Türkiye'de Yerel Yönetim Reformu Uluslararası Konferansı


Remarks from

Mahmood Ayub

UNDP Resident Representative

Hotel Hilton, Ankara


Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

§  The reform and modernisation of the local administration system is a pre-condition for the much-needed enhancement of the role of local governments (Municipalities – including Metropolitan Mun. – and Special Provincial Administrations) in the achievement of a more open, transparent and participatory democracy in Turkey, the improvement of the quality of life of Turkish citizens – regardless their place of residence – and the effectiveness of the policies aimed at ensuring economic and social cohesion in the country, including the eradication of poverty.

§  UNDP-TR has been active on this front since many years ago, mainly from the viewpoint of strengthening the capacity and role of local communities and civil society organisations at local level to play an active and responsible role, in co-operation with elected local authorities and public officials, in the formulation of local strategies and policies aimed at poverty eradication, social inclusion, gender equality and environmental protection, as well as in local decision-making and the establishment and management of relevant local services (Quote UNDP involvement in Local Agenda 21 and achievements of this programme)

§  More recently, UNDP has also had the opportunity to work with/for central government and administration (Ministry of Interior and others), as well as with nation-wide organisations representing the local authorities (TBB) in the formulation and implementation of a number of studies and initiatives aimed at the reform of the local administration n Turkey. In particular, in 2005 UNDP was given the responsibility to organise, manage and deliver the technical assistance and (training/capacity development) support agreed by the European Union and the Turkish Government in support to the implementation of the local administration reform programme, with funding provided by the MEDA Programme, managed by the European Commission.

§  The project, which started two years ago (August 2005) is now coming to an end; and has provided substantive inputs to the reform and modernisation of the local administration system n Turkey, in a number of areas:

§  Although late for providing substantial inputs in the process of elaboration of the new legislation enacted in 2004-2005, the project has raised the awareness and understanding among LAR stakeholders in Turkey (central and local governments, Unions of local authorities, public servants, etc) of the principles and standards commonly accepted in Europe – and in particular, in EU countries – in regards to the position, role and responsibilities of local authorities; as well as of the way and means in which such principles and standards are applied in a number of EU countries.

§  The project has provided a legal appraisal of the recent legislation in Turkey in the light of such principles and standards, and produced a number of recommendations for further legal changes to be considered in the near future, in the way to the full alignment of Turkish legislation and administrative practices on local government with the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-government, as well as with particular aspects of the EU acquis.

§  Support and assistance has been provided to the Ministry of Interior (General Directorate for Local Authorities), the Unions of local authorities (national and regional) and the local authorities themselves for strengthening their reform capacities and engaging in a permanent dialogue allowing for a smooth implementation of the agreed reforms and the joint discussion and elaboration of further reform steps.

§  In particular, intensive support and assistance has been provided to a number of “pilot” local administrations (5 municipalities and 1 SPA) for the implementation of some of the key aspects of the new legislation on publc financial management and control: strategic planning, multi-annual and participatory budgeting and investment planning, and the design and implementation of service improvement action plans. The experience gained with these 6 pilots is now available and can be disseminated and replicated to a larger number of local authorities.

§  Also, the project has helped in the development and implementation of two new training programmes for enhancing the capacity of human resources in local administrations: a new and comprehensive programme on general local administration management; and a more specific programme on local financial management. The project, through the co-operation between UNDP, Ministry of Interior and TODAIE, has trained a core group of trainers (from different regions) who are now able and available to deliver the first programme to interested local authorities, in co-operation with the regional Unions; and a group of about 50 consultants on local finances, who are available for local authorities interested in improving their financial management structures and practices.

§   In this field (finances), the project has produced and tested a software application (MERCEK) for multi-annual budgeting and investment planning, which has been made available, free of charge, to all interested local authorities.

§  An evaluation of the existing situation in Turkey concerning inter-municipal partnerships, both domestic and international, as carried out under the project. This was followed by the development of a handbook on intermunicipal partnerships (to be published before the end of the project); as well as of a draft strategy for the strengthening of inter-municpal partnerships in Turkey, which has been handed over to the Ministry and TBB for further decisions and implementation.

§  All the resources produced under the project for the enhancement of human resources of local administration have been made available through an online resource centre; and the development of the key training courses produced by the project as online training courses is undergoing, so that the courses can be offered to all interested local administration staff as of next year.

§  However, our experience with the implementation of this ambitious project has also taught us some lessons,that I would like to share with you:

§  While this type of far-reaching reforms can be initiated by a Government with a sufficient parliamentary majority and a reformist drive, the passing of the necessary legislation is only a first step in the reform process. After the legislation, it is essential that the reform efforts are continued, involving all the necessary stakeholders. In a country like Turkey,the continuous commitment and involvement of central government institutions and authorities, at the highest possible level, is to be deemed critical to this end. Local administration reform cannot be considered as completed, or a task to be completed only by local authorities themselves, in co-operation with second or third level units of central administration.

§  Strengthening the capacity of local authorities and administrations is still, of course, a priority. But changes and reforms in central administration in what concerns responsibilities involving regulatory powers or necessary co-operation with local authorities, or which may at some point be transferred or delegated to them, cannot be set aside or postponed with the excuse of the insufficient capacity of local administrations.

§  The organisations representing local authorities should be always consulted by central administration in law or decision-making processes on matters that also fall under the responsibility of local authorities or are directly addressed to them. Voluntary consultations not being a widespread and well established practice (even in the Ministry dealing with local administrations), some sort of mandatory rules should be introduced to make this consultation happen in all cases in which it would be required.

§  There is a “gap” between the spirit, principles and wording of some recent legislation (for instance, the Law 5018 on PFMC, in so far as it emphasizes “performance” and “standards”) and the actual practice of the Ministries holding regulatory powers over the local authorities or in policy areas in which local authorities have executive tasks and responsibilities. It is therefore imperative to make an effort to change the “regulatory culture” and approach in what concerns/affects local administrations.

§  The recent shift from “complete tutelage” to almost total freedom of local authorities (now just subject to a very ineffective legality control) involves serious risks of mismanagement and even corruption. The internal and external control systems foreseen in the new legislation – based in ex-post audits, to be performed by public servants whose functional independence vis a vis the Mayor is not fully ensured – might not guarantee the proper management of local public finances and other aspects with financial implications (such as public procurement/contracts). This is an aspect that, in the light of other countries’ recent experiences, should be thouroughly reviewed and re-assessed in the short-term.

§  Accountability of local officials (elected or appointed) can surely be enhanced through a more active participation of the organised local communities. Further efforts are needed in this front, including possible legal reforms (at the level of primary or secondary legislation) to make this participation more effective, without diminishing the decision-making capacity of the elected local authorities.

·        In sum, we in UNDP believe that local administration reform in Turkey is happily underway, at a good pace and in the right direction. But is not yet accomplished and there are also some risks that should be prevented. In any event, we, as an organisation interested in human development, would like to recall that the reform of the local administration is not just about modernising management or introducing new tools and approaches that have become “fashionable” in more developed countries; but is basically about focusing in the pursuit of the welfare of the local communities and the individual citizens, without discrimination; and ensuring equal services and opportunities to all inhabitants of the country, no matter where they live (rural or urban areas, west or east regions).

·        We are more than willing to continue contributing to these reform efforts in Turkey and hopeful that both the Governments (central and local), other international organisations and the civil society at large will continue finding in us a reliable and committed partner, which combines a hands-on knowledge of the situation, problems and culture of the country with a top-notch management capacity and expertise in all fields related to human development, including local development and administration.

·        Thanks for your attention


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