Promoting IMC

From Municipal Cooperation

Promoting IMC
The need for IMC in Central and Eastern Europe
Obstacles to IMC in Central and Eastern Europe
The need for a national policy to promote IMC
IMC legislation
Financial incentives for IMC
Capacity building and expert assistance
Information and knowledge management

Most former socialist countries started the transition process with wholesale restructuring of their political and state systems as a reaction to the political and economic failure of the authoritarian centralized regimes. Decentralization and devolution of power from the central to the local authorities was one of the priorities in changing the state to make it more democratic and efficient in delivering public services and promoting economic and social development.

While progress in reforming the state is relatively limited in many former Soviet republics, this is not the case in CEE, where decentralization is either a fact or a work in progress. Hence, the challenge in many of the CEE countries is no longer so much to formulate decentralization policies, design and introduce expenditure and revenue assignment systems, or regulate municipal borrowing; in many cases, all of this has already been done. The challenge now is more to ensure that decentralization "delivers the goods" by meeting citizens’ expectations for better services, more employment, higher incomes and a better quality of life. Responding to these expectations is now, to a large extent, a responsibility of the municipalities.

In the reformed countries, mayors must think "out of the box" to find ways to improve public services by looking more "inside" but also "around" the municipality and less "up"(to the central government), as was the case in the past. The experience of the Western countries offers a range of options, including public-private partnerships, outsourcing to private firms or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and inter-municipal cooperation (IMC). While the modalities for cooperation with private and civil society partners are becoming well known and increasingly applied in CEE, this does not seem to be so much the case with respect to IMC. And IMC is particularly relevant in the CEE countries since many of them have a large number of small municipalities that cannot efficiently perform the full range of responsibilities assigned to them.