Suggestions voiced by NGOs during a sectoral discussion on local and regional development on December, 1, in Brest, will be taken into account when preparing the third version of Brest Region Strategy of Sustainable Development. The document can be presented to the public as early as January, 2015, after it has been approved by the Brest Region Executive Committee and a board of experts.
Sectoral Discussion “Regional and Local Development in Brest Region” was organised by the ODB (Brussels) in partnership with Brest Region Agricultural and Industrial Union. It united representatives of local authorities, business sector, regional universities, public organizations, as well as experts on sustainable development. The discussion focused on the problems of NGO development in Brest Region and their cooperation with the local authorities. Owners of agricultural manors and representatives of the Department of sport and tourism of the Brest regional Executive Committee participated in discussions on the format of cooperation between the state and the society on the regional level.
Participants of the discussion agreed that needs of local communities must be taken into account if stable development of Brest and Brest Region is to be achieved. NGO representatives who took part in the discussion declared that they were ready to solve problems at the local level. At the same time, often no additional resources are needed to ensure state support and stimulation of NGOs, expert on regional development Aleh Sivahrakau said.
"Stimulation can be done not just financially but also by helping foster a positive image: the government can render assistance with registration, they can help speed up paperwork processing, invite them as partners when they organise events, write them “letters of support”, etc. The problems listed by the public organisations – that’s what they need help with. The experts think that national level issues should be solved by ministries, while people in business and public sector should solve problems on the regional and local level.”
A rural entrepreneur Heorhy Hrybau, who owns an agricultural manor in Kamenets region, shares this opinion. He is the leader of the Public Council for the Development of Rural Tourism of Brest Region Agricultural and Industrial Union. "We do not have a lot of NGOs, but they do exist, they work and benefit our society. There is slow but steady development of mutually beneficial partnership between governmental bodies and NGOs, which progresses when they see that it really works. Global problems, not minor but strategic issues must be resolved by the authorities: economic, political, social issues. On the local level though, on the level of village council or on the district level, if we wait for solutions to be handed to us from the top, we will not move forward successfully. The redistribution of powers is justified, and sooner or later we will, too, come to this," he noted.
Anatol Lysiuk, one of the experts in the sectoral discussion, feels that the cooperation between governmental bodies and the public in the area of rural tourism has been successful due to the fact that all the parties were focused on achieving a common goal. A professor of Brest State University, he says that in this case local authorities were happy to cooperate with the civil society very early in the process:
"The authorities didn't quite know what they should do – they just expressed their intention for cooperation, and it all took off, as they say. At the moment the same thing is happening on the global level, because it is important for the authorities at the moment. Surely, the process will be sustainable. In any case, things will start happening if there is initiative on the ground. The potential of public organizations has not been utilized a lot, but it does exist. In some places, however, the local government just does not see the benefits – but we are working on it."
Participants of the sectoral discussion pointed out some of the problematic areas where progress can affect the capacity development of local organisations: training in the field of project management and the application of new knowledge obtained during international study visits. NGO representatives noted that such issues as informal education, English language training, inclusion of young people into the development process, are important both for regional level officials and for members of public organisations. Participants of the meeting found that involvement of public organisations and civil society in the development of regional strategies is a prerequisite for successful development of the Brest region, and that such factors as geographical location, internal investment, energy saving and alternative energy forms should be taken into account as they can influence economic development of the region.
Viktar Dzemyanchyk, a member of the regional Public Council for the Development of Rural Tourism, says that the approaches mentioned in the sectoral discussion can be incorporated into the project of sustainable development for Brest Region up to the year 2030: "It is important to get some benefit now that the incorporation of these results into the draft of a sustainable development strategy of Brest Region is a possibility. It is all very important: a public format, approaches to it, ways of developing such a strategy of sustainable development – they are extremely valuable. Many still do not understand what the phrase “sustainable development” means, and I am very concerned about this. There has to be a convergence of interests of all the parties, a common spirit of a strategy of sustainable development, where all the factors and opinions of all the parties are taken into consideration ".
|Participants of the meeting study PCA method|
Following the sectoral discussion, new suggestions and ideas will be analysed by members of the working group on Brest Region Strategy of Sustainable Development. Participants of the discussions noted that such meetings can serve as a supplementary “academy of local governance” and encourage dialogue between bodies responsible for regional development.
Uladzimir Kras’ko, one of the consultants for the Clearing House programme, says that NGOs often lack information about each other’s activities, while meetings like this one stimulate dialogue within the regional development sector, help foster connections with local authorities and find contacts for cooperation with the business sector.