The establishment of Local Economic and Social Councils in the country is at its early stage, the process started in 2010 in parallel with the establishment of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) that serves as point of reference. The ESC at national level, not directly focus of this action, is mainly treating questions among the employers, trade unions and the government; the civil societies’ representatives are not part of it.  While in EU countries this consultation instrument “merge” the CSOs and the Social partners as equal partners that are also represented in the European Economic and Social Committee as consultative body that contributes to strengthening the democratic legitimacy and effectiveness of the European Union. The emerging LESCs, in Republic of Macedonia were supported by USAID with the main goal to establish, support and develop dialogue at local level between local stakeholders with focus on the local business community, the education sector, the local governance and youth CSOs for the purpose of increasing the rate of youth employment and their inclusion in the regional dialogue through LESC. This gave opportunity, similarly to the EU practice to extend the ESC composition and to include the CSO representatives that have in this way a say in a consultative mechanism at local level that opens opportunities the CSOs to work together with the business associations and the trade unions with the local authorities on issues that each of these perceived as “different” sectors treat however relate. Following challenges in the LESC process and its stakeholders have been identified:

  • The cross - sectoral collaboration involves partnership, trust, respect and creativity. Unfortunately all these benefits at this moment are not used at local level. Excluding the declarative support, our research confirms that each sector (CSO, business, trade unions, municipalities) has unambiguously positive opinion to the other, but they hardly opt for mutual cooperation.

  • It is difficult to maintain, or establish balance between sectors, although there is a wide range of roles and responsibilities that need to be implemented in the function of the community.  The joint approach like joint statements, joint papers etc. are perceived as unknown by the public.

  • There are no public hearings as a common mechanism for collecting information which is especially important in the process of lobbying.

  • Insufficient intensity of inter-sectoral self-help, that is often motivated by "other interests" mostly political and therefore we believe that with the application of transparent lobbying these anomalies could be reduced, minimized although we are sure that can never disappear.

  • The three sectors, especially municipalities do not use nor create opportunities for networking especially are not aware of networks at EU level such associations operating in Brussels: Council of European Municipalities and Regions-CEMR, Assembly of European Regions-AER, and others of which can give insight on  how to perform two-way communication and use of professional expertise for cross-sectoral cooperation. The CSOs, business associations, trade unions and municipalities in a number of cases have confirmed their analytical skills to ascertain their weaknesses and many documents reveal the lack of processing skills such as lobbying managed with knowledge, without improvisation.

  • As stated above participation in LESC is left to the perception of the initiator, sometimes an international donor and only some of the LESCs have CSOs (mostly youth organisations). For comprehensive approach it is necessary to further develop the process and not only to opt for inclusion of the CSOs but also to broaden the themes to be treated such rural development, environment, education, care for elderly people, preservation of nature diversity, tourism, etc. That can off course be achieved though lobbying of the local CSOs.

Proposed action aims to relate to the action so far financially supported by USAID, for establishment of Youth Employability Network in which one component was the establishment of LESC with priority to include youth CSOs in fighting challenges of their unemployment.  Present action aims to provide support in further upgrade of the emerging process and extend the scope of activities that would also include rural development and cross - sectoral cooperation between CSOs, social partners and municipalities, as well as hopefully systematic inclusion of CSOs in all LESC as added value that is matching EU practices in this area. The partnership for implementing the action reflects the intention for CSOs cross-sectoral cooperation between civil association, foundation and a branch trade union active mostly in the rural areas. Furthermore in the course of 2014, an IPA grant scheme should start implementing by the International Labour Organisation dedicated to promotion of social dialogue and enhancing the tripartite social dialogue on national and local level. In this sense project outcomes, such the state of play of participation and cooperation among the CSOs (civil and business association, social partners) in the existing mechanisms for participative decision making at local level and Guide to strategic lobbying management for CSOs with impact on the local social economic development, and the bulk of lessons learnt will be valuable input for successful implementation of both projects.

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