Background

During the 1990s, the crises in the Balkans have deeply modified the scene and the characteristics of the Italian development cooperation practice. At the outset of the crises, a combination of geographical proximity, emotional wave and lack of a decisive strategy by national and international political institutions towards the human tragedy of the conflict gave rise to new practices that took shape spontaneously, in a marked discontinuity with the past; traditional methods and patterns (based on large national and multilateral agencies or NGOs acting as the main protagonists of aid cooperation) faced the need for rebuilding 'from the bottom' the transnational action.

In many cases, the Italian local governments played a leading role in supporting and promoting coordinated actions in South-East Europe. This process led to a shift from the project-based approach in favour of a process-based approach while the project-cycle as such gradually lost its centrality together with the traditional 'donor-beneficiary' pattern. In most cases, the project turned into just one of the elements of a territorial relation, which became the real focus of the cooperation and started to be built over the time and involved - as a 'dowel of a mosaic' - a universe of local actors' initiatives. At the same time, the manifold and heterogeneous nature of the stakeholders (sprouting from the context of the local grass roots and local authorities) required a normative and an institutional interface providing the framework for their initiatives and actions. Regional laws on development cooperation, international relations or promotion of peace have been adopted and gradually filled in the normative gap at local level contributing to shaping the present 'decentralised cooperation'.

All this paved the way for a new phase of Italian cooperation, recognizing the central role of the Italian local governments (Regions, Provinces, Municipalities) in building up networks and partnerships with their counterparts in South-East Europe. As a result of this process, the actions promoted by the local governments have become one of the most meaningful features of Italian development cooperation in the Balkans. During the past 15 years, various (in types and sectors) decentralised cooperation initiatives took shape and relevance while territorial partnerships, neighbourhood policies and the principle of reciprocity have produced significant outcomes in the local context of both sides of the Adriatic Sea.

More than a decade after the start of the first few initiatives of decentralised cooperation, the whole phenomenon is now facing a new challenge, along the line of the rethinking and the 'capitalisation' of all the efforts made in the recent past: establishing steady and enhanced relations with those territories in search for new local development strategies. Bearing in mind this task, a great asset is the long and rich experience of Italian local self-government, which can surely give its support to the re-launching of the citizenship spirit and to a wider participation in the decision making process involving the local levels.

Dealing with diversified experiences and numerous actors at all levels, a need has gradually emerged for the creation of an instrument that could collect information, data, research material, in-depth analyses together with a tool for specific horizontal communication among local governments that are active in South-East Europe. The Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Autonomous Province of Trento supported and co-funded this information and communication instrument mainly created to benefit regional and other local governments, associations, enterprises as well as a wider public of readers.

At this stage only the present page, describing the general approach of the project, is provided in English. Some translations of materials and articles shall progressively be made available for the non Italian-speakers.
The project
The general objective of the project BalcaniCooperazione is to monitor, support and give more visibility to Italian Regions and other local authorities in their initiatives of decentralised cooperation with the Balkan area (i.e. Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro).

The central tool for the activities is the web portal www.balcanicooperazione.it, designed and implemented through a participatory approach involving regional and local authorities that decided to be partners of the project. The portal also reflects a territorial approach that emphasizes the role of various actors involved in decentralised cooperation: institutional and non-institutional; profit and non-profit; private as well as public ones. Furthermore, for each Italian Region and other interested local governments (e.g. Provinces and Municipalities) a specific page has been created and collects data, news and other materials that specifically describe their activities in South-East Europe.

In a specific section, the database Re.Te. (Territorial Relations) highlights all forms of interactions linking the Italian Regions to their South-East European counterparts. Finally, meetings, seminars and conferences targeting public servants and decision makers both at local and national level, complement the activities of the project by deepening the debate about opportunities, strengths and critical aspects of the Italian decentralised cooperation in the Balkans. They represent an attempt at improving and spreading best practices, bearing in mind that decentralised cooperation can take very different forms and move along various lines of action.

More in detail, the project is shaped along the following main activities:

* DATABASE: collects, files and spreads information and related data on the numerous projects and experiences of decentralised cooperation promoted by Italian Regions and local authorities together with the Balkan territories. This database offers the opportunity to elaborate and visualise the system of relations that have been shaped through a long term process and a strong participatory method that involves all stakeholders in formulating objectives, mobilising local resources and skills and reducing the risks of overlapping.

* INFORMATION: supplies public servants, decision makers, and the wider public with a thorough, regular and reliable information flow about the general evolution of Italian decentralised cooperation and more specifically about issues related to Italian and European activities in the Balkans.

* IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS: starting from the collected data included in the database 'Re.Te.', together with the information provided by the partner Regions and by other stakeholders, the project's staff elaborates the picture of the territorial relations established over the time, their content, approach and methodology. It describes the actual interactions between Italy and South-East Europe in terms of the invested resources (not merely economic ones); of the capacity to mobilise the general public in favour of a more critical approach to local development; of the degree to which decentralised cooperation contributes to the institution building; of the decentralisation process and the democratisation of the Balkan countries.

* FORUMS and WORKING MEETINGS:events, thematic seminars and international conferences are part of the project as well as technical and operative meetings aiming to consolidate relations and stimulating networks and partnerships. This kind of activities are meant as a first step towards the creation of a common open discussion space about decentralised cooperation in the Balkans.

* PROMOTION of the Regions' and other local authorities' initiatives and actions, improving their capacity to communicate and spread information to the wider public as well as to potential partners and donors (both at the national and international level). This visibility is decisive in order raise awareness and consequently to emphasise good practices.

All these activities are aiming at the creation of a wide and participated network of people and institutions, a rich information flow as well as of a constructive and critical forum for discussing relevant issues related to the Italian decentralised cooperation world.
About us
The idea for the Observatory on the Balkans emerged in Venice in June 1999, during the "Cantieri di pace" event. Various Italian organisations decided to cooperate in order to gather critical information for the developing of practical approaches to South Eastern European issues. The Peace Bell Foundation in Rovereto (Trento), the Trentino's Forum for Peace, the Autonomous Province of Trento and the Rovereto Municipality all agreed, by the end of 2000, to establish the project "Observatory on the Balkans" (www.ossservatoriobalcani.org).

By promoting transnational networks and dialogue, the Observatory supports associations, NGOs and local institutions that are active in grassroots diplomacy and cooperation projects in South-East Europe. The Observatory provides:

* constant information through an on-line source about and from the Balkans;

* research and in-depth analysis;

* training courses for development project coordinators and volunteers;

* data collection and elaboration about the multifaceted world of development cooperation in the Balkans.

Since the Autumn 2004, after the adoption of the Italian law 84/2001, the Observatory, in close collaboration with the Autonomous Province of Trento and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, monitors and supports decentralised Italian cooperation in South-East Europe through the project BalcaniCooperazione.

From its headquarters in Rovereto (Trento), the Observatory develops in-depth analyses on specific topics. These studies are carried out by Italian researchers, local correspondents from throughout South-East Europe and a highly-qualified Scientific Committee of scholars and international experts. In order to strengthen the regional capacity for analysis and proposal, the results of these studies are shared with organisations, institutions, research centres and civil movements in every country of South-East Europe.

Along with its analytical activities, the Observatory promotes public campaigns and initiatives in favour of the inclusion of the Balkan countries into the European institutions. Indeed, in 2001 the public Appeal "Europe Beyond Borders" called for an integration of the Balkan area into the European Union that is "fast, sustainable and from below". In September 2001, the mayors of Rome and Sarajevo officially launched the Appeal in Campidoglio, Rome. The Appeal gained wide-ranging support. In April 2002, at the presence of 400 delegates from South Eastern Europe and from Italy, it was also presented to the President of the European Commission, Mr. Romano Prodi. On that occasion, the network "Europe from Below" was also created to support dialogue among associations, civil society, local and regional authorities in South-East Europe and in the European Union's member States. In September 2003, the Appeal was presented in Belgrade, at the completion of a journey along the Danube ("Danube: Europe is meeting"). Seventy representatives of organisations and local institutions from 15 countries took part to the journey that started in Vienna and continued through Bratislava, Szentendre, Budapest, Vukovar, Novi Sad down to Belgrade.
The partners
The active involvement of the stakeholders is one of the main features of the project BalcaniCooperazione. It is part of the objectives as well of the methodology of work: among the aims of the program there is in fact the promotion of coordinated actions as well as the support to the creation of networks and operational collaboration among the various subjects acting in decentralised cooperation with South-East Europe.

Horizontal communication, information and the exchange of experiences among the stakeholders is a growing priority for decentralised cooperation, which is based on the mobilization of a very heterogeneous set of actors. The project BalcaniCooperazione offers a place where information and data are collected and elaborated.

Methodology-wise, on the other hand, the participatory approach towards the partner Regions has been expressed through their direct involvement since the early phases of the designing and planning of the web portal, the database and every other event connected to the project. Moreover, for each partner Region a special page on the website has been created, in order to guarantee space and visibility to their activities in South-East Europe.

Partner of the project are all Regions and other local governments or subjects that provide data and information and actively participate to the functioning of the operational tools and to the activities of the project, recognizing the usefulness of these instruments. Their participation is formalized in a letter of intent signed by the partner Regions with the Autonomous Province of Trento, co-founder and in charge of the project. At present, partners of BalcaniCooperazione are:

* Provincia Autonoma di Trento

* Regione Autonoma Friuli-Venezia Giulia

* Regione Veneto

* Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano - Alto Adige

* Regione Toscana

* Regione Lombardia

* Regione Emilia-Romagna

* Regione Piemonte

* Regione Puglia

* ANCI

* CeSPI

* OICS

02/05/2007 -  Anonymous User

Background

During the 1990s, the crises in the Balkans have deeply modified the scene and the characteristics of the Italian development cooperation practice. At the outset of the crises, a combination of geographical proximity, emotional wave and lack of a decisive strategy by national and international political institutions towards the human tragedy of the conflict gave rise to new practices that took shape spontaneously, in a marked discontinuity with the past; traditional methods and patterns (based on large national and multilateral agencies or NGOs acting as the main protagonists of aid cooperation) faced the need for rebuilding 'from the bottom' the transnational action.

In many cases, the Italian local governments played a leading role in supporting and promoting coordinated actions in South-East Europe. This process led to a shift from the project-based approach in favour of a process-based approach while the project-cycle as such gradually lost its centrality together with the traditional 'donor-beneficiary' pattern. In most cases, the project turned into just one of the elements of a territorial relation, which became the real focus of the cooperation and started to be built over the time and involved - as a 'dowel of a mosaic' - a universe of local actors' initiatives. At the same time, the manifold and heterogeneous nature of the stakeholders (sprouting from the context of the local grass roots and local authorities) required a normative and an institutional interface providing the framework for their initiatives and actions. Regional laws on development cooperation, international relations or promotion of peace have been adopted and gradually filled in the normative gap at local level contributing to shaping the present 'decentralised cooperation'.

All this paved the way for a new phase of Italian cooperation, recognizing the central role of the Italian local governments (Regions, Provinces, Municipalities) in building up networks and partnerships with their counterparts in South-East Europe. As a result of this process, the actions promoted by the local governments have become one of the most meaningful features of Italian development cooperation in the Balkans. During the past 15 years, various (in types and sectors) decentralised cooperation initiatives took shape and relevance while territorial partnerships, neighbourhood policies and the principle of reciprocity have produced significant outcomes in the local context of both sides of the Adriatic Sea.

More than a decade after the start of the first few initiatives of decentralised cooperation, the whole phenomenon is now facing a new challenge, along the line of the rethinking and the 'capitalisation' of all the efforts made in the recent past: establishing steady and enhanced relations with those territories in search for new local development strategies. Bearing in mind this task, a great asset is the long and rich experience of Italian local self-government, which can surely give its support to the re-launching of the citizenship spirit and to a wider participation in the decision making process involving the local levels.

Dealing with diversified experiences and numerous actors at all levels, a need has gradually emerged for the creation of an instrument that could collect information, data, research material, in-depth analyses together with a tool for specific horizontal communication among local governments that are active in South-East Europe. The Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Autonomous Province of Trento supported and co-funded this information and communication instrument mainly created to benefit regional and other local governments, associations, enterprises as well as a wider public of readers.

At this stage only the present page, describing the general approach of the project, is provided in English. Some translations of materials and articles shall progressively be made available for the non Italian-speakers.
The project
The general objective of the project BalcaniCooperazione is to monitor, support and give more visibility to Italian Regions and other local authorities in their initiatives of decentralised cooperation with the Balkan area (i.e. Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro).

The central tool for the activities is the web portal www.balcanicooperazione.it, designed and implemented through a participatory approach involving regional and local authorities that decided to be partners of the project. The portal also reflects a territorial approach that emphasizes the role of various actors involved in decentralised cooperation: institutional and non-institutional; profit and non-profit; private as well as public ones. Furthermore, for each Italian Region and other interested local governments (e.g. Provinces and Municipalities) a specific page has been created and collects data, news and other materials that specifically describe their activities in South-East Europe.

In a specific section, the database Re.Te. (Territorial Relations) highlights all forms of interactions linking the Italian Regions to their South-East European counterparts. Finally, meetings, seminars and conferences targeting public servants and decision makers both at local and national level, complement the activities of the project by deepening the debate about opportunities, strengths and critical aspects of the Italian decentralised cooperation in the Balkans. They represent an attempt at improving and spreading best practices, bearing in mind that decentralised cooperation can take very different forms and move along various lines of action.

More in detail, the project is shaped along the following main activities:

* DATABASE: collects, files and spreads information and related data on the numerous projects and experiences of decentralised cooperation promoted by Italian Regions and local authorities together with the Balkan territories. This database offers the opportunity to elaborate and visualise the system of relations that have been shaped through a long term process and a strong participatory method that involves all stakeholders in formulating objectives, mobilising local resources and skills and reducing the risks of overlapping.

* INFORMATION: supplies public servants, decision makers, and the wider public with a thorough, regular and reliable information flow about the general evolution of Italian decentralised cooperation and more specifically about issues related to Italian and European activities in the Balkans.

* IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS: starting from the collected data included in the database 'Re.Te.', together with the information provided by the partner Regions and by other stakeholders, the project's staff elaborates the picture of the territorial relations established over the time, their content, approach and methodology. It describes the actual interactions between Italy and South-East Europe in terms of the invested resources (not merely economic ones); of the capacity to mobilise the general public in favour of a more critical approach to local development; of the degree to which decentralised cooperation contributes to the institution building; of the decentralisation process and the democratisation of the Balkan countries.

* FORUMS and WORKING MEETINGS:events, thematic seminars and international conferences are part of the project as well as technical and operative meetings aiming to consolidate relations and stimulating networks and partnerships. This kind of activities are meant as a first step towards the creation of a common open discussion space about decentralised cooperation in the Balkans.

* PROMOTION of the Regions' and other local authorities' initiatives and actions, improving their capacity to communicate and spread information to the wider public as well as to potential partners and donors (both at the national and international level). This visibility is decisive in order raise awareness and consequently to emphasise good practices.

All these activities are aiming at the creation of a wide and participated network of people and institutions, a rich information flow as well as of a constructive and critical forum for discussing relevant issues related to the Italian decentralised cooperation world.
About us
The idea for the Observatory on the Balkans emerged in Venice in June 1999, during the "Cantieri di pace" event. Various Italian organisations decided to cooperate in order to gather critical information for the developing of practical approaches to South Eastern European issues. The Peace Bell Foundation in Rovereto (Trento), the Trentino's Forum for Peace, the Autonomous Province of Trento and the Rovereto Municipality all agreed, by the end of 2000, to establish the project "Observatory on the Balkans" (www.ossservatoriobalcani.org).

By promoting transnational networks and dialogue, the Observatory supports associations, NGOs and local institutions that are active in grassroots diplomacy and cooperation projects in South-East Europe. The Observatory provides:

* constant information through an on-line source about and from the Balkans;

* research and in-depth analysis;

* training courses for development project coordinators and volunteers;

* data collection and elaboration about the multifaceted world of development cooperation in the Balkans.

Since the Autumn 2004, after the adoption of the Italian law 84/2001, the Observatory, in close collaboration with the Autonomous Province of Trento and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, monitors and supports decentralised Italian cooperation in South-East Europe through the project BalcaniCooperazione.

From its headquarters in Rovereto (Trento), the Observatory develops in-depth analyses on specific topics. These studies are carried out by Italian researchers, local correspondents from throughout South-East Europe and a highly-qualified Scientific Committee of scholars and international experts. In order to strengthen the regional capacity for analysis and proposal, the results of these studies are shared with organisations, institutions, research centres and civil movements in every country of South-East Europe.

Along with its analytical activities, the Observatory promotes public campaigns and initiatives in favour of the inclusion of the Balkan countries into the European institutions. Indeed, in 2001 the public Appeal "Europe Beyond Borders" called for an integration of the Balkan area into the European Union that is "fast, sustainable and from below". In September 2001, the mayors of Rome and Sarajevo officially launched the Appeal in Campidoglio, Rome. The Appeal gained wide-ranging support. In April 2002, at the presence of 400 delegates from South Eastern Europe and from Italy, it was also presented to the President of the European Commission, Mr. Romano Prodi. On that occasion, the network "Europe from Below" was also created to support dialogue among associations, civil society, local and regional authorities in South-East Europe and in the European Union's member States. In September 2003, the Appeal was presented in Belgrade, at the completion of a journey along the Danube ("Danube: Europe is meeting"). Seventy representatives of organisations and local institutions from 15 countries took part to the journey that started in Vienna and continued through Bratislava, Szentendre, Budapest, Vukovar, Novi Sad down to Belgrade.
The partners
The active involvement of the stakeholders is one of the main features of the project BalcaniCooperazione. It is part of the objectives as well of the methodology of work: among the aims of the program there is in fact the promotion of coordinated actions as well as the support to the creation of networks and operational collaboration among the various subjects acting in decentralised cooperation with South-East Europe.

Horizontal communication, information and the exchange of experiences among the stakeholders is a growing priority for decentralised cooperation, which is based on the mobilization of a very heterogeneous set of actors. The project BalcaniCooperazione offers a place where information and data are collected and elaborated.

Methodology-wise, on the other hand, the participatory approach towards the partner Regions has been expressed through their direct involvement since the early phases of the designing and planning of the web portal, the database and every other event connected to the project. Moreover, for each partner Region a special page on the website has been created, in order to guarantee space and visibility to their activities in South-East Europe.

Partner of the project are all Regions and other local governments or subjects that provide data and information and actively participate to the functioning of the operational tools and to the activities of the project, recognizing the usefulness of these instruments. Their participation is formalized in a letter of intent signed by the partner Regions with the Autonomous Province of Trento, co-founder and in charge of the project. At present, partners of BalcaniCooperazione are:

* Provincia Autonoma di Trento

* Regione Autonoma Friuli-Venezia Giulia

* Regione Veneto

* Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano - Alto Adige

* Regione Toscana

* Regione Lombardia

* Regione Emilia-Romagna

* Regione Piemonte

* Regione Puglia

* ANCI

* CeSPI

* OICS


Quest’anno OBCT festeggia 20 anni. Aiutaci a continuare il nostro cammino, rimani vicino alla nostra comunità di cui fanno parte corrispondenti, attivisti della società civile, ricercatori universitari, studenti, viaggiatori, curiosi e tutti i nostri lettori. Abbonati a OBCT!