On Thursday, March 3rd 2016, representatives from CIL, NAXTA and Zawiya’s municipal council introduced for the first time Zawiya’s Local Sustainable Development Strategy (LDS). The Local Sustainable Development Strategy was initiated in 2013 under CIL. This one-year project was designed to support local authorities in the identification and development of new resources and investments to stimulate economic growth and sustainable development.
After a one-year hiatus due to the escalating violence in Libya, Zawiya’s Local Development Strategy was finally concluded thanks to the collaboration of local actors with CIL and NAXTA, a European consultancy firm specialized in designing projects and providing technical assistance to facilitate international cooperation. Francesco Natale (NAXTA) explained that the project would focus on three main areas – economic development, environmental development, and social and cultural development – based on a ten year plan envisioned to identify priorities and design appropriate activities to address them. What NAXTA proposed to the Zawiya community is an integrated approach. Although we commonly think in terms of sectors, cities, and tangible versus intangible developments, in reality all sectors are intrinsically connected, tangible developments create intangible results and opportunities, and their territorial impact is larger than the borders of a city.
Throughout the inception and implementation of the project, engaging public, private and civil actors remained a core concern and objective. In order to achieve it, the local council started to stimulate local private and public actors, while NAXTA devised a strategy that would involve and engage citizens through partnerships. In total, over 200 local actors from CSOs, private and public institutions contributed to the project. Eventually, thanks to this close collaboration, all activities of the project were carried out in less than 6 months: by late 2014 all activities were completed and results achieved. This was the idea at the basis of NAXTA’s approach: to carry out activities that could be implemented with the resources available and have an immediate impact.
Abdulsalam A. Ahmed Abalazi, Dean of Zawiya’s Economics Faculty made a presentation of the territorial analysis, explaining the specificity of Zawiya. The city of Zawiya was selected because of its historical, cultural and territorial anchorage: Zawiya is a very productive city, the agricultural sector is (and has always been) thriving, and local actors are deeply connected to the territory which is why it was all the more important to connect and engage them in the project. For centuries, Zawiya has been a crossing point in the west facilitating trade and human movement.
Abdulbaset Yousef Rhoma, from Zawiya’s Department of Planning introduced the project’s strategic objectives. The first objective is to stimulate economic development through the creation of a business friendly environment to support businesses, attract investments and promote the sustainable economic development of Zawiya. The second is to ensure the social, cultural, and health development of the community by creating and encouraging a safe social environment in which all citizens can express and fulfill their potential for personal and social growth. The third is to ensure the sustainable development of the city through spatial and urban planning for a balanced use and management of natural resources as well as environmental protection to improve environmental and health standards. Finally, the project will support good local governance based on transparency, efficient public services and participation of citizens and local actors in the sustainable development of the city of Zawiya.
Sami Ali Arosi, from the Department of Education in Zawiya presented one of the projects achieved: the construction of playgrounds in the city to provide children with an area where they can distance themselves from the war. More buildings have yet to be rehabilitated to host activity centers for children.
Peter Salloum (UNDP) commented that the data collected is mainly focused on infrastructure, but something is lacking in terms of human development. To answer that, Francesco Natale explained that the analysis of this project has to take into account the capacity of local stakeholders to submit proposals. Many projects are infrastructural because it’s easier to propose the rehabilitation of a building than it is to propose intangible results such as supporting civil society, improving social inclusion, improving education etc. This is why in the next phase, NAXTA will train stakeholders to develop this kind of projects. At the same time, we should take into account that even if we “only” built an infrastructure, such as a park, its use and purpose are not only infrastructural, but have intangible impacts. The construction of playgrounds is a telling example: although its tangible result is infrastructural, it has intangible results as well: it contributes to the well-being of children. Tangible and intangible results are thus not exclusionary.
Remy Reymann, Team Leader at ACTED/CIL and Nataliya Apostolova, Head of the EU delegation to Libya concluded the event with a few remarks.
“This was a learning process, we wanted to start interacting with local stakeholders (universities, municipalities), Zawiya was a perfect field of experience, it is close to Tripoli with a strong identity, as well as a tremendous industrial and agricultural potential. It was a learning process to understand how Libyan municipalities work, what the role of universities is and what they can contribute. In spite of the war, cities, even in the line of fire are not collapsing, and this is because they are strong enough not to collapse. As ACTED and CIL our commitment is to continue to develop, implement, and support this kind of project. We want to open the field of technical cooperation with international partners.”
“This project is a great success, and as Ambassador, I am proud. We want to help you but we are not on the field, and we can’t be there to help you. We know that local governance is essential and fundamental, but it’s up to Libyan citizens to support this political process, Push politicians, tell them to do their jobs, tell them to do it better. It’s not just our job to do that, it’s also yours to raise your expectations. We are your neighbors, we will always be near you and this is why our relationship is not just short term but long term, this is why our relationship matters.”