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Citizens decide – Through local initiatives in our neighborhood to professional skills capacity building

In Soviet times, the city of Rustavi was expanded into a major industrial centre. Its development was part of the Stalinist plan of accelerated industrialisation of Georgia and included the construction of steel and chemical plants and a railway node. As a result, there were about 90 large and medium-sized industrial plants in Rustavi. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the decline of the centralised economic system brought about the city’s economic downfall. Most plants were shut down or faced serious employment reductions, and 65 per cent of residents lost their jobs. The result was social disintegration, increased poverty and crime.

Citizens decide – Through local initiatives in our neighborhood to professional skills capacity building

The project was implemented from 1 February to 31 December 2014 in the Kvemo Kartli region. The implementing parties were the Association of Economic Development together with the Georgian partners Rustavi Korpusi, the municipal department for managing properties of the Town Hall of Rustavi and the Georgian Association of Local Officials.

The project was a continuation of the cooperation among these partners from 2011 to 2013 under Polish aid. It resulted from the need to provide practical support for constitutional reforms in Georgia, consisting of decentralisation through the delegation of decision-making powers concerning activities on the part of the city of Rustavi at the level of housing estates. The proposed mechanisms for incorporating residents into a self-government model had not been practised earlier in Georgia. It was the residents who, in accordance with their local needs and under the Housing Initiatives Programme worked out with the project partners, decided which small investment or social measures would be carried out.

Citizens decide – Through local initiatives in our neighborhood to professional skills capacity building

Under the project, a number of workshops were held for municipal staff, local leaders and residents of Rustavi. The workshops organised in ubani (districts) made it possible to work out procedures for the Local Initiatives Programme, prepare a manual for residents, and implement local projects with the help of funding from the city. An unquestionable advantage of these actions has been the increased activity of residents and their involvement in the Housing Initiatives Programme.

The involvement of Georgian partners made it possible to implement six smaller infrastructure projects, including revitalisation of urban squares and setting up of outdoor fitness equipment that will serve residents for many years. When starting the project, it was not expected that local initiatives would be implemented on such a large scale. This was made possible thanks to municipal funds allocated for this purpose and the intensive cooperation between activists and residents.