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Agencies for Local Democracy (ALDA)
 
ALDA Factsheet: Local Programmes, European Networks
 
Our Past
When the Association of Local Democracy Agencies (ALDA) was established in 1999, it brought together a network of Local Democracy Agencies (LDAs) in existence since 1993. The LDAs were set up by the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (Congress). They were originally conceived to provide concrete assistance to war-ravaged municipalities in the former Yugoslavia through partnerships with counterparts in Western Europe. When the war in the Balkans ended, ALDA's focus shifted from crisis management to strengthening local democracy, with an emphasis on promoting tolerant and trust-based relationships within communities. From the beginning, however, the method has been to establish partnerships between local and regional authorities and NGOs in the former Yugoslavia and their counterparts elsewhere in Europe.

Our Present
n the decade since its founding, ALDA has grown from a small pilot programme to a stakeholder in promoting a stable, democratic South-Eastern Europe. As the network co-ordinator, ALDA facilitates collaborations among 12 Local Democracy Agencies and over 130 members and 150 partners, towns, regions and NGOs from more than 25 countries across the whole of Europe.

The work of the LDAs, which have extensive autonomy to respond to local needs, by supporting community-based institutions with training and information services, include activities in the following areas:
Trans-border cooperationGender issuesDisabilities
Sustainable developmentLocal economic developmentEuropean issues
Interethnic dialogueCommunication skills and mediaCapacity building for local authorities and civil society
YouthMinorities and refugees 
 
In addition to coordinating LDA activities, ALDA contributes to their fundraising, provides the LDAs with technical and administrative support, trains staff, maintains an information and publication centre, and represents members in dealing with international institutions and sponsors - especially the Council of Europe. Through a formal working agreement with the Council, the LDAs share their expertise in implementing programmes, gather and disseminate information locally, and organise site visits. Other international organisations ALDA works closely with include the National Association of Local Authorities in South Eastern Europe (NALAS), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN) - particularly the High Commissioner for Refugees. Despite this high level of international involvement, ALDA remains committed to its original mandate to focus on supporting democracy on a local level.

As the methodology of the LDAs proved to be very successful in the Balkans, in 2005, ALDA decided to extend its geographical coverage to other regions, in particular the Southern Caucasus. In September 2006, ALDA opened its 12th LDA in Kutaisi (Georgia). This new Agency will focus its activities mainly on training for local authorities and civil society, local economic development, and youth empowerment.
← The 11 LDAs in the Balkans cover most of the former Yugoslavia
← The 12th LDA in Kutaisi is the first in the Southern Caucasus, outside South-East Europe
↓ ALDA is a truly European network: the 25 countries in orange indicate where partners and members are located


Our Future
ALDA's expertise and activities will not be limited to the countries of the former Yugoslavia and Georgia. In 2005, ALDA already implemented a pilot project in Belarus, and in 2006-2007 a more significant project will follow to strengthen civil society groups. After a fact-finding mission in autumn 2005, ALDA decided, in addition, to work on a pilot project to establish a new LDA in Shkodra (Albania). It will be another mayor challenge for ALDA in the years to come to open a 2nd Agency outside the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

With its long experience in South East Europe and the diversity of its activities in the field, ALDA plays an important advisory role in the EU enlargement process, and makes an ideal partner for enlargement activities in South East Europe. Indeed, the future strategy of ALDA is to support the stabilisation and democratisation process all over Europe. In the meantime, ALDA recognizes the important effects that neighbouring countries' accession to the EU will have on the whole of South East Europe and looks forward to partnering with organisations across the continent to ensure a smooth, stable transition that benefits all countries in the region. Having already joined the Council of Europe, the Balkan states are expected to join the EU themselves in coming years, and ALDA will be there to support them. As the Balkans and the Caucasus region become increasingly involved in continent-wide networks, ALDA is growing to promote tolerant and effective local governance across Europe.

EU Projects
ALDA does not only work with its network of members and partners in the LDAs in South East Europe and the Caucasus, but also intends to include them in as many common projects as possible, in order to exchange best practices and expertise on local governance issues. In 2004, ALDA organised the year-long EU Mayors project sponsored by the EU Information Programme Prince, to raise municipal authorities' and community leaders' awareness of the opportunities that EU enlargement presents to them. Moreover, ALDA conducted Europe-wide surveys on the involvement of citizens in the decision-making process at the local level (2004) and the implementation of the values of the European Constitution at the local level (2005). As for 2006, ALDA is the project leader of the EU supported programme Cities for Peace and Democracy in Europe, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Several events on peace and participatory democracy will be organised all over Europe.

For further information, please contact
Dorothee Fischer, Press Officer, Association of Local Democracy Agencies,
Tel.: +33 3 90 21 45 93; Fax: +33 3 88 41 37 47
* E-mail: dorothee.fischer@aldaintranet.org

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