North Macedonia

USAID Field Report Macedonia Feb 2003

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Posted
Originally published
United States Agency for International Development
Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance
Office of Transition Initiatives
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

The Macedonia Confidence Building Initiative (CBI) seeks to reduce tensions and mitigate conflict through confidence-building efforts during the implementation of the Framework Agreement. To that end, CBI's four objectives are to support positive, community-based interaction among diverse groups of people; promote citizen participation in community decision making; foster transparency, responsiveness and accountability in the relationship between citizens and local government; and increase citizen access to balanced information and diverse points of view. Working with local non-governmental organizations, informal groups of citizens, media outlets and local government authorities, CBI brings together diverse groups of people to identify and meet common community needs. The International Organization for Migration implements the program and manages CBI offices in Skopje, Tetovo, Kicevo, Bitola and Kocani. Since October 2001, CBI has provided $8,728,144 in small grants.

COUNTRY SITUATION

MACEDONIA TO APPLY FOR EU MEMBERSHIP BY YEAR'S END: Macedonia will formally submit its application for membership to the European Union by the end of 2003. In April 2001, Macedonia signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU as the first step toward the formal submission of its application.

MACEDONIA AND IMF REACH LONG-DELAYED DEAL: Macedonia and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached a $26 million standby agreement after almost a year's delay due to the Macedonian government's earlier inability to restrict budget spending. The deal will speed the delivery of much of the $274 million promised to Macedonia at last March's donor conference.

GUERRILLA GROUP THREATENS RENEWED CONFLICT: The Albanian National Army (ANA), an ethnic-Albanian group comprised of former fighters of the National Liberation Army and Kosovo Liberation Army, threatened to disrupt peace by announcing a "hot spring offensive." The ANA is dissatisfied with the slow speed of increasing rights for ethnic Albanians in Macedonia. The government responded that it could contain the guerrilla group, which made similar threats last year. Western intelligence sources reported that it did not pose a serious threat to security.

NUMBER OF ETHNIC ALBANIANS ON POLICE FORCE INCREASED: The number of ethnic Albanians on the Macedonian police force will increase significantly. The Macedonian government started to admit 1,000 ethnic Albanians and other ethnic minorities into its forces as agreed to in the Framework Agreement. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which trains recruits with the Ministry of Interior, reported that the increase of ethnic Albanians has helped restore trust in the police among ethnic minorities.

CBI HIGHLIGHTS

A. Narrative Summary

In February, CBI approved 27 grants totaling $966,720, bringing the total number of grants approved to 386 and total funds committed to $8,728,144. The average grant size was $34,804. Grantees and other donors contributed $343,677 in February, bringing the total amount of matching funds to $6,336,602, or 73 percent of all OTI funds committed. Grantees contributed $188,378, while other donors contributed $155,299. CBI closed 16 projects in February, bringing the total number of completed projects to 186. The program's completion rate stands at 48 percent.

The following grants exemplify CBI projects approved in February.

In southern Macedonia, CBI approved a $70,714 grant to rehabilitate a road in an isolated, multi-ethnic village south of the city of Bitola in an effort to support communities with a tradition of multi-ethnic cooperation. The primary economic activity of the village's 250 ethnic Albanians and Macedonians, who serve as a model of mutual support, is the daily provision of milk to local milk-processing factories, using the only road that links the village to other towns and the city of Bitola. The CBI grant provided materials to asphalt three kilometers (1.6 miles) of the road, while the residents provided unskilled labor. This was one of nine infrastructure grants approved this month that also promoted community-based interaction among diverse groups of people.

In western Macedonia, where schools have become increasingly ethnically segregated, CBI signed a $69,000 grant to help a high school build additional classrooms. A few years ago, overcrowding and the need to provide separate classrooms for classes taught in different languages forced the school's ethnic-Turkish and Albanian students to attend classes in other schools. The city had started building six additional classrooms to maintain the school's multi-ethnic student body, but construction stopped due to a lack of funds. CBI provided resources to complete construction. As a result, ethnic-Turkish and Albanian students can return to their own school. The initiative exemplified CBI's effort to help local governments reinstate cooperation and diversity.

In eastern Macedonia, CBI approved a $55,500 grant to support a traffic safety initiative in a deeply divided municipality southwest of the city of Kocani. Historically, there has been little cooperation among the 27,000 ethnic-Macedonian, Serbian, Roma and Turkish residents in the area, as a result of strong divisions among their political parties that worsened during the 2001 ethnic conflict. Encouraged by CBI to overcome that division, local leaders began holding meetings to focus residents on common priorities. Responding to the problem of chronic traffic accidents due to poor road markings, particularly around schools, the community set aside differences and identified increased traffic safety as a top priority. With CBI support, the residents and local government worked together to purchase traffic signs and create crosswalks and safety zones. This was one of six local governance grants approved in February.

In the former crisis region of northern Macedonia, CBI committed $46,500 to rehabilitate a small-scale, water supply system in a village where 90 percent of the residents have no immediate access to safe drinking water. The predominantly ethnic-Albanian village has become increasingly isolated, impoverished and alienated following the violent conflict in the area. CBI helped the community prioritize and address their needs as a way to counter their feelings of hopelessness. CBI supported the renovation of the village reservoir and a new pipeline leading to it, following an earlier CBI assessment that identified new, safe water sources. The grant also encouraged community cooperation, creating positive changes at the local level. This was one of six grants promoting community-impact activities in February.

In Skopje, the Macedonian capital, CBI awarded $13,000 for a three-day professional trade fair for all electronic media throughout the country in order to support increased communication and cooperation among media outlets. Despite the abundance of radio and television stations that broadcast in Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, Serbian and Romani languages, there has been little networking or collaboration among professionals in the field. The media fair provided an opportunity for broadcasters and journalists serving different ethnic or social groups to gather and exchange ideas, information and knowledge. The grant represented a significant step toward achieving balanced news coverage vital to a democratic society.

B. February 2003 Grants Activity Summary

Program Category
Approved Grants
Completed Grants
Total Grants
CBI USD Contribution
Matching USD Contribution
Total USD Contribution
Civil Society Org. Support
40
69
109
$1,278,456
$804,558
$2,083,014
Local Media
45
42
87
$1,546,506
$1,426,005
$2,972,511
Local Governance
40
28
68
$2,060,519
$1,140,395
$3,200,914
Community Impact Activities
75
47
122
$3,842,663
$2,965,644
$6,808,307
Total
200
186
386
$8,728,144
$6,336,602
$15,064,746

C. Indicators of Success

In southern Macedonia, citizens of Bitola recognized CBI for its outstanding contribution to the city through a special award from the city's oldest newspaper, Bitolski Vesnik. The local weekly newspaper has a long tradition of awarding exceptional individuals and institutions for their contribution to the city each year, basing awards on reader nominations and votes.

The award was testament to CBI's contribution targeted at key transition needs in the region of southern Macedonia, where it has committed $1,965,971 to 78 projects that range from community outreach to education and infrastructure repair to the empowerment of women. The award represented citizens' recognition of and appreciation for the tangible contribution CBI has made in their communities and for CBI's promotion of transparency and accountability in all aspects of its work.

In southwestern Macedonia, CBI established the first-ever, regional coalition of ecologically focused civil society organizations by sponsoring a three-day eco-summit in Struga, home to some of the country's most beautiful scenery. CBI brought together 22 NGO leaders of ethnic-Albanian, Macedonian, Vlach and Turkish backgrounds for the conference, where they created an action plan to raise awareness and protect the environment. The emergence of this strong NGO coalition was an indication of CBI's success in supporting civil society organizations nationwide. "CBI's help was key to establishing the network," said one participant in the summit, which marked the beginning of the inter-ethnic cooperation to improve natural resource management.

D. Program Appraisal

CBI has been implementing its ambitious second-year strategic plan for mitigating conflict and reducing tensions through a number of region-specific and program-wide activities. The program is progressing on schedule with its priorities, which include promoting anti-corruption and transparency initiatives, increasing the participation of women and other minorities in the public forum, and supporting the decentralization process. Faced with the challenge of developing and implementing projects before its September 30, 2003 closeout deadline, CBI is particularly focused on initiatives that will maximize impact in the short term, while also seeking ways to ensure their sustainability.

Informing local and international counterparts of the impending closeout of CBI has brought new challenges, as well as new opportunities for the program. Some local communities see the departure of CBI as another sign of the international community's decreasing interest in Macedonia, and various international counterparts are concerned that the country is still vulnerable to violent conflict. Other communities have recognized the planned departure as a sign of normalization and the need for Macedonians to look to themselves for solutions to their problems. Many international community counterparts have recognized the success of CBI's method of community engagement and processes, and have expressed their eagerness to learn from the program's experience. As a part of its closeout strategy, CBI will continue to document and share the knowledge and experiences it has gained since October 2001.

NEXT STEPS/PRIORITIES

The program looks forward to the implementation of a number of grants raising the profile of women's issues as a part of International Women's Day on March 8. Over the next months, CBI will continue to implement the work plan for its anti-corruption strategy, which has been developed with the assistance of a regional expert who was a member of the former OTI Serbia program, the Democratic Transition Initiative. In preparation for a timely closeout at the end of September, CBI will seek to sign its last infrastructure grants by the end of March.