Pirot 2024: Listening to the Economy and People and the Proactive Role of Local Government as Key Factors in Sustainable Local Economic Development

The Center for Advanced Economic Studies (CEVES) organized the conference “Key Factors of Sustainable Local Economic Development” in Pirot on June 20, 2024, aiming to exchange experiences among representatives from the Pirot, Toplica, Nišava, and Zaječar districts. The conference was organized in collaboration with the Association for the Development of Sustainable Communities (TOC) and the Regional Development Agency South (RRA JUG), within the Platform “SDGs for All”, supported by the governments of Switzerland and Germany and implemented by GIZ as part of the project “Public Finance Reform – Agenda 2030”.

The conference was opened with introductory addresses by the Deputy Mayor of Pirot, Miloš Colić, the President of the Board and Chief Economist of CEVES, Kori Udovički, and the Manager of the Local Government Development Sector at RRA JUG, Nataša Andrejević.

The working part of the conference began with the presentation of the CEVES analysis “Listening to the Market – A Key Factor for Successful Development”, which highlighted the importance of considering all characteristics, similarities, and complementarities of the economy and people for an adequate regional development analysis.

The panel titled “Creating Education Based on Labor Market Needs: Challenges in Implementing the National Agenda, Perspectives of Local Communities, and Expectations of the Economy” brought together participants to discuss the efforts made to bridge the gap between education outcomes and labor market demands, the main results and difficulties, and future plans. The panelists included Gabrijela Grujić, Director of the Office for Dual Education and National Qualifications Framework, Miloš Colić, Deputy Mayor of Pirot, Marija Ćirić, Director of the Vocational High School in Pirot, and Mira Zlatkov, Director of the ZIP Center Pirot, moderated by Tatijana Pavlović Križanić, an expert in local economic development. The discussion showed that efforts to bridge the gap between education results and labor market needs are under way –methodologies have been developed, synergies between education and industry are identified, and programs are being created. However, there is a need for speed and scaling up of results.

Following the panel, Miljana Medarov-Vujaklija, Head of the Monitoring Department at the City Administration of Niš, presented the process of creating the Voluntary Local Report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, making Niš the first city in Serbia to do so.

In the second part of the conference, representatives from municipalities and cities from the four districts had the opportunity to share their experiences regarding specific initiatives important for local economic development in line with all three dimensions of the 2030 Agenda. Conference participants learned more about the regional councils established and supported by RRA JUG, as well as the territorial investment strategies that will enable the implementation of important projects aimed at improving infrastructure and education in the Pirot and Niš districts. Dragan Mančev, a representative from Dimitrovgrad, presented the opportunities provided by this municipality to the economy, such as revolving funds, which are also implemented in other cities and municipalities, allowing socially responsible entrepreneurs and farmers to obtain the capital needed to improve or start their businesses. Aleksandar Ranđelović, a representative from Gadžin Han, shared the experience of establishing a joint ombudsman office with the city of Niš as an example of how small municipalities can, through inter-municipal cooperation, enable their residents to protect their rights with fewer resources. In the field of environmental protection, Bojan Pešić, Head of the Department at the City Administration, shared the experience of establishing and operating the regional landfill in Pirot, explaining how inter-municipal cooperation between Pirot, Babušnica, Dimitrovgrad, and Bela Palanka was achieved to set up a joint landfill.

The conference highlighted the need for a proactive role of local government in the sustainable development of its community, which involves continuously listening to the needs of people and the economy and seeking solutions to their problems through the experiences of other cities and municipalities or cooperation with them.

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