In a broad effort to increase communication between Macedonia’s elected officials and citizens, NDI has worked to open nine constituency offices for legislators and to train new office assistants. In September 2007, 36 constituent office assistants went through a three-day training in Mavrovo to prepare for the opening of new offices.
NDI Country Director Chris Henshaw led the team of trainers. Henshaw has worked with the Macedonian Parliament and the Association of Mayors (ZELS) in expanding a 2003 initiative to give greater constituent access to MPs. On the second night of training, the group was joined by Secretary General Zarko Denkovski of the Macedonian Parliament, who brought up the challenges and responsibilities that members of parliament (MPs) and their assistants will likely face in the upcoming months and years.
The trainings focused on the need to prepare assistants for situations that they might encounter as the offices begin operation. They included informal and motivational presentations, practical exercises, training on constituency casework databases, simulations, presentations on the Macedonian Law of the Freedom of Information, and instruction on a Constituency Relations Handbook, that NDI prepared specifically for Macedonia.
Over the coming months NDI will hold similar trainings as new offices open. Nine constituency offices are currently operating in Macedonia; that number will jump to 65 in the coming months. The new offices will provide constituents with local access to MPs. When all is said and done, no Macedonian citizen will have to travel more than 30 kilometers to reach an office where they can voice concerns with their elected leaders.
Funding for this project was provided by the government of Canada and the United States Agency for International Development, starting in 2003. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) took over as the primary funding source in August 2007.
Published on Nov. 1, 2007