- The paradigm for development cooperation needs to be changed.
- Local authorities are closest to the people.
- Local authorities are a way to bypass corruption.
- We should no longer preach at or teach developing countries, but should learn from each other.
The UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 development agenda has defined a key role for local and regional authorities (LRAs) in setting priorities in future development policy, executing plans, monitoring results and delivering basic public services.
For this to be successful, LRAs need to be involved in policymaking by national governments and international donors. They also need the capacity and resources to be able to perform effectively.
Mr. Joan Carles Garcia Cañizares, Councillor for the Presidency, Barcelona Provincial Council, Spain, fully supported this approach and stated that money is spent more effectively at the regional level than by central government. ‘We know what our citizens need and what they will want for the future. We need to change the paradigm for cooperation. We should not just be teaching, but learning. It is not for us to go to Africa and show them what to do. We have to offer them our experience. It needs to be a two way process. We can learn as well.’
He added that this new paradigm is committed to sustainability and reciprocal impacts. ‘In this light, our Office of Cooperation for Development has launched 144 actions, among them the Local Med platform. We are actively engaged in several networks and organisations focused on positioning local governments on the international agenda, such as Arco Latino, Platforma or United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG),’ he said.
Giovanni Camilleri, International Coordination, Articulation of Territorial and Thematic Networks of Cooperation for Human Development Initiative – ART, United Nations Development Programme – UNDP, stressed that the territorial approach allows LRAs to be a policy driver. The multilevel approach is the right way to take decisions.
Angelo Baglio, Head of Unit, Civil Society and Local authorities at the European Commission's Directorate General for Development and Cooperation, explained that the Commission supports the idea of empowered local authorities that are able to participate in and contribute to development processes of their country.
In May 2013, the Commission adopted the Communication, Empowering Local Authorities in partner countries for enhanced governance and more effective development outcomes. The Communication emphasises participatory decision-making related to sustainable development and inclusive growth. It aims to reinforce local political processes and transparency and boost democratic ownership of development processes.
Mercedes Bresso,Conseiller Région Piémont, First Vice-President of the Committee of the Regions, emphasised that for local governments to be able to participate they need know-how and adequate resources. There must be institutional capability at the local level. No one-size-fits-all, and goals and means have to be specific and set differently within countries. The agenda must have local roots.
The decentralised forms of development cooperation between local and regional authorities in Europe and the South have an important role to play in making development issues more concrete and tangible for citizens in Europe, and for ensuring that development cooperation responds to real needs that are identified at the local level.
Eva Joly, President of the European Parliament’s Development Committee, criticised the top-down process that led to the approval of the UN Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals 13 years ago. ‘This time, we believe that the UN and international community are following a different approach,’ she said. ‘They are trying to find an enlarged consensus and improve the prospects of the most vulnerable. Citizens, NGOs and local and regional governments are deeply engaged in the construction of an inclusive sustainable development model.’
Joly added, ‘We need links between our LRAs in Europe and those in the countries we want help. All these goals will not be possible unless we commit ourselves to improve a more coherent approach at national and sub-national levels.’
Another good reason for working at the local level, she stressed, is that you can bypass corruption. People at the grassroots have a direct interest in seeing that a school they are promised is actually built.
Local authorities are best placed to know what people want now and what they will want in the future.