Members of Georgia’s Sakrebulos (Local Assemblies) succeeded in improving responsiveness to community needs by bringing citizens into the local budgeting process. This is thanks to assistance from The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and a guidebook developed by the Institution on municipal budgets under its USAID funded program, “Elections and Political Processes Support in Georgia.”
Municipal budgets are one of the most critical pieces of policy documentation, outlining the infrastructural, social, economic, cultural, and youth related priorities of a municipality. However, they are highly technical documents that can be challenging for first-time Sakrebulo members. As a result, citizen participation and feedback during the budgetary process are often neglected.
To address these gaps, the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) and NDI produced guidelines in both Georgian and Azerbaijani languages on the municipal budget that provides Sakrebulo members with information on the timeline and phases of drafting a municipal budget and accompanying long-term priority document. The guidelines define ways that elected officials can better execute their budgetary responsibilities and facilitate citizen participation to better account for and incorporate citizens’ viewpoints in the municipal budget. The guide includes templates for issue tracking and budgetary initiative forms that CEPPS/NDI partners have used to gather and incorporate citizen views since 2019.
The Sakrebulo Members’ Guide to the Budget is always at hand on my desk. I find Chapter Four on providing recommendations to the Mayor's office to be the most interesting, since it outlines in detail how I can participate in the budget process as a member of Sakrebulo. Thanks to the guidebook and as part of my efforts to mobilize funds from the 2023 budget, I have prepared several initiatives to submit to the Mayor's office. This guide is a great tool to keep me on top of budgetary matters, as I'm constantly reminded of what to and when to do it for better results.
- Member of Telavi Sakrebulo
CEPPS/NDI’s partners have started utilizing and referencing the guidebook during the budgetary process for this fiscal year. Sakrebulo members evaluated the guidebook as an exceptionally useful resource, and some of them referred to it as an essential part of their everyday work as elected officials. The guidebook has allowed political party representatives with limited experience working on budgets to actively engage citizens and gather their input and feedback on budget priorities, increasing the participation and buy-in of citizens through improved communication and outreach strategies. As a result, NDI’s partner Sakrebulo factions began outreach activities earlier in the process, increasing transparency and diversifying the sources of feedback they received from citizens. For example, a member of the Telavi Sakrebulo reported that they have already submitted several budgetary initiatives to the Mayor’s Office.
There is a lot of flexibility and practicality in the Sakrebulo Members' Guide to the Budget. By using this guidebook, my colleagues and I have been able to get involved in all phases of budget preparation and approval process. Therefore, it will enhance accountability through the introduction of coordination and participation mechanisms.
- Member of Chokhatauri Sakrebulo
Other examples of partners’ increased outreach to citizens include:
NDI’s partner Sakrebulo factions are utilizing the guidelines to draft the priority document as part of this fiscal year’s budgetary process. This document will identify local issues tracked by various factions and will be submitted to the Mayor’s office in August.
Sakrebulo members from Telavi Georgian Dream Faction are actively using social media to announce outreach activities in advance. They are also using online surveys to conduct in-depth research on issues such as women’s economic empowerment, management of stray animals, youth priorities, etc.
Elected officials in Chokhatauri held a meeting with citizens ahead of submitting budget proposals to the Mayor’s Office.
Members of the Telavi Sakrebulo initiated outreach with women entrepreneurs to track the challenges they face. As part of this effort, the Sakrebulo worked with the NDI polling team to design a survey that identifies and tracks issues that all locals in Telavi face.
The Azerbaijani-language version of the guidebook allows for newly-elected Azerbaijani officials to have access to the same resources and tools and better engage ethnic Azerbaijani settlements in Marneuli. As a result, officials plan to conduct focus group research to identify the issues affecting ethnic Azerbaijani communities, such as early marriage.
You can view the guidebook here in both Georgian and Azerbaijani.
NDI's engagement in Georgia is implemented with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS).
Authors: Mariam Tkeshelashvili, NDI Georgia Program Coordinator, Tekle Zedelashvili, NDI Georgia Program Assistant
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.