- Decentralisation can deliver sustainable growth in the post-2015 development agenda when all partners share strategies.
- The gains of a decentralised approach to development can create a virtuous circle of opportunity providing staff at a local level with the tools and experience to lead and control budgets.
- Central and local authorities need clarity of individual responsibilities to ensure the focus remains on effective delivery.
- Think big – diverse partners from around the world can unite under common goals and projects can develop way beyond their original scope to help lift people out of poverty.
Decentralisation and local governance deeply embedded at the heart of development projects are important to ensuring sustainable goals are met. However, the view from those actively engaged in projects is that it requires all members of the international territorial partnership to share common goals.
With the post-2015 agenda now looking at fresh ways to deliver on the universal goals of development and poverty eradication, the experiences of local and regional authorities as key drivers for change will become crucial to the debate.
But how well are they doing?
Youssef Geha, a representative of the Local Economic Development Agency, in Bekaa, an important farming region in Lebanon, said the strength among stakeholders, including the regional cooperative, trade unions and local chamber of commerce, was in their willingness to hold discussions with each other.
Geha admitted that while it was initially a challenge to bring the entities together, the work of the group was beginning to bear fruit, helping the development of an embryonic winemaking industry involving 11 villages in the region.
Working with the Chamber of Agriculture in Oise, northern France, a cooperative of farmers in Bekaa is now selling grapes for winemaking. Looking to the future, the Atlas non-governmental agency and Italian partners are now working with farmers and development workers on a plan to establish the region as a producer of quality organic foodstuffs.
‘This is very important to the region,’ said Geha, who highlighted the potential for increased job opportunities and sustained growth in a region already facing pressures stemming from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
Director, URB-AL III Programme, Association for Social Development – ADESO, Héctor Navarro, a specialist in planning and international cooperation, described the Tourist Borders (Fronteras Touristicas) project. The project focuses on heritage tourism in the borderlands between Bolivia and Argentina-Bolivia-Peru, where 40 % of people live below the poverty line. Fronteras Touristicas is now working because of the shared aims among all partners, led by mayors and local authorities and based on trust.
The numbers are impressive. More than 9,000 people have benefited from the project, 750 entrepreneurs have acquired new skills in tourism and 170 non-state service providers have formed the management structure to deliver change.
Christophe Rouillon, Mayor of Coulaines, France, said a water supply project in the regional community of Kouré, Niger, is now benefiting from a decentralised approach that involved the local community in maintaining the facilities and identifying future growth. It is also responsible for creating a ‘virtuous circle’ of sustainable development and good governance, he added.
A note of caution was sounded by Claudia Serrano, Executive Director, Latin American Centre for Rural Development, who said such decentralised projects could only achieve complete success if central governments are willing to cede control of funding streams to their local partners and if those on all sides recognised their individual responsibilities.
‘If there is no fairness about what they have to do, they can’t do it,’ she added.
‘We need real involvement of local and regional governments in the post-2015 agenda. Too many times in the development of the Millennium Development Goals all of the relationships were with national governments and they didn’t have a local approach.' Paul Ortega, Director, Basque Agency for Development Cooperation, Spain