Newly Elected North Kosovo Mayors Answer Constituent Needs

Partnering with Officials in Kosovo’s Disputed North on  Priority Community Needs
North Kosovo citizens obtain civil status documents at the Citizen Service Center located in the Mitrovica North Administration Office.
USAID Democratic Effective Municipalities Initiative
Sidewalks, streetlights, refurbished buildings improve well-being
“Far too often, politics get in the way of the important work of governing, [but we worked] to make sure you have the necessary access and resources to serve your citizens effectively.”

Sept. 2014—For the mayors who were elected to represent Kosovo’s four northern Serb-majority municipalities for the first time in the newly independent country’s history, their most important task upon taking office in early 2014 was to instill confidence in their constituency. They needed to show the citizens of their communities that they not only understood their needs, but that they would follow through on campaign promises to meet them.

USAID’s Democratic Effective Municipalities Initiative, which had partnered successfully with administrations in south Kosovo to improve citizen’s services in 2010, set to the task of helping establish the new administrations and transition them from parallel Serbian institutions in August 2013. The program set aside $100,000 for quick-start community projects in each municipality and promptly worked with officials to get them off the ground.

Within less than a year, citizens in the four northern municipalities were already benefiting from the new sidewalks, streetlights, kindergarten and health clinic resources, enhanced citizen services capability, and other projects identified for delivery by the new mayors.

“Far too often, politics get in the way of the important work of governing,” U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Tracey Ann Jacobson told a gathering of municipal officials at the closing reception for the USAID program on August 14. “Through this program, USAID has worked hand-in-hand with the new mayors and municipal assemblies in north Kosovo to make sure you have the necessary access and resources to serve your citizens effectively.”

The ambassador joined Zvečan/Zveçan Mayor Vučina Jankovic the week before to deliver on one of the projects he had identified: upgraded furniture and educational materials for the 300 students in the municipal kindergarten.

“Usually we expect tears when students return to kindergarten from summer vacation, but thanks to the new toys and educational tools, we had nothing but smiling faces,” a teacher from the kindergarten told the ambassador and mayor.

In Zubin Potok, a local youth NGO found that for 65 percent of residents, adding sidewalks and street lights was a top priority for increasing safety in their community. The new administration echoed this priority and worked with USAID to build an 830-meter sidewalk and add 63 street lights to a road regularly walked by some 1,200 students to reach school.

The new administrations in Leposavić/q and North Mitrovica raised the bar on their citizens’ services by overhauling the main public hall in the former and expanding the capacity of the Citizens’ Service Center in the latter. With training and other support from USAID, the Mitrovica North Administration Office has issued over 10,000 civil status documents, including birth and marriage certificates, and registered 377 businesses since it first opened in July 2012.

The Democratic Effective Municipalities Initiative was launched in August 2010 to partner with 25 municipal governments to improve service delivery, increase citizens’ engagement on issues that directly affect them, provide coaching and on-the-job training in public management, and award grants to communities for public infrastructure improvements. The project, which was extended in August 2013 to focus on the four northern Serb-majority municipalities, concluded in August 2014.