This article by KS President Gunn Marit Helgesen kicks off a series of articles about KS international projects in 2017.
We will look back to the challenges and achievements that KS worked on the past year together with its partners, and will outline some new opportunities within the EEA Grants 2014-2021.
For more than 25 years, KS has been running its own team for international cooperation projects. During this time, KS has had the leading role or been a key partner in a large number of projects related to local democracy and local development in a wide range of countries. Through these projects, Norwegian experience and expertise have been shared with partners around the world, while perspectives and solutions from abroad have continuously enriched our own conception of what local government can and ought to be. This work was further strengthened in various projects during the past year.
A core aspect in all our international projects is a firm commitment and adherence to European democratic values as codified by the Council of Europe. Our projects reflect this by incorporating measures that seek to strengthen the awareness of and compliance with these pan-European democratic ideals in our partner countries. In Georgia, for example, KS works with its Georgian sister organization to create a more equal and inclusive society by raising the proportion of female local councilors. KS is also working in Moldova, where difficult conditions for locally elected deputies have caused the Council of Europe to dispatch multiple missions to assess the situation; here, we support the Moldovan Association of Local Authorities in its efforts to strengthen the capacity to maintain its independence and defend the interests of its members.
Another important priority in our projects is the many environmental challenges facing nations and local communities across Europe. A number of our projects deal with issues such as circular economy, better spatial planning, and improved capacities in local governments for community development and climate change mitigation. These projects are financed by the EEA/Norway Grants, whose purpose is to reduce social and economic disparities within the EU. Helping local communities to become greener and enabling them to tackle environmental and climate change is a contribution KS can be proud of in this regard.
KS also keeps a significant focus on providing encouragement and support for the participation of its members in international co-operation projects financed by the EEA and Norway Grants. Studies based on past projects show that the primary motivation of Norwegian local authorities to engage in projects of this type was related to their continued capacity-building need, as well as the implementation of their local policies and strategies, the desire for network-building and cultural exchange. KS is taking heed of these motivations by emphasizing the need for mutuality in partnerships between Norwegian and foreign entities: that both parties are able to adapt the projects to their own needs and strategies, and thereby realize the full extent of the mutual benefit to be gained from the cooperation. We will continue to help Norwegian local authorities to find true value abroad also in the future, while simultaneously following up and further strengthening our contribution to local democracy and development both within and beyond the EU.