The Government's commitment to providing support for local development initiatives, using the partnership approach, is clearly evident in the implementation of the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development and the EU URBAN initiative. My Department has lead responsibility for both programmes — in which the participation of the State sector, the social partners and the voluntary and community sector mirrors the social partnership that successive Governments have promoted at a national level — to very good effect — for the last ten years. It provides for developing effective and meaningful participation and opportunities for effective co-operation between State agencies, the communities they serve and the social partners at local level, particularly in communities characterised by high levels of social deprivation, including in the border counties.
A similar partnership approach is being adopted by my Department in relation to the implementation of the Drugs Initiative, the Young People's Facilities and Services Fund and the pilot Integrated Services Project.
My Department is currently preparing proposals for a post-1999 local development programme which will build on and enhance this partnership approach.