Erbil, Iraq – Between 24 and 28 August, a workshop was held in the capital of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan in Iraq as part of a project of mutual exchange of local authorities entitled “Peer-to-Peer with Iraqi Governorate Basra”. Cooperation between Iraqi and Slovenian representatives of local and regional authorities is based on the exchange of good practices from Slovenian municipalities in the field of strengthening professional skills, employment opportunities and tools to increase the motivation and active participation of young people in the Iraqi community. At the workshop, the Mayor of Škofja Loka Tina Radinja and the Deputy Mayor of Kočevje Gregor Košir presented the good practices of their municipalities – Business Incubator and co-working space Lokomotiva and Business Incubator Kočevje.

In a region of about two million people, regional authorities have recognized the need to create new employment opportunities and develop economic policies. Therefore, the project’s activities focus on creating employment opportunities, especially for young people and women, as well as on improving decentralization processes and capacity building through a case-by-case learning approach. This strengthens the knowledge and improves the services of the Al Basra region administration and creates new opportunities for its inhabitants.

Photo by Lima Ibrahim/UNDP/2021

“Through the preparation of the project and the analyzes performed at the beginning of the implementation, we identified good opportunities for the transfer of successful models of business incubators from Slovenia to Basra. Of course, the model needs to be properly analyzed and adapted to the reality and needs of the target groups in Iraq. In the next step, we must help the regional authorities to prepare an action plan, through which they will be able to implement the model later, “said the Secretary General of the Association of Municipalities and Towns of Slovenia, the leading partner of the Slovenian project consortium and added: “We chose the Lokomotiva Business Incubator and co-working space from Škofja Loka and the Kočevje Business Incubator as best practices in Slovenian municipalities.”

All participants in the project have been participating in online exchanges and discussions on good practices and their possible transfer to Iraq since March this year. A personal meeting at the workshops in Erbil brought the participants closer and, above all, removed barriers that are present online. The mayor of Škofja Loka said about the experience:

“I am proud and happy to write success stories in Škofja Loka, which are of interest even to the regional authorities in Iraq. They were very interested in our case, they asked a lot and discussed the possibility of transferring our good practices to Basra.”

The municipality of Škofja Loka, which is also the holder of the Youth-Friendly Municipality certificate, is trying to improve employment opportunities for young people. They actively support the Škofja Loka Inter-Entrepreneurial Education Center and career guidance programs. It provides long-term unemployed young people with co-financing of work promotion programs – public services and organizes local job fairs and career guidance workshops. “As we strive to provide a solid long-term economic foundation, which requires the constant creation of new companies and the growth of micro-enterprises, we have established a business incubator and co-working space Lokomotiva. It is an entrepreneurial accelerator that brings people together with business ideas in one place, offers them help in starting a business, entering the labor market and networking with other companies,” said the mayor of Škofja Loka Tina Radinja at a meeting with representatives of the Basra region. He highlighted the role and task of local authorities in establishing such models and their positive impact on the long-term employment opportunities of young people.

Photo by Lima Ibrahim/UNDP/2021

Gregor Košir, Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Kočevje, emphasized to the participants of the workshop that the creation of employment opportunities and the successful promotion of the economy require a vision of development and long-term planning of activities step by step:

“In the Kočevje region, we launched a business incubator more than a decade ago. With the collapse of large local companies, we faced a lack of entrepreneurial initiative and an increasing unemployment rate (23.6%). The region was not interesting for external investors, both due to the non-existent infrastructure for the development of entrepreneurship and the poor connection between local businesses. The incubator, together with the Municipality of Kočevje, significantly helped in the development of regional and local programs for the economy. Among the most important projects is the establishment of appropriate infrastructure. To date, the Kočevje Business Incubator has grown significantly, both in terms of a team of experts, the scope of activities and space, and has become an indispensable supportive environment for entrepreneurs. It cooperates with more than 100 companies in the Kočevje-Ribnik area, and in the last five years they have participated in the establishment of 33 companies in the local environment. It is also an important partner of the municipality in attracting foreign investors, and at the same time it operates successfully on the market and obtain funds for independent operation. Thus, in the last period, they helped small companies to obtain approximately 2 million euros of financial resources. There is also a social aspect, because with innovative programs for young people, such as robotics and entrepreneurship education in primary school, they make an important contribution to new generations of successful and innovative individuals in our environment. ”

The training workshop for Iraqi civil servants in Erbil was led by Slovenian environmental expert Jernej Stritih, who is a member of the Slovenian project consortium. His work focuses on methodologies for people empowerment and sustainable development, so part of the workshop was devoted to studying the methodology of financial participatory approach. With this method, with the help of a small prize for the best business idea and some competitive spirit among the citizens, we can enhance their cooperation, active participation in their community and in the new plans of local authorities.” This is an important goal, to which the representatives of the Basra region have also committed themselves. With the help of the live meeting, we had the opportunity to discuss the methodology in detail and respond directly to all questions, so we are confident that this knowledge will successfully connect the people together,”said the director of Stritih, adding that for the implementation of the methodology in the Basra region, seed funds are available to launch the best business ideas.

The project is implemented under the program “Support to Recovery and Stability in Iraq through Local Development”, is funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Iraq.
For any questions about the study visit and to establish contact with Slovenian project partners, you can contact the Secretariat of the Association of Municipalities and Towns of Slovenia: +386 2 234 15 00.

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