Encouraging Sustainable Development of Local Communities Through the “Cities in Focus” Call

Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia
Describe the main features of the policy/measure: 
“Cities in Focus” is a program created by the Ministry of Culture and Information to encourage sustainable local cultural development. The general and specific goals of the program are consistent with the principles of the 2005 Convention, and are based on the concept of decentralization of cultural life and strengthening the capacity of local self-governments in the field of culture, contributing to more balanced local and regional development. Within the “Cities in Focus” framework, the Ministry of Culture and Information issues an annual call, which provides an opportunity for cities and municipalities to cooperate with institutions, art, and other associations registered as operating in the field of culture on the task of improving the capacities and cultural offer of individuals (artists, associates, and cultural professionals) and other entities in culture. Elected local governments receive the title “City in Focus,” which allows them to be recognized as relevant national centers of cultural development and become more visible on the cultural map of Serbia and Europe. The goal of the call is to encourage local development by supporting annual cultural activities programs, implemented in the territory of the selected local self-government unit and in accordance with the general goals of the program, which are improving culture and art, creating a richer cultural offer, encouraging creativity and cultural diversity, and recognizing the specificities of the local community’s cultural identity and sustainable development. The Program’s specific goals are defined as follows: • Increased contributions of culture to the long-term and sustainable development of local self-government units in accordance with their strategic priorities; • Strengthened cultural capacities at the local level, as well as improved inter-ministerial (education, research, environment, urban development, social policy, economic development, and cultural tourism) and inter-sectoral (public, private, and civil sector) cooperation; • Enriched cultural offer and better quality of content; • Preserved and enhanced cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue; • Improved and modernized cultural infrastructure; • Protected and revitalized cultural monuments; • Enhanced regional and international cultural exchange and cooperation; • Improved accessibility of cultural content for all citizens and encouraged cultural participation, with special emphasis on vulnerable social groups; • Created stimulating environment for creative expressions of independent artists and individuals in culture. The program supports projects that are of interest to the local community, assessed as innovative, financially and content-wise sustainable in the long run, and as having the potential to improve the quality of cultural life in the community. The program’s focus is on rural and poor areas. It is implemented through projects led by cities or municipalities in Serbia, in the form of infrastructure improvements, equipment procurement, cultural and artistic events, and educational programs. The program encourages cultural participation with a special emphasis on vulnerable social groups: national minorities, poor communities, rural communities, women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Only local self-government units (cities or municipalities) have the right to apply to the call.
What are the results achieved so far through the implementation of the policy/measure?: 
A large number of applications and approved projects contributes to the dynamism of the cultural environment. During the period 2017-2020, a total of 251 applications were submitted to the call, and 65 were approved for funding, resulting in a pass rate of 25.9%. By strengthening the cultural system in local self-government units, the developmental role of culture has been confirmed and the level of cultural participation and involvement of different social groups has been raised.
Financial resources allocated to the policy/measure in USD: 
During the period 2017-2020, as part of the “Cities in Focus” call, a total of approximately 4,882,892 USD (506,600,000 RSD) was allocated, as follows: in 2017, approximately 1,310,280 USD (140,200,000 RSD); in 2018 approximately 1,500,000 USD (RSD 150,000,000); in 2019 approximately 1,266,667 USD (133,000,000 RSD) and in 2020 approximately 809,709 USD (83,400,000 RSD
Partner(s) engaged in the implementation of the measure: 
Name of partnerType of entity
Local self-government units
Public Sector
Has the implementation of the policy/measure been evaluated?: 
If yes, what are the main conclusions/recommendations?: 
A comparative analysis of the “Cities in Focus” call during the period 2017-2020 shows a growth in the interest of local governments and their greater participation in the call. It is also noteworthy that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in the call was high in 2020, with the number of supported projects doubling from the previous year. The program continuously contributes to more even cultural development in the Republic of Serbia, as well as to decentralization, through support to projects that have raised cultural capacities at the local level. By strengthening the culture system in these areas, the developmental role of culture in the cities and municipalities covered by the program has been confirmed, and the level of cultural participation and involvement of various social groups has been raised.
Goal(s) of UNESCO's 2005 Convention
Cultural Domain(s)
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