Participation – Criticism paved the way for dialogue

Hörby municipality in Skåne conducted two projects in partnership with Peja municipality in Kosovo between 2012 and 2015, in the fields of governance, management, and water and sewage issues.  

But the projects also helped Hörby municipality discover the value of citizen dialogues. The international projects had become a hot topic, with residents of Hörby expressing a strong desire to discuss the projects. Public opinion was typified by a couple of critical voices, who felt that the municipality had provided insufficient information on the projects, and wanted to see greater civic involvement and participation. The issue was widely covered in both op-ed pieces and the local news media.

The projects’ steering group initiated a programme of citizen dialogue work in response to the criticism, and was keen to identify new ways of including and involving the people of Hörby. This desire gave birth to the idea of a panel discussion.

The event was widely promoted through advertising in the media, and also attracted editorial coverage, both on the radio and in the press. The event was also extensively advertised on social media, attracting a large number of views and likes. 

For a small town like Hörby, with a population of just under 15,000, it was very pleasing to see so many local people attend the event. The discussion was lively and covered such issues as why it is important for a municipality to get involved in international development, what Hörby gained from the partnership, and how our partners view the collaboration with a Swedish municipality. The discussion was led by the well-known Swedish TV personality, Anne Lundberg.

The partnership between Hörby and Peja also enhanced public interest in democracy-related issues.
“The partnership with Peja has led to us organising dialogue meetings on a number of other different subjects, too,” says Susanne Meijer, Hörby’s Deputy Mayor.

The citizen dialogue also resulted in:

– Involvement on the part of those citizens who had previously felt excluded. A number of development ideas were also floated during the evening, and the participants felt they enjoyed a high level of civic influence. 

– The interaction between the citizens and the representatives of both ICLD and the partnership countries gave rise to discussions and functional interlinking. Levels of understanding amongst the people of Hörby and Eslöv increased. Links were forged and relationships built on site. The interaction gave a face to the people behind the partnerships.

– A political will to develop the model was born – and the audience showed a real interest in attending more events of this kind. Locals also subsequently said they would like to see additional transparent discussions and debates on political issues in the municipality.

– The partner countries’ steering groups have also expressed a desire to initiate similar events in their own municipalities. A panel discussion was, for example, held in Peja municipality in Kosovo – Hörby’s partner – when Hörby’s steering group visited the municipality in the autumn of 2015. And the model has, as a result, now spread to the partner countries.

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