» LOCAL GOVERNANCE AND ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM
The goal of the program was to contribute to sustainable social development in the areas impacted by BP and its co-venturers’ assets and activities in Azerbaijan with a focus on environment and local governance by: (1) enhancing the capacity of municipalities in identifying and addressing local problems and in engaging community members; (2) increasing awareness on environmental problems and facilitating their resolution.
The overall program approach consisted of two complementary components. The first component built of EPF’s successful Transparency in Municipal Service Delivery Program which aimed at increasing local government capacity and accountability by establishing transparent practices in municipalities and encouraging public participation in municipal affairs. EPF used the Municipal Performance Management System (MPMS) as one part of the first component of the program to train municipalities in collecting and assessing data to facilitate strategic planning, self-assessment, and public engagement in defining local priorities and assessing municipal performance. EPF’s tool, MPMS, was based on a group of indicators that provide unbiased data about municipal activities. These data could then be used to evaluate current municipal activities against past performance and drew comparisons among groups of municipalities. EPF expanded the program to 9 villages along the BTC pipeline. In addition, the program used process-oriented approach by establishing a new structure, the Youth Chambers, within the target municipalities to increase youth participation in local governance. It is important that today’s youth be encouraged to take interest in local government decision-making activities and that opportunities be created to foster civic participation by young people. Youth Chambers was trained on topics relevant to local governance and management of small community grants. Youth Chambers was responsible for the implementation of environmental projects in their communities with the guidance and mentoring provided by EPF’s Youth Funds which have extensive experience in the management of grants.
The second component of the program focused on informing and engaging different non-governmental actors in addressing environmental issues at the local level, including municipalities, Youth Chambers and other relevant actors. Additionally, EPF connected these actors with the municipalities who should play a significant role in dealing with environmental issues. EPF planed to obtain a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources and consulted them in selecting priorities and funding projects. The second component of the program was based on the assumption that environment was both an important asset for and a victim of development. In Azerbaijan, air and water pollution are significant threats, while rural agricultural lands are affected by erosion, salinisation, and overgrazing. On the one hand, human activity is the major source of these environmental problems. On the other hand, these environmental problems are a source of socio-economic hardship for the population, including in rural areas. While information is available about the types and magnitude of the country’s environmental degradation, non-governmental actors play a limited role in improving Azerbaijan’s environment. EPF, in collaboration with the Ekoloji Tarazlig (EKOT), focused on informing and engaging different non-governmental actors in addressing environmental issues at the local level, including businesses, youth and local government institutions. EKOT conducted initial assessments within the target communities to identify the most pressing environmental issues that could be addressed through small-scale interventions, and work to educate the Youth Chambers and YF members and local community members about the problems and their solutions. The program ensured that representatives of businesses functioning in the target regions were heavily involved in the activities of the program.