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The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pej?inovi? Buri?, has issued a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis.
COVID-19 Toolkit (available in several languages)
Good practice story of the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments and local governments
The crisis has changed the operating principles of organizations both in Latvia and abroad, but at the same time we can see the crisis as an opportunity to develop by acting wisely and sustainably. Since March 12, when the government declared a state of emergency in the country, Latvian local governments have been working very operatively and purposefully to ensure, together with partners, that the spread of Covid-19 is limited. Overcoming the crisis is not possible without strong local government and the involvement of the non-governmental sector, which are important partners of the government in tackling the challenges posed by the crisis. This is a time when cooperation at all levels is important.
Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments (LALRG) since the declaration of the state of emergency in Latvia, LALRG has been actively participating in the work of the Crisis Management Council, ensuring coordinated action of central government and local government institutions and eliminating the consequences of the crisis. Every day LALRG collects information about the needs and problems of local governments and informs the public. The advisers of the LALRG also are involved in working groups of the Parliament and line ministries. LALRG’s close cooperation with the ministries during the Covid-19 crisis is very crucial.
Video conferences - a very successful tool for the direct and rapid transfer of important information to local governments
LALRG uses video conferences with the participation of senior officials from the institutions in-charge as one of the tools for the most effective outreach to local governments and society. Videoconferences until now were attended by several ministers, senior officials of responsible institutions, management and experts of ministries and responsible services, as well as the Prime Minister. Videoconferences is still being held every week.
LALRG hosts the videoconferences at our premises and they are moderated by the Chairman of the Association. The videoconferences are streamed live and municipalities can send in the questions before and during the videoconference on the matters which are unclear in this very complicated situation and get immediate answers from the authorities. The recordings of the conferences are available on our website as well.
Useful information and communication - Latvian local governments regularly receive informative materials prepared by LALRG and also prepared by ministries and State Chancellery. Up-to-date information is posted on our website www.lps.lv and on social networks, every Tuesday local governments receive the electronic newsletter “Infologs”, two special publications have been prepared, which summarize the experience of Latvian local governments during an emergency situation.
Survey of all local governments - LALRG has conducted a survey and summarized the experience and practice of all Latvian local governments during an emergency situation, implementing support measures for people and entrepreneurs and providing various cultural, educational, artistic, sports and entertainment opportunities at a distance, while respecting national restrictions. Since March 12, when the government declared a state of emergency in the country, local governments have worked very operatively, responsibly and purposefully to jointly ensure the spread of Covid-19.
The lessons learned during this time are a special experience that we can share with our international partners. Therefore, this is the moment when LALRG is even more active in cooperating with local government associations in Europe, Eastern Partnership countries and Central Asia. This international cooperation gives a positive charge, enriching each cooperation partner. All local governments associations are currently working remotely and devoting most of their resources to overcoming the challenges of the crisis. All local governments associations have intensified communication with their members during the crisis.
There is an intensive exchange of information and experience with the Nordic countries associations, consultations in the social field and education, as well as an exchange of ideas on the best ways to inform the public.
LALRG is a member of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), where we participate in the Covid-19 working group, where local governments share experience and help each other solve various issues.
LALRG participates in the The World Organization of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), which holds video meetings on good practice initiatives taken by local governments around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic.
International co-operation between local governments also takes place within the framework of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CLRAE). The exchange of national experiences demonstrates the need to return to a normal pace of life as soon as possible in order to preserve democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. The current crisis highlights the need for closer cooperation between all stakeholders to ensure that the decisions taken and their implementation are truly effective and as close as possible to the people.
LALRG responding to a request from long-term development cooperation partners in Kyrgyz Republic: the Development policy institute and the Association of Local Authorities of the Kyrgyzstan, organized a video conference where Kyrgyz colleagues were introduced to the experience of LALRG and Latvian local governments in overcoming the crisis caused by the coronavirus Covid-19. For several years LALRG has had successful experience and cooperation with Kyrgyz partners both in the framework of development cooperation projects and in the implementation of other joint activities.
Despite the fact that most national borders are closed, international co-operation between municipalities continues in various formats. Municipalities continue to develop and implement projects during the crisis, LALRG has also developed and submitted several project applications during the crisis.
Good practice examples from local governments
There are different support measures for local inhabitants during emergency in local governments: special allowances are allocated to solitary seniors, persons who are self-isolated, employees in idle time, and others who are not able to meet their basic needs due to emergency. In addition, local governments help to provide transport and premises for those who are obliged to be in self-isolation or quarantine; they also provide needy, poor and large families with food – either hot meals, food packages or funding for catering for children. Moreover, in many local governments free catering is provided for all children, regardless of their financial position.
Support for entrepreneurship and local initiatives in local governments: postponed deadlines for real estate tax, exemptions or discounts for entrepreneurs which rent their business premises from local governments, identification and marketing of local producers, as well as other support instruments.
Local governments are the closest to local residents, and local government is often the first contact point which people turn to during crises situation. local governments are better aware of situation in their territories and can operatively react to needs of local inhabitants.
It should be noted that everyday life in Latvia continues also during this emergency situation; it has just moved more into virtual environment and closer to nature. Since most of the people have to stay at home, local governments really try to provide various activities in order to contribute to their inhabitants’ emotional welfare. Local governments also provide psychological support and advice how to survive this special period of time in a more meaningful and better way. This is the reason why local governments organize different activities, exhibitions and competitions, provide online concerts, make suggestions for interesting and useful spending of time, as well as promote healthy lifestyle and physical welfare.
Mr. Gints Kaminskis, Chairman of the LALRG, pointed out that: “Managing of Covid-19 crises is not possible without strong local governments, and local governments are significant partners for the central government which is coping with challenges caused by Covid-19 crises. This is the time when cooperation on different levels is very important, and local governments’ actions may be crucial.”