16th DeLoG Annual Meeting 2021 Opening - ''For local governance, the devil is exclusion”

After two weeks of reflection and exchange, the DeLoG Annual Meeting 2021 closed on 23 September 2021. DeLoG looks back on the opening event that kicked off the exchange and mutual learning formats.

The DeLoG Annual Meeting 2021 (AM) took place during a difficult historical moment. Political and economic stability and prosperity are being fundamentally shaken and it is key to build institutions and approaches that ensure social, political, economic and most of all environmental sustainability and resilience. Local actors are on the forefront of responding to these challenges. So, it is more crucial than ever to bring the local perspective to the policy level and establish a stronger bridge between the different levels of government.

Therefore, theOpening Panel provided a high-level exchange between representatives of various organisations, including donors and municipal authorities and platforms.

Thomas Gass, Assistant Director General at the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), and Ingolf Dietrich, Director, 2030 Agenda; poverty; democracy; rule of law; equality; human rights; education; Commissioner for Sustainable Development, from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), opened the policy dialogue from a donor’s perspective. While for both countries decentralisation and local governance have been central to their engagement in governance action, the pandemic has shown existing and new challenges, like the rapid, but uneven digitalization, but also accelerated trends like the centralisation of power and democratic backsliding, with negative impact on inclusiveness and trust in the citizen-state interaction. Concepts highlighted were bottom-up-built accountability, as both a goal and a tool for good governance, a focus on improving implementation by using all the existing tools and frameworks, but adapting them better to the contexts, and focusing on multi-stakeholder processes. Both speakers stressed the relevance of DeLoG’s work in allowing exchange and collaborative improvement and development of decentralization and local governance support as well as DeLoG as a platform providing access to a wide range of stakeholders and knowledge for practioners, policy makers and donors.

As Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saíz introduced the municipal perspective and (presented firm considerations on) stressed the importance to address the core issues that will allow us to truly leave no one behind, starting from cities and regions globally. She highlighted ecology, feminism and municipalism, all linked to providing services that are not only sufficient but resilient, especially when talking about fragile and emergency contexts. She also stressed that while working towards the equality and cultural agendas at local level, DeLoG is key to strengthen exchange and collaboration between LRGs and among the different actors in the global DLG community. The topic of digitalisation came back as a crucial support instrument for inclusion and accountability at the local level but Ms. Saíz also mentioned that it would not be enough by itself.

The following speakers, Tatiana Badan, Mayor of Selemet, Moldova, President of NALAS and Hemanthi Goonakesera, Executive Director of the Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government Authorities (FSLGA) highlighted the most pressing challenges facing Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) in two different European and Asian regions. Re-centralisation, financing and fiscal issues facing LRGs, as well as digitalisation were put in the forefront, showing an agreement of the present challenges between donors and municipal actors. However, at a closer glance, municipal actors face very specific challenges. Among them are the need to focus on updating and creating new laws and regulations for municipal councils as well as strengthening women representation in councils, fighting cultural and language exclusion and finding new ways to include youth.

The concluding remarks from Dr. Neila Akrimi, Senior manager Strategy & Development, VNG International, further underlined that inclusion is central for actors working on governance, of working together to find sustainable and resilient solutions and, again, stressed the importance of improved and flexible implementation and of capitalising on lessons learnt. Finally, she called for all actors involved to create and strengthen a common roadmap to work towards. DeLoG’s role is thus fundamental in giving visibility and a platform to coordinate on DLG support.

For the concept note and agenda, click here.

A brief report on the key outcomes of the whole Annual Meeting will be available soon.