization of the idea, "I know I can and want to manage things together."

The purpose of the Council’s activities are:
To ensure transparency in the Mayor's administration activities and to assist in improving the knowledge of citizens about what is happening in the area
To lessen the time for solving social issues
To act as a moderator between the mayor’s work and the administration
To use expertise and statements
To initiate and assist in the common organization of surveys, polls and local referendums
To assist the district’s administration in making and defending statements before the mayor and the City Council in Varna.

The Civil District Council consists of the following group representatives:
Prominent individuals, experts, representatives of NGOs and household managers in the area;
Representatives of local state and municipal institutions and owners / managers of private companies
Some mayor candidates

The Council’s activities are planned, organized and directed by the Secretary of the Board. In case of need of temporary and subsequently permanent committees on specific issues and trends can be created accordingly.

Target Group

The Civil District Council is represented by people and residents specifically related with the district’s environment and the target group are the local population and the businesses active in the area.

Methodology

The Council plenary is the supreme body where the all decisions are taken by a simple majority. The Council’s decisions are recommendatory in nature for the mayor which does not annul their obligation to promptly make a stance on problems before the Civil Council. The Council is working on quarterly action plans and in case of necessity on operational ones, too. The Civil Board holds its sessions once a month and when needed additional sessions are carried out. Council sessions can be open or closed and the decision is made on a previous session or by the secretary as agreed with the mayor. Each session is attended by the District’s mayor and in the event of their absence, by an authorized person / deputy mayor or secretary of the district. The adopted decisions are announced in writing - at the local City Hall and the cultural centre and, where possible, in the local media. The secretary of the board prepares and makes three-month public reports. The latter has the authority to recommend the mayor's the acceptance or the rejection of a Council’s decision and makes concrete proposals on specific issues. The Civil District Council works voluntarily for public benefit. The premises of the cultural centre and the municipal building are used for meetings, events and specific activities of the Council. Funding is ensured through the membership fees according to Bulgarian law.

Stakeholders

The Civil District Council has been inaugurated by the district’s mayor and his role is extremely important for the actual implementation of taken decisions. The participating experts, specialists and NGO representatives can contribute by proposing solutions and also to the practical implementation, for instance for the provision of the necessary equipment for construction, restoration and repair activities. They can also contribute to involve other residents who can benefit from the results. Household managers are also very important actors for the dissemination of the information and gathering of information on feedback, attitudes and personal opinions. They provide the real connection between the local authority and the residents.

Assessment

The Civil District Council has been officially registered as an NGO and is currently implementing activities of public benefit to the local community. It is provided with national and international funding opportunities. So far, a number of specific activities have been implemented that led to the improvement of the living environment and neighborhood. A charity campaign has been organized to support the reconstruction of the local church and the majority of the residents participated in it. A public fundraising campaign was launched in 2011 for supporting specific projects and initiatives with the active participation of the local population. In Spring 2011 a new energy-efficient street lighting was installed in the residential areas with the financial support of the municipality.

Impact

Some of the specific decisions taken by the Civil District Council having direct impact on the target groups can be summarized as follows:
The Civil District Council has been officially registered according to the Bulgarian law on non-profit association and it can thus benefit from funding opportunities provided nationally or internationally.
The District’s mayor initiated a charity campaign to support the re-construction of the local church.
Municipal councilors are invited to the Civil Council meeting to get acquainted with the local problems and to support in finding solutions.
In 2011 a public fund for Varna residents was launched by the Civil District Council as part of the municipal campaign for financing projects of particular importance for the area. The specific initiative consist in the partnership between the local authority, citizens and business to build new sport facilities in the residential area.
In Spring 2011 a new energy-efficient street lighting was installed in the residential areas with the financial support of the municipality.
Some specific activities are related with the renovation of the sport stadium in the district until the end of the year and with the reestablishment of the former youth football club in the Vladislavovo district. An ambitious project of the municipal district administration is the green grassing of the park and renovation of the neighboring sport hall in the following year.

Swot

1. Strengths (characteristics of the measure that give it an advantage over others):
Personal attitude and active involvement of the District’s mayor in the Council establishment
Active participation of the local residents since the very beginning and initiation of activities aimed to improve the local environment
Realization of a number of activities, campaigns and projects with local importance
Involvement of a variety of stakeholders, i.e. the local authority, businesses, NGO representatives etc.
 2. Weaknesses (characteristics that place the measure at a disadvantage relative to others)
Not so high level of support from the local authority and the local government
Difficulties in fundraising and implementing charity campaigns
Lack of funding for realization of specific local initiatives coming from the residents
 3. Opportunities (elements that the measure could exploit to its advantage):
Increasing the communication and relations between the district administration and the local authority so that more councilors are involved in such initiatives
Searching for additional funding through public, private and public-private partnerships
Increasing the number of members of the Council through involvement of more residents in the implementation of additional activities
4. Threats (elements in the environment that could cause trouble to the measure):
Lack of support from the local authority to public initiatives
Lack of necessary resources incl. financing of actions and projects
Unwillingness of the local residents to take part in the activities

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