North Macedonia

USAID Field Report Macedonia Mar 2003

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Other
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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 $10,306,965 in small grants.

COUNTRY SITUATION

EU TAKES OVER PEACEKEEPING MISSION: The European Union took over NATO's peacekeeping role in Macedonia, which started in 2001 with the end of the conflict. The 400-strong mission, dubbed Concordia, will last six months and cost $6 million. It is a key test of the EU's ability to build a rapid reaction force that can respond swiftly to future humanitarian needs. If successful in Macedonia, the EU will take over NATO's peacekeeping role in Bosnia next year.

NATO SOLDIERS KILLED BY MINE: Two Polish peacekeeping soldiers were killed when an anti-tank mine exploded under their NATO jeep during a routine patrol outside Skopje. Three Macedonian civilians on board, including a translator, were injured. NATO did not suspect that the explosives were intentionally placed to harm its troops, since the area is a known smuggling route, where criminal elements are often targeted. Nonetheless, the incident raised security concerns in the country.

SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER ASSASSINATED: Serbia's reform-minded prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, was gunned down on March 12 outside the main government building in Belgrade. A state of emergency was declared, during which the military took over some police functions. The incident, which left a significant political vacuum, was seen as a threat to the region's edgy peace. However, police forces were swift to respond with arrests and a crackdown on organized crime gangs suspected of the crime. Djindjic played a key role in the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic.

MACEDONIA DEADLINE EXPIRES FOR DISPLACED TO RETURN HOME: On March 7, the government-established deadline to close Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps located around Skopje expired. On that date, the government ordered a group of mostly ethnic-Macedonian IDPs, displaced from the Tetovo region as a result of the 2001 conflict, to return to their homes. Their return is seen as an important step toward normalization in the country. However, despite government efforts, many IDPs cite a continued lack of security and economic instability preventing their return. The former camp residents remain in the Skopje area.

CBI HIGHLIGHTS

A. Narrative Summary

In March, CBI approved 41 grants totaling $1,737,181, bringing the total number of grants approved to 425 and total funds committed to $10,306,965 since October 2001. The average grant size was $42,370. Grantees and other donors contributed $1,187,401 in March, bringing the total amount of matching funds to $7,499,484, or 73 percent of all OTI funds committed. Grantees contributed $785,966, while other donors contributed $401,435. CBI closed a record 36 projects in March, bringing the total number of completed projects to 228. Given the large number of infrastructure grants approved during March, the program's current completion rate of 54 percent is impressive.

In southern Macedonia, the labor of a nearly year-long effort to bring together various actors and to leverage support for an extremely marginalized group of individuals came to fruition through a grant to install 15 ramps to improve handicapped access to public buildings in the city of Bitola. For years, the Association of the Physically Disabled had lobbied for funds to help people with disabilities access public buildings more easily, but with no success. In Macedonia, there is consistent disregard for legislation concerning access for the disabled - a group in which all Macedonians are represented in terms of ethnicity, gender, age and socioeconomic class.

In response to CBI's effort to help this group, the local Rotary Club agreed to help finance the project designs for all 15 buildings, and the local government subsequently offered to secure permits and assist with building. CBI provided $59,971 in materials and construction costs for what will be a model of civic action and cooperation. This was one of six grants in March that supported community outreach.

In eastern Macedonia, CBI helped a small group of dedicated fire fighters in the municipality of Vinica mobilize an entire community to support the reconstruction of the town's fire station. The town is well-known for its deep political divisions marked by hard-line nationalism - the source of much conflict in the region. To demonstrate their determination to pursue a project, the fire fighters volunteered their services to repair a kindergarten as part of another CBI project earlier this year. The fire fighters also agreed to house a number of local NGOs in their station, making the station a focal point for the community.

Recognizing the valuable services the fire fighters have provided, community members, including businessmen, youth activists, the police chief, members of the city council, local journalists and local NGO representatives, all from various political parties, joined forces to develop the project. CBI provided $74,997 to help the community transform the old station into a modern facility. This was one of 13 infrastructure projects approved in March.

In western Macedonia, CBI helped address growing tensions in a marginalized ethnic-Albanian community by commissioning a hydro-engineering assessment as a first step toward bringing water to inhabitants. Located north of Kicevo, the municipality of Zajas is considered the heartland of the former National Liberation Army and, as a result, is often perceived as being deliberately neglected by the state. CBI's commitment of $48,863 helped develop a professional technical assessment, which allows the local government, municipal council and public water company to take the next steps necessary to provide citizens access to running water in their homes.

In northwestern Macedonia, CBI used water as a bridge to link the predominantly ethnic-Macedonian village of Slatino and the ethnic-Albanian village of Lesok, encouraging the villages to take their first steps toward reconciliation since the 2001 conflict. Both villages were heavily affected by the conflict and suffered significant infrastructure damage. They continue to be plagued by poor economic conditions and difficulties related to the return of IDPs.

With CBI's help, the local governments and village councils worked together to put aside their differences in order to rehabilitate their common water source. CBI's $60,282 grant also involved citizens in decision-making processes and allowed them to see their government at work for the first time.

In the capital region, CBI approved $58,501 to pave a road and repair a pedestrian bridge in Radusa, an ethnically and politically divided village of 1,800 inhabitants near the Kosovo border that suffered extensive infrastructure damage during the 2001 conflict. The project provided village residents with improved access to the local elementary school and, at the same time, reestablished a connection between the two parts of the village divided by the Vardar River.

Ethnic-Albanian residents will benefit immediately from the project, while ethnic-Macedonian and Roma villagers, displaced by the conflict, will benefit after their anticipated return. As a result of CBI's insistence that representatives of all community members participate in the project, the villagers independently organized a women's meeting that over 100 women attended to discuss their concerns regarding the school. The villagers saw this unprecedented meeting as a big step forward for the whole community.

Also in the Skopje region, building upon the already well-established relationship with the Municipality of Karpos, CBI launched two projects to help pave and light a walkway between the city center and the outskirts of the municipality along the Vardar River. With the help of CBI's two grants totaling $114,922, the projects allowed for the completion of the path, creating a very important physical and symbolic linkage between citizens of different ethnic and political backgrounds. The projects received wide community support and significant contributions from the local government.

CBI approved a grant of $15,948 to hold a week-long workshop for journalists that provided training on issues of corruption, including basic law and how to respond to manipulation and bias in reporting. Journalists from various local media outlets across the country participated in the workshop run by specialists from the region. The training expanded on a workshop funded by Norwegian People's Aid, which targets journalists at the national level, and allowed for collaboration and exchange of experiences across ethnic lines and geographical distances.

CBI celebrated International Women's Day, expanding on its work over the past year and a half through a number of projects throughout Macedonia. CBI, in partnership with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), awarded the Tetovo Women's Network $4,691 to undertake a variety of initiatives, including a street march, lectures and discussions on women's issues, to help facilitate the development of the year-old network. CBI granted a coalition of women's organizations operating in southwestern Macedonia, known as the Regional Women's Network, $21,085 to help them lobby targeted municipalities for the establishment of federally mandated, gender equity boards.

In western Macedonia, CBI offered $1,449 to the Debar Women's center, a coalition of ethnic-Macedonian, Albanian and Turkish women, to educate and engage communities in discussions about the role of women, connecting human rights with women's rights. In eastern Macedonia, CBI approved $6,068 to support the development and production of a play to combat domestic violence. The play, which was performed in eight communities across the country, was developed to show that violence against women is present in all communities within Macedonia, occurs without respect to cultural, political or religious differences, and is unacceptable. All of these projects received wide media attention.

B. March 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
37
77
114
$1,374,596
$843,735
$2,218,331
Local Media
31
58
89
$1,637,555
$1,430,555
$3,068,110
Local Governance
46
33
79
$2,582,326
$1,417,746
$4,000,072
Community Impact Activities
83
60
143
$4,712,488
$3,807,448
$8,519,936
Total
197
228
425
$10,306,965
$7,499,484
$17,806,449

C. Indicators of Success

The successful undertaking of four projects marking International Women's Day on March 8 built on a year and a half of work with various women's groups throughout Macedonia. In addition, CBI has witnessed a number of recent "break-through" examples of unprecedented women's involvement in projects. Both of these successes are indicators of the program's progress in advancing its objective of giving all community members a voice and the power to make positive change.

CBI projects continue to receive both local and national media attention, magnifying the effects of positive engagement. U.S. Ambassador Lawrence Butler brought significant media attention to a CBI project supporting the rehabilitation of a sports field at a high school in Kicevo, highlighting it as an example of multi-ethnic cooperation.

In another example, the Macedonian Institute for the Media awarded CBI grantees TVART and TVKISS from Tetovo third prize in its annual competition for Best Investigative Story for a piece that was written as part of a CBI project supporting local television stations from the former crises regions. The two stations, one ethnic-Albanian and the other ethnic-Macedonian, have participated in previous CBI projects, through which they have developed a constructive cooperative relationship that bridges ethnic differences.

CBI also receives international publicity, with its reports posted on ReliefWeb and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) websites, among others.

The U.S. Embassy sponsored a nationally broadcast television program highlighting the role of women in U.S. government programs in Macedonia. As proof of the value the U.S. Embassy places on OTI's program, the Embassy asked OTI's Country Representative to be on the program.

D. Program Appraisal

CBI is facing challenges on several fronts that are in a large part related to the program's success. At a time when it is achieving its peak in progress and production, staff must also plan for a smooth departure in terms of completing projects, developing new grants that can be completed within a short timeframe, and managing expectations of both local communities and international counterparts. March was CBI's largest month to date for grant commitments and completions. During March, CBI signed its 400th grant. In addition, the program approved its last infrastructure projects, with continued development and implementation of non-infrastructure projects planned through July. The program continues to address longer-term priorities, while also putting out fires in hot spots across Macedonia as they arise. However, planning is currently being affected by the fact that in FY03, OTI worldwide received $5 million less than expected, thus decreasing anticipated allocations for OTI's programming in Macedonia.

CBI's recent efforts to pursue anti-corruption initiatives on multiple fronts has met with mixed success. The impending closure of the program, as well as the inability to identify suitable partners, has limited the extent to which CBI can support anti-corruption efforts.

NEXT STEPS/PRIORITIES

With the signing of its last infrastructure projects, CBI will be focused on timely implementation and completion of grants over the next months. To support these efforts, CBI has hired an expatriate engineer who will assist with monitoring and trouble shooting.

In order to increase staff skills to better serve the program and prepare staff members for their careers after the program, CBI has developed a staff capacity-building plan. Over the coming months, staff will undertake a number of workshops and retreats related to program development, media engagement, management and job-skills improvement.

CBI's close-out date is September 30, 2003.