A new ALDA Talk on a key EU priority: Defence of Democracy package

In 2023, democracy in the European Union and globally is once again facing various challenges. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine made the defence of democracy in Europe a top geopolitical, security and normative priority, and the still lingering economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and war-related economic uncertainties continue to test democracy on the socio-economic and political fronts. Recent attacks on the foundations of democracy, such as the corruption scandal in the European Parliament, clearly demonstrate the need for more transparency at the EU level. In light of these developments, as well as in view of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament in 2024 and beyond, the EU’s commitment to defending democracy is more important than ever.

ALDA and its network want to contribute in shaping the priority for the defence of Democracy by providing inputs based on its experience and its members’ best practices and opinions. We are therefore responding to the Call for interest launched by the European Commission and we want to include a broader point of view, thanks to our members’ contribution.

Thus, all ALDA members are invited to join the ALDA Talk and contribute to “Joint Priorities for the Defence of Democracy Packageon Wednesday, 5 April 2023, from 2:00 PM (CEST).

The debate will be introduced by Mr. Toma Sutic, Member of the Cabinet of the Vice President for Democracy and Demography, Commissioner Dubravka Šuica and Mrs. Antonella Valmorbida, ALDA Secretary General. They will shed light on the ongoing efforts of the European Commission to defend European Democracy, explain what is at stake and what “protecting democracy” means.

Join the ALDA Talk and contribute to “Joint Priorities for the Defence of Democracy Package”

Then, all members online will be invited to share their view and their thoughts on the topic, especially answering to the following questions:

  • Foreign interference: how to protect democracy without prejudice to civic space?
  • How to strengthen citizens’ participation, notably at local level?
  • Civic and democratic space: how do we propose recommendations?

To join the ALDA Talk, Register HERE.


Please note:
– The webinar will be in English on Zoom platform. However, we will consider possible interpretations if requests are coming by the 30th of March.
– The recording of the event will be later published on ALDA YouTube channel.


European Gender Policies: projects to foster gender equality and women empowerment


ALDA works to encourage civic and democratic participation in liaison with gender equality and equity thanks to the creation of the Gender, Inclusion and Human Rights Hub (G,I & HR Hub). The latter develops projects devoted to the social inclusion of the most vulnerable categories, while leading the drafting of the internal policy on Gender and Anti-Discrimination. During the last few years, several projects have been developed to foster gender equality and women empowerment, such as GET UP and WEMIN

For this reason, ALDA is now closely following the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) decision to establish itself as the EU knowledge center for gender equality. Also stakeholders recognised this position thanks to the EIGE gender-sensitive policies, case studies, evaluation toolkits and the Gender Equality Index. 

From a general perspective, the EIGE Gender Equality Index is published every year and reports in percentage the gender segregation in Europe, taking into account important fields such as work, money, knowledge, time, power and health. The European overall score for 2022 was 68.8 out of 100; however, some countries performed better than others. Considering the importance of EIGE data and their relevance, ALDA continues to develop projects aimed at gender inclusion with an intersectional approach, taking into account the different social identities of the individual. 

Gender Equality is one of ALDA’s priorities, and through the new Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Policy, ALDA aims to eliminate bias creating a positive workplace

Besides, if one is willing to further dig into this topic, Spain represents a positive example within the European context. Hence, it had an outstanding performance, achieving almost 92 per cent in the health sphere. Surely Spanish score for 2023 will be even higher thanks to the comprehensive law enacted last February. It has been positively welcomed by UN experts thanks to its favorable insights: 

  • It allows anyone over 16 years old to change their legally registered gender
  • Ease abortion limits for those aged 16 and 17
  • Introduce paid menstrual leave. 

As already mentioned, Gender Equality is one of ALDA’s priorities, and through the new Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Policy, ALDA aims to eliminate bias creating a positive workplace. The Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Committee, in synergy with the G, I & HR Hub, drafted this new policy willing to shape the actions of all individuals directly dealing with ALDA, starting from the Governing Board to the project partners and visitors. It is meant to promote equal participation through programs and initiatives that reduce gender inequality, disseminating those objectives in ALDA’s public sphere. 

Overall, the latest initiative against stereotypes is the MOVING-ON project that aims to improve the participation of kids from the Roma Sinti and Travellers community and travelers in the world of sports by going to understand what are the biggest physical or social barriers they face every day.


Exchanges with partners for the opening of new LDAs in Ukraine

Since 2015, with the opening of the first Local Democracy Agency (LDA) in Dnipro; followed two years later by the one in Mariupol, ALDA has become a constant presence and strategic partner in Ukraine. Recognised by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe as an instrument for promoting city diplomacy, LDAs testify the positive results of investing in decentralised cooperation and empowerment of local realities. 

Therefore, especially now under war conditions, where civilians are living, ALDA is committed to local government and civil society organisations’ support, to make them more resilient and to ensure services to people. Since the outburst of the war, the Association has worked with international and national stakeholders in order to build a fruitful network, aimed at collaborating with Ukrainian cities and  municipalities.

Recent meetings with international and national stakeholders took place to concretise the opening of 6 Agencies in Vinnytsa, Odesa, Kharkiv, Bucha, Mykolaiv and Rivne

Precisely, ALDA has been involved in “the Alliance for the Reconstruction of Ukraine of the Committee of the Regions”, in the “Ukraine/Europe Working Group of the Committee of the Regions”, while also visiting Bucha Municipality, and exchanging with Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council, just to mention a few.

Hence, benefitting from European and extra European exchange, ALDA has been able to successfully liaise with potential partners at international level, with which to start a strong and fruitful collaboration for the opening of 6 new Agencies in Vinnytsa, Odesa, Kharkiv, Bucha, Mykolaiv and Rivne.

From a general perspective, the effort of the Association is testified by its “Flagship initiative of ALDA in Ukraine”, which also included the launch of the Open Call for LDAs in Ukraine. The latter set the tone for the future openings, and recent exchanges with partners, such as the one with Odesa, or the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with  the Ukrainian Association of District and Regional Councils.


World Water Day: ALDA’s engagement in water resources protection

In 2015, the World Countries committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 6 entitled “Clean Water and Sanitation”, as part of the 2030 Agenda. Since 1993, the aim of World Water Day (22 March) is to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the hydro challenges; hence, this year it aims at accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis.

Within this realm, and in order to localise the above-mentioned SDG, ALDA has a strong commitment towards the environment, with a focus on climate change adaptation and sustainability. Moreover, a specific thematic hub has been designed to address the “Green” challenges; thus gathering all the expertise in order to maximise the efforts and the impact of the several projects on this topic.

Specifically, ALDA works in this field mainly through two EU-funded projects.

The Life Beware (BEtter Water-management for Advancing Resilient-communities in Europe) project, funded by the LIFE programme, is an EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action.

ALDA commits to the preservation of the environment, and its water assets, by advocating for a more sustainable and conscious use of natural resources

It focuses on the achievement of a global strategy for climate adaptation to flooding risk, increasing water infiltration and storage in urban and rural areas, by actively involving local communities. The project aims to increase knowledge, benefit, and real implementation of NWRM (Natural Water Retention Measures) both in the territory of Comune di Santorso and Comune di Marano Vicentino (Vicenza, IT) and other EU municipalities.

The second project, called Water’s Experts, is funded by the Erasmus+ programme and it addresses students attending the last year of vocational schools, aiming at raising awareness on the protection of hydro resources among young people. Climate change has a huge impact on blue resources (droughts, floods and rivers’ transformation), so it is necessary to create suitable methods to monitor the main issues of rivers, especially in hydro-rich areas where agriculture and nature-based tourism are highly dependent on climate. Through a specific training course, students from 4 European countries acquire knowledge and skills in water resources management and climate change adaptation.

Overall, ALDA will further commit to the preservation of the environment, and its water assets, by advocating for a more sustainable and conscious use of natural resources.


ALDATalk 2023: the new season starts with digital education!

The digital transformation has changed our society and our economy with increasingly tangible implications in our everyday lives, highlighting the need to ameliorate the digital capacity of our education system, our institutions and our work environment. 

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend towards online and hybrid learning, highlighting major shortcomings concerning digital tools, technologies and capabilities. 

For the above-mentioned reasons, the European Union is promoting and supporting the development of the European digital ecosystem by enhancing the digital capacities of citizens and by providing them with innovative and engaging digital instruments.

The P-CUBE project (Playing Public Policy), is one of them. 

Join the first ALDATalk 2023 on digital education in Europe and discover the P-CUBE project!

P-CUBE is a project financed by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union and it consists in the development of an educational digital game aimed at teaching the theory and practice of public policy to different target groups, among which Higher Education students, Civil Society Organisations and more, in an innovative and engaging way. 

If you are interested in these topics, join us on March 30, 2023, from 2pm to 3pm (CEST)

ALDA will be hosting the first webinar of the ALDATalk 2023 webinar series, and we will discuss digital education in Europe, with a specific focus on the P-CUBE project. 

The webinar is open to all via link registration, is held in English and lasts for about an hour including an allotted time for open debate.

Register HERE to join the discussion of ALDATalk!


At the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy: bringing local democracy on worldwide scale

Democracy is a global concept, which can potentially find fertile ground in every world corner. The Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy 2023 proved exactly the “power of independent, people-centered independent institutions for protecting and extending democracy in nations from Latin America to Ghana, as underline online within the presentation of the forum.

Together with two selected ALDA Members – be they the City of Valongo and Labsus Nadia Di Iulio, Coordinator of both the Civic engagement Hub and the Europe area at ALDA’s, were among the speakers at the Forum, addressing the core topic of direct democracy through:

  • Tools for citizens to be actively involved
  • Participatory processes within key sectors such as health, food and security
  • Digital era and accessibility to digital tools

“Democracy is a system of peaceful decision” stated Mr. Jose Manuel Ribeiro, Mayor of City of Valongo – within its panel on the “tools of direct democracy”, which highlighted the necessity of including children and young people in the building of democracy, since these processes affect everyone.

Global Forum to exchange on citizens’ participation, and on the new tools of modern direct democracy to further engage with CSOs

Exchanging with representatives of Civil Society Organisations and institutions coming from different countries to the Global Forum, from Mexico to France; from Austria to Korea; stressed how not only democracy is a global value, but also practices adopted in certain states may be valuable and efficient, in some others.

Hence, considering this holistic approach towards democracy, ALDA Colleague Nadia Di Iulio shared the positive example of empowering local organisations and actions through the sub-granting scheme. The latter supported grassroot initiatives and street actions in the field of climate-friendly food consumption behaviours, fostering citizens’ participation in the civic space.

As noticeable, democracy can be unfolded in several different way, one of which is also digitalisation and these new participatory and direct democracy tools. Within this realm Daniela Ciaffi, Vice President of Labsus and Professor of Urban Sociology stressed the added value of an horizontal approach to democracy, as also implemented through the cooperation agreement, at the Global Forum Plenary  Conference entitled “Democratic resilience in the 21st century: What are the best ideas for using participation to strengthen democracy?”.

Overall, this international event allowed ALDA to exchange on citizens’ participation, on the new tools of modern direct democracy and to engage with CSOs at global level.


Safeguarding Water: students in Italy and North Macedonia to become the experts of tomorrow

After a preliminary phase to identify the schools and the students to be involved in the Water’s Experts project, the training activities started in Italy and North Macedonia.

On 14th February 2023 the training course started in the school I.I.S.S. Lombardo-Radice in Bojano (Molise, Italy), held by the geologist Vincenzo Amato, researcher at the Department of Biosciences and Territory, University of Molise. The next day, on 15th February, it was the Medical High School “Nikola Stein”, in Tetovo (North Macedonia), to start the training, held by the biology teacher Sasho Markovikj.

The students involved in the Water’s Experts project, attending the last year of vocational schools, have the chance to enhance their scientific knowledge and acquire technical and professional skills in the field of water resources management. At the end of this 4-month training course, students will be capable of understanding the geographic and biological specificities of the watercourses and able to identify and handle the critical issues.

Enhancing students' scientific knowledge and technical skills in the field of water resources management

Moreover, the training course aims to raise awareness about climate change adaptation and the importance of water resources. It was conceived as an interdisciplinary activity promoting professional development but also social participation among youth, enhancing cooperation and team working among students.

The training course is structured into 4 different modules covering the following topics: river geomorphology, cartography and basics of GIS tools, river ecology, alteration of river environments and hints of river rehabilitation. It includes both theoretical and practical activities, in order to let students put into practice the knowledge acquired during the theoretical part. 

The training is about to start in Portugal and France also, where the project partners have been proceeding setting the preparatory activities.

Read more about the project on Paese dell’Acqua website


Hand in hand with Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council and LDA Dnipro to help Internally Displaced People and support for the reconstruction


Established in 2015, the Local Democracy Agency (LDA) in the Dnipropetrovsk Region represents the very first LDA in the Country, as a platform for dialogue and regional development in terms of culture, society and economy. Yet, the current Russian invasion of Ukraine urged a further push for international cooperation in support to local actions, as also emerged in the online meeting, that took place among ALDA, the LDA Dnipro Representative and the Chairman of the Regional Council.

As stressed by Mr. Mykola Lukashuk – Chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council – and considering the geographical location of the region, the latter welcomes 400,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP) without counting those unregistered so far. Besides, the region is also serving as a supply hub for those on the frontline. Therefore, coherently with the circumstance above-mentioned and aiming at providing support, Anzhelika Pylypenko, Director Local Democracy Agency of Dnipropetrovsk region, illustrated the current initiatives, such as “PHOENIX” project, which are addressing the IDP especially as far as the psychological and social rehabilitation assistance concerns, as well as support to servicemen and families.

“I am grateful to our partners for their help. It would be advisable to hold a large conference and invite both representatives of Dnipropetrovsk communities and foreign partners" - Mykola Lukashuk

Backing up to the LDA actions, Antonella Valmorbida – Secretary General of ALDA – further stressed the commitment of the Association in strengthening the existing LDAs in Ukraine (both Dnipro and Mariupol), while working for the opening on new ones in Vinnytsa, Odesa, Kharkiv, Bucha, Mykolaiv and Rivne. Furthermore, precisely, three European regions, namely Nordrhein Westfalen (Germany); Hautes de France and Normandie (France), are interested in joining a coalition to support the LDA Dnipro, since “your country is now defending the entire democratic world” – stressed Ms. Valmorbida, and “European partners are planning to help Dnipropetrovsk Region and other regions of Ukraine both now and in the post-war reconstruction”.

Overall, this latter possibility of international cooperation was welcomed by the Council, as expressed in the positive word of Mr. Mykola Lukashuk: “I am grateful to our partners for their help. This is just the beginning. To expand cooperation, it would be advisable to hold a large conference and invite both representatives of Dnipropetrovs’k communities and foreign partners”.


The meeting took place online on 09.03.2023, with:

  • Mykola Lukashuk – Chairman of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council
  • Arina Pustova – Member of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council, humanitarian aid coordinator for the DP Region
  • Anzhelika Pylypenko, Director Local Democracy Agency of Dnipropetrovsk region
  • Antonella Valmorbida – Secretary General of ALDA
  • Alexandru Coica – EaP and Central Asia Coordinator ALDA
  • Bartek Ostrowski – Consultant for LDAs development in Ukraine ALDA


Contributing to the improvement of journalism and media in North Macedonia: Media4EU project

As of the 1st of March 2023, the “Media4EU” project has officially started. The latter is meant to improve the quality of the journalism and media sectors in North Macedonia, as well as the general information environment in the country. This includes activities such as working directly with journalists in capacity building workshops, facilitating exchanges of expertise between less and more experienced journalists – be they Macedonian and EU journalists – and aiming for European media standards.

More in details, one loophole targeted by the project is the lack of youth interest in journalism, largely due to a lack of trust. Therefore, “Media4EU” seeks to provide answer to the above-mentioned issue, with activities to encourage greater participation, and education on specific skills and how to use instrumental tools in the field.

From a general perspective, North Macedonia has a good legislative backing for a productive media sphere and freedom of expression; thus the Constitution guarantees the rights of freedom of speech, thought, expression, and public access to information, as well as protection of journalists and blocking of censorship. However, there are numerous issues that hold journalism and the media back. For instance, frivolous lawsuits, such as “Strategic lawsuit against public participation” (SLAPP) suits, and pressure from publishers in the television industry are commonly used as an instrument to intimidate the media and induce self-censorship.

Media4EU contributes to a good relationship between the media and civil society

Yet, lacking journalism and media sector may bring many potential challenges – among them:

  • allowing anti-factual ideas to spread more easily,
  • weaken responsiveness to the problems of the constituency,
  • greater distance from Europe – considering the specificity of this project.

On the contrary, a better media sphere has a plethora of benefits including the opportunity to have a more informed decision making from the constituency, greater access to accurate information, and greater participation.

Overall, this project is another way of testifying the commitment of ALDA to build up the capacities of the local sphere in the Balkans and ALDA Skopje commitment to the process of Europeanization and EU presence in the Balkans. Unfortunately, North Macedonia’s Europeanization process is notably quite troubled, and in the areas of media and freedom of expression not many improvements have been done.

With rising Euroscepticism and the slowing of progress, it is essential for the project to contribute to an environment where North Macedonia facilitates a good relationship between the media and civil society, as well as combats disinformation and reactionary ideas. The youth are not only the future of the profession, but they are also the future of the country, and this project will help further stake their place in society and help improve the information sphere.

The 3-year “Media4EU” project will be implemented by a consortium of partners lead by EUROTHINK – Center for European Strategies in partnership with ALDA – European Association for Local Democracy and BIRC – Balkan Institute for Regional Cooperation.


Reshaping crucial strategies to fight unemployment through social economy: Good practices

In this publication, readers can find 27 good practices to fight unemployment through social economy; based on the experiences in Italy, Spain and Greece. Hence, the latter three countries represent the hosting places of the RECRUIT project partners; which benefitting from their expertise and the activities done within the project, have collected them in this publication.

Read the publication