With the occasion of the PLATFORMA Forum, local and regional elected representatives had the opportunity to recall that the economic crisis calls for better coordination and joint development actions carried out by European local and regional governments. Transparency and efficiency were also considered vital in order to justify decentralised cooperation budgets to European citizens.
In this context, the study on the support of the European Union (EU) to decentralised cooperation (to be published at the beginning of April) should offer interesting reflection opportunities, especially concerning the different financing models for cooperation among local authorities.
Elected representatives from partner countries, among whom Fatallah Oualalou, Mayor of Rabat (Morocco), also declared being worried by the consequences of the economic crisis and of the drastic budget cuts that most European countries are faced with. Supported by European elected representatives, namely Alfonso Polanco, Mayor of Palencia (Spain), and Roselyne Lefrançois, Deputy Mayor of Rennes (France), he called upon local authorities to enlarge their partnerships to new actors, such as the private sector and Southern countries with a positive balance.
The debate on fragile states confirmed this need for coordination and joint action, and especially for the creation of multilateral decentralised cooperation partnerships. The talks also allowed understanding the importance of working with local authorities in fragile states. Aziza Mohammed Kattra, Deputy Mayor of Timbuktu, spoke of the recent experience in Mali, where the state and the international donors completely abandoned the Northern part of the country, and where local elected representatives had to manage displaced populations and service provision on their own.
Jean-Claude Kouassi, President of the Bouaké general council, explained how local elected representatives from the Ivory Coast contributed to the restoration of the state in conflict zones. The elaboration of a social cohesion charter, the creation of local media, of cultural associations, the depoliticisation of schools and mixing populations in the habitat policies are actions that contributed to pacification.
At the level of the European Commission and of the External Action Service, whose representatives took the floor during the Forum, the reflection on working with local authorities in fragile states seems to be advancing in the right direction; the Commission in particular now has a conceptual framework comprising the communication on resilience and a resilience action plan. However, the different accounts underlined the need for the emergence of a new paradigm in conflict prevention, crisis management and reconstruction, to which local authorities should be fully associated.
During the closing session of the Forum, Kristian Schmidt, representing Commissioner Piebalgs, reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment to continue working with local and regional authorities from Europe and from partner countries, especially by reaffirming their key role in basic service delivery and in the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Thanking PLATFORMA for their support in the organisation of the consultation on the Communication on local and regional authorities in development, he announced that the Communication would emphasize the role of local and regional authorities as actors of local democracy and sustainable development, the territorial approach to development and support to decentralisation in partner countries.
Corina Cretu, Vice-president of the Development Committee of the European Parliament and rapporteur on the role of local authorities and the EU’s commitment to sustainable development indicated that, in her report, to be voted on in September, she would suggest a better participation of local and regional authorities in the design and implementation of the development programmes.
Finally, Imma Buldu Freixa from the Catalan delegation in Brussels and Dave Wilcox, Derbyshire County counsillor, speaking on behalf of PLATFORMA, insisted on the fact that local authorities should not give up on their international commitments despite the crisis, and that the European Commission should support them in doing so. Insisting upon the fact that the MDGs did not allow to reach the populations who most needed it, they called for the future sustainable development objectives to be more local and encouraged the EU to defend this approach at the next summits in the framework of post-2015 development.