Digital Governance - Fiscal Openness - Participatory Decision-Making - Europe

Transparent and Accountable Municipalities: Where Citizens Come First

North Macedonia / June 07, 2022

Centar Community Forums


Citizens of North Macedonia are gaining access to more information about the work of local governments and have an opportunity to engage in the decision-making process in their communities.

Would you like to be able to check at any moment how your municipality spends its budget? Follow live the sessions of the municipal council with only one click? It would be a real advantage to be involved in the process of deciding what project will be implemented in your community. This is a story about how citizens of North Macedonia, a small country in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula, gained access to more information about the work of local governments and had an opportunity to engage in the decision-making process in their communities.

North Macedonia is divided into 80 municipalities with a population of 1.8 million. Most of the decisions made in the field of education, environment, infrastructure, social services, culture, are made by the municipal councils, whose members are elected directly. Gabriela Ilievska is a councillor of the city of Bitola, the first local self-government to record the council committee meetings.


I am a civil activist in politics. I am true to my own ideals that Bitola is worth working for, and I am convinced that politics means engagement for the common good, not for personal gain. The only thing that should guide the councillors is to make Bitola a better place to live, so that young people can see their future here.

Gabriela Ilievska, Councillor, City of Bitola

In the past, transparency was not a stronghold of the Macedonian municipalities, and even today it has remained a serious challenge that still requires a lot of work. However, in the past five years, major steps have been taken through our OGP action plans. In the course of 2016 – 2021, with the support of the Swiss programme “Empowering Municipal Councils“, 24 municipalities started using innovative tools for greater transparency and accountability.

In 18 municipal councils, equipment for live broadcasting of the councils’ sessions on social media was installed, while in the remaining six municipalities e-kiosks were set up to provide local services between citizens and councillors, and citizen involvement in the municipal budget process. Additionally, a web platform was developed for a simple and comprehensible presentation of the financial indicators of the municipal budgets, which is currently used by 42 municipalities and the City of Skopje.

Every citizen will be able to see how decisions are made, how the councillors voted and whether they remained true to what they promised during their election campaigns. Citizens can see how their money is spent at any point of time. The public interest and information sharing must be the pillar for a better and more functional municipality.

Gabriela Ilievska, Councillor, City of Bitola

The next step was for the citizens to gain real experience of involvement in the creation of local policies via Community Forums, where teachers, farmers, artisans, students, and NGO activists discussed together how to improve the quality of life in their municipality. Over 8,800 citizens participated in a total of 126 forum sessions, with equal representation of men and women. The result of these forums is the realisation of 33 socially inclusive projects, selected directly by the local population.

The Community Forums provide for the real needs, problems, and ideas of the citizens to be heard. We as councillors cannot always know the priorities of the citizens unless we have a direct link with them. In that sense, this brings a direct benefit for both the citizens and the decision-makers at the municipalities.

Gabriela Ilievska, Councillor, City of Bitola

The second phase of the project “Empowering Municipal Councils” began in April 2022, and will include 40 new municipalities in North Macedonia.

Our vision is clear:

  • We want to create transparent and accountable municipalities, ready to successfully address the challenges related to improving the living conditions of citizens.
  • Empowered, efficient and autonomous municipal councils that make decisions based on relevant information are imperative for the inclusive development of local governments.
  • We need Interested and actively involved citizens who contribute directly to policymaking and set priorities for the development of the municipalities in which they live.

Councillor Gabriela Ilievska hopes this is the beginning of a shift of mindset on how local government officials are selected:

I think there must be revolutionary changes in the way councillors are nominated by the political parties. Having more councillors with personal integrity and credibility means stronger municipalities. This is the only way for the voice of the citizens to be truly heard, and the local problems and priorities to be the main focus of their work. Each municipality has its own story. I hope that in five years Bitola, and all municipalities in our country will be cleaner, more transparent, more accessible, more humane and, above all, independent in the decision-making process.
Last updated: June 22, 2022

North Macedonia | Bitola
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