The new Local Democracy Agency Armenia will open on 28th of October in Gyumri. It is the second LDA in the South Caucasus area and the thirteenth LDA opened by the Association of Local Democracy Agencies (ALDA) with the support of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
“Decentralisation of power and the development of administrative capacities at the local level, together with a capable and vivid civil society, represent a fundamental step in the process of democratisation, stability and development of Armenia”, says ALDA President, Per Vinther.
On occasion of the official opening ceremony, ALDA organises a conference to gather Local Authorities, NGOs, citizens, and international representatives that are actively involved in local governance issues to discuss and learn about best practices of involving citizens in public life. The opening conference will take place in the City Hall of Gyumri and will be also be part of the European Week of Local Democracy.
In an effort to support the process of democratisation, stability and development of Armenia ALDA and the Congress decided to establish the Local Democracy Agency in the country. The opening plan has been developing since 2008.
It is a long term project and it will utilise the expertise of ALDA and the other LDAs and the network, which gather about 160 members, including Local Authorities, Associations of Local Authorities and non-governmental organisations, coming from more than 30 countries.
Partners of LDA Armenia will come from three countries: the Rhône-Alpes Region (France), the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region (Italy), the International Committee For The Development of Peoples CISP (Italy), the Union of Communities of Armenia, the Urban Foundation for Sustainable Development (Armenia), the Journalists’ Club Asparez (Armenia), and the Armenian Municipalities of Gyumri, the host city, and Ijevan. The role of the international partners will be to provide core financial support, participate in activities where they have the skills and capacities, to encourage their own partners to participate in the work of the LDA and to promote the work of the LDA in their own community and encourage wider participation.
Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia, situated in the North of the country and has been selected as host since it will provide a good basis to allow the LDA to work on a national level.
The Municipality of Gyumri provides an office and rooms for the LDA in a building which already hosts other public associations and NGOs in Gyumri. “Furthermore the vibrant civil society in Gyumri and the possibilities to improve the situation for cooperation between civil society and local authorities are also very important factors”, stresses President Per Vinther. “In addition”, says Mr Vinther, “Gyumri is also twinned with the Georgian city Kutaisi which provides a strong basis for developing the cooperation between both cities”.
The first LDA in the Caucasus is based in Kutaisi, Georgia since the year 2006.
The LDA will facilitate the participation of civil society in the decision-making process at the local level, increase the interest, awareness and capacities of citizens to take part in the decision-making process at the local level and increase the awareness and skills of the local communities and local authorities to address the needs of their citizens. So a practical exercise of policy sharing between citizens and local authorities should also be facilitated. The LDA will support capacity building of civil society and local authorities and it will implement its activities at the local level with trainings, study visits and other participative methods.
Acting as a promoter of democracy and local self-government, the Local Democracy Agency will also promote human rights and sustainable development. The realisation of all objectives will be reached by implementing projects with local authorities and NGOs using the international partners support. The LDA will aim to serve as a bridge between Europe and Armenia and will bring Armenian practice to Europe and European experience to Armenia.
Finally the LDA will also work to ensure cross border cooperation in South Caucasus and will work to promote peace and understanding in the South Caucasus region. “There are plans to set up an LDA in Azerbaijan in the near future as well. So the LDA in Armenia will also become part of a network of LDAs in South Caucasus that can promote cooperation and mutual understanding between the countries in South Caucasus” announces Per Vinther.