“Decentralised Governance” – a series of online trainings organised within the project Gagauzia Dialogue in July 2020

Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) has partnered with Eurac Research to implement the Sweden-funded project “Supporting Inclusive Dialogue and Strengthening Capacities for a Better Functioning Gagauz Autonomy in Moldova”, also known as “Gagauzia Dialogue”. Together, CMI and Eurac Research developed an online training programme, “Decentralised Governance”, to contribute to a better understanding of the topics related to autonomy issues, presenting both international and local experiences to provide a comparative perspective. The programme was delivered in four sessions across June and July 2020.

Almost 40 participants from Comrat and Chisinau attended the sessions to learn about multilevel governance, decentralisation and autonomy concepts, including members of the Government of the Republic of Moldova, the Executive Committee of ATU Gagauzia, the Parliamentary Working Group on Gagauzia, and the Gagauzia Dialogue Project’s Policy Development Task Force. These stakeholders were joined by international and local experts, and additional experts from CMI.

The first session “Decentralisation: Concepts, Dimensions, Forms” was an introductory lecture on decentralisation, autonomy and good governance. It was presented from an interdisciplinary perspective, and focused on the link between minority protection and good governance in decentralized governance, including its relevance, related terminological issues, and global examples. The session was delivered by Elisabeth Alber, Senior Researcher at the Eurac Research Institute for Comparative Federalism.

Political decentralisation affects all levels of government. If practiced as an incremental and multi-directional process of capacity-building, it enables citizens’ participation in politics, and it leads to an increase in good governance. Its effectiveness depends not only on the way decentralised institutions are designed and work, but also on the dynamics that govern the relations between different stakeholders horizontally – within a territorial unit and between territorial units – and vertically – across governmental levels.

Argued Ms. Alber

The second session “Decentralisation in Europe: a comparative overview” offered an introductory lecture on division of powers, multilevel government and conflict regulation from the constitutional law perspective. The session was delivered by Martina Trettel, Senior Researcher at the Eurac Research Institute for Comparative Federalism.

The process of decentralisation is a complex undertaking, taking on different meanings in different contexts. This is why it is important to keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all” solution. For example, there are various techniques to divide and share competences between governmental levels. Regardless of the instrument chosen, conflicts can never be totally avoided, but clear rules in intergovernmental relations can help to handle them in a transparent and fair way.

Stated Ms. Martina Trettel

The third session was delivered by Zdenka Machnyikova, international expert in human rights law and protection of minorities, and Ion Beschieru, national expert on local governance and decentralisation. The speakers presented on  the “Gagauz-Yeri Autonomy: centre-autonomy relationships and institutional arrangements”.

The emergence of an autonomy as a new actor in the multilevel governance of Moldova has called increased attention to the setup and design of institutional systems dedicated to the management of these relations. The political and institutional channels enabling the autonomy to participate in national policymaking and in managing governance in the region require the effective functioning of structures for centre-autonomy relations. The relatively high level of  institutionalisation of inter-governmental arrangements often plays down and defuses the level of politicisation of the inter-governmental relations processes.

Asserted Ms. Machnyikova

Ensuring effective channels for participation, co-operation and coordination among the executive levels would greatly contribute to the sustainability of the existing Gagauz-Yeri Autonomy arrangement.

Added Mr. Ion Beschieru.

In the same vein, Ms. Machnyikova noted that “institutionalising mechanisms for addressing complex multi-layered governance,  where competencies are shared, could provide an effective instrument for a functional autonomy and clarification of competencies”.  She also pointed out that “in addition to co-ordinating executive level mechanisms, having a problem-solving channel that addresses emerging issues and disputes could provide a positive contribution to managing inter-governmental relations. In comparative contexts, such mechanisms have often provided space for resolution of problems without a need to go through judicial dispute resolution”.

The training program concluded with a discussion on the topic “Theory and Practice of Intergovernmental Relations and Conflict Regulation” with Professor Francesco Palermo, director of the Eurac Research Institute for Comparative Federalism. The discussion was wide-ranging, complementing the previous sessions and distilling the lessons that were most relevant to the Gagauz context. Topics included challenges to a functioning autonomy in respect of good governance and minority rights in central/eastern Europe; institutional and political influences (both internal and external) that affect autonomies in the region; and the importance of policies and policy development for the safeguarding of an autonomy. The discussants debated the mechanisms and tools best suited to ensuring adequate decentralisation for an autonomy and the need for substantive dialogue between parties, given the fact that competencies need to be clarified.

It is fair enough that the division of powers need to be clearly defined. However, even the highest degree of detail stipulated in the acts regarding the division of powers cannot entirely prevent disputes. Division of powers creates security, but autonomy can work only if also trust is added. And this can be achieved through specific bodies that enable cooperation and negotiation.

Underlined Mr. Palermo


CMI also partnered with Eurac Research earlier in the Gagauzia Dialogue project to organise the four-day Autumn Academy “Decentralisation, autonomies and minority rights”. Within the Academy, Eurac experts provided numerous lectures for a diverse group of participants from Moldova (civil society, academia, media, local public administration) sharing international experiences of autonomy and decentralisation. The Autumn Academy concluded with an Academic Conference “Advancing Good Governance through Decentralisation, Autonomy and Accommodation of Minorities”. The international conference brought together a wide range of international and local experts from various disciplines and contributed to increased understanding of mechanisms of self-government and intergovernmental relations. The experts focused on common trends, challenges and difficulties of decentralisation and conflict management, presented how they play out in multi-level systems and looked at procedures and policies in place across Europe. The conference aimed to provide substantive discussion on concepts of decentralisation, devolution and autonomy as a means of managing of states’ territorial and societal diversity and promoting good governance.

About the Gagauzia Dialogue project

“Supporting Inclusive Dialogue and Strengthening Capacities for a Better Functioning Gagauz Autonomy in Moldova” is a three-year project implemented by CMI and funded by Sweden. The project focuses on increasing trust and dialogue between the central authorities of Moldova and the Gagauz autonomy and aims to facilitate the clarification of competences between the center and the autonomy. It also initiates discussions on the best institutional mechanisms to ensure good governance and facilitate the elaboration of the public policies which have strategic value for the Gagauz Autonomy.

CMI is a Finnish non-governmental organisation. It was founded in 2000 by Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, and holder of the Nobel Peace Prize. CMI works in the field of prevention and resolution of tensions and conflicts through dialogue and mediation. The organisation helps maintain lasting peace within regional programs in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Sweden has a long-term commitment for continued support to Eastern Partnership countries through its Results Strategy 2014-2020. The key priority areas include strengthened democracy, greater respect for human rights, a more fully developed state under the rule of law, and gender inclusion.

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