Addressing inequalities through territorial inclusive governance

What are the strengths and challenges of sub-national governments and territorial policymaking to address inequalities ? Lessons learnt from Zambia, Lebanon, Albania and Spain

Lab debate
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
14:45 to 16:00

Rapid urbanisation generates a concentration of economic activities and increases social, environmental and governance pressure on territories. At stake is uneven development with growing inequalities that risk eroding social cohesion. Subnational governments are key to address inequalities as drivers of multilevel and multi actor coherence, leading to more equitable service delivery. Inequalities are tackled by considering the functional areas of the territory and by articulating the demands and strengths of territorial players, including civil society. Experiences will be showcased from municipalities and regions in Albania, Lebanon, Zambia and Spain that are building innovative strategies to tackle territorial challenges regarding equal access to basic services and social cohesion.

Key points

  • The main advantage of the territorial approach is that it gives a voice to all stakeholders, especially those acting on a local level.
  • Local governance has a key role to play in development, particularly in regards to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Networking with other actors facing similar challenges can help share experiences and spread best practice
  • Good governance helps attracts the corporate sector in private-public partnerships.


The territorial approach to local development is multisectoral, bottom-up and context-specific. It is often characterised as being decentralised although national governments can be a partner as well as a hindrance to local decision-making. In Zambia, for example, a municipality wanted to create an industrial development park. But rather than simply hand over the running of the site to the national government, it recognised the benefit of working with the national government as a partner. A year’s extensive preparation resulted in the creation of a park far greater in scale than those established in other areas. Conversely, the country also provides an example of how good decision-making on a local level can be thwarted if a truly territorial governance approach has not been applied. Local actors had established a social housing fund and wanted to contribute to it with money raised from a levy on cement, which would also serve as a deterrent to slum housing. Such a levy, however, can only be introduced on a national level and the government has not used the additional income to support the fund, though local action groups are continuing to lobby it to do so. Similar problems relating to over-centralised governance can be found in Lebanon. Nevertheless, local mayors have a responsibility to address inequalities in their municipalities, many of which have experienced large influxes of refugees in recent years. It has launched specialised training on sustainable cities, recognising the specific environmental and inequality challenges that urban areas present. By the year 2050, 70 % of the world’s population will live in cities. Such inequalities were evident in the Albanian town of Lezhë, an urban area that has expanded rapidly as rural populations migrated to cities for work. These movements created peri-urban areas, where the greatest social deprivations can be found. The local government, however, is using a territorial approach to address these problems. It assessed the interactions between people to inform a reshaping of urban spaces. As a result, the population is now more stable, and access to social services and the labour market has improved. The Basque region of Spain is another area that has demonstrated the value of territorial governance. Its focus is to ensure multisectoral governance that is transparent and accessible. The emphasis is on implementing the UN’s 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development, noting that it must be adapted by society to meet its needs – not the government – with the private sector brought on board from the start. The Basque region has also issued sustainable bonds amounting to EUR 500 million, about 90 % of which are social development and 10 % environment.


The time of social development actors working in silos is over. All stakeholders need to join forces to create the right conditions for development.

Organised by


Stefano Marta
Coordinator, Territorial Approach to SDGs
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
Valbona Karakaci
Programme Manager
HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation
Christopher Chishimba Kang'ombe
Local Government Association of Zambia
Marta Marin Sanchez
Delegate to the EU
Basque Government
Béchir Odeimi
Cités Unies Liban