Decentralized cooperation and capacity building at the centre of the EU Policy Forum on Development

Decentralized cooperation and capacity building at the centre of the EU Policy Forum on Development

Photo credits: / @Platforma 

Throughout the three days of meetings, UCLG members and family of local government networks (CLGF,AIMF and Platforma) attending the EU Policy Forum on Development (PFD) expressed the commitment of local and regional governments to play a key role in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and promote the shared values that are cornerstones of the European Union (EU), such as equality, human rights and democracy, strengthening resources for decentralized governance that build on the principles of subsidiarity and accountability. They further expressed the important added value of working hand-in-hand with civil society and the committed private sector towards the transformation of models in the urban era.

The PFD provides a multi-stakeholder dialogue among EU institutions and bodies, local and regional governments and civil society organizations to discuss EU development policies and programmes.

Local and regional governments called for specific financing for development programmes to be managed by local governments and their associations, building on the long-standing experience of the networks, and with particular focus on building capacity of intermediary cities, which are at the heart of the urbanization phenomena. 

Representing local and regional governments networks, the Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saiz, addressed the PFD in its closing session, calling to ensure an enabling environment for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both technically and politically, in order to empower local authorities and foster a multilevel governance approach. She further signalled the need to continue investing in governance, capacity building and territorial development. The local and territorial levels are strategic levels to implement the SDGs, the climate agenda and the New Urban Agenda, but they are also the right levels to assess impact and reshape cooperation initiatives and formats.

Emilia Saiz advocated the need to address the importance of intermediary cities given their key role in the current urbanization process, highlighting the need to develop true systems of cities that ensure the rural-urban continuum and provide services and opportunities for all. The long-standing tradition of decentralized cooperation encompasses city-to-city partnerships, but also a wider range of development cooperation initiatives that include country-wide approaches. This type of cooperation cannot be managed from a central point. Recalling the work being undertaken by the local government networks, she offered the expertise to build a true implementation architecture that would ensure demand-driven approaches, south-south and triangular cooperation, in partnership with multilateral and national actors.

The UCLG Secretary General voiced the constituency’s challenge to continue investing in long-term partnerships and mechanisms while reinforcing the territorial development approach, to the European Commission. "The task is too great for a single actor alone, but we are ready for the next generation of partnerships", she concluded.

The shape of future collaboration with the EU was also addressed by the Political Council of PLATFORMA that met on 22 March. The discussions recalled the importance of enhancing local authorities’ contributions to governance and development processes, and explored steps to continue our advocacy towards the EU institutions.

Back-to-back with these gatherings, UCLG further participated in the PLATFORMAwards ceremony on 21 March. Celebrating its first edition, this award aims to reward outstanding international city-to-city and region-to-region cooperation projects. The award received 25 applications, which were assessed against the following criteria: local democracy, multi-stakeholder approach, strategic approach, development effectiveness and policy coherence, gender equality, and innovation and creativity. The towns of Roeselare (Belgium) and Dogbo (Benin) received first prize in this edition for their joint birth registration programme. The wealth of best practices gathered through the award and the discussions during the ceremony conveyed a strong call to recognize the long-standing experience of decentralized cooperation and its key contribution to development cooperation and international solidarity.

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