Report of DeLoG in DiaLoGue - Reloading Conversations on Decentralised Cooperation with CIB

On April 26th members and partners joined online for the event: DeLoG in DiaLoGue - Reloading conversations on decentralised cooperation (DDC). DeLoG in DiaLoGue aims to facilitate dialogue on DLG issues among DeLoG Members and Partners. During the event, the Capacity and Institutional Building Working Group (CIB) presented a call for action aimed at bringing DDC to the forefront of international cooperation. CIB presentation was commented by the National Association of Local Authorities (NALAS).

Local and regional governments’ engagement in the field of development cooperation is known as decentralised development cooperation (DDC). DDC is increasingly gaining attention in the international development landscape as a particularly effective approach for local development. ​

The evolving complexity of the development challenges of this century requires a fundamental rethinking of the relationships of the actors involved in the sector. The traditional aid perspective that sees the “North” as developer and the “South” as recipient is changing. Alternative development models like South-South or triangular cooperation are gaining pace progressively and DDC has a major role to play in the coming years.

With the call for action “The role of Local and Regional Government in Development Cooperation”, CIB aspires to turn DDC into a fully recognized, efficient and well-funded development cooperation modality. Sebastien Hamel, senior consultant at CIB, presented six recommendations included in the paper to facilitate this transition. The call for action is part of the policy paper “The role of Local and Regional Government in Development Cooperation”, which will be presented for approval at UCLG Executive Bureau in June and at the UCLG World Congress in October in full version. This call for action, however, is still a draft building upon a previous policy paper published in 2013 by UCLG.

Key recommendations
1.    Push for a continuous recognition of the role of local and regional governments in addressing global challenges (i.e. by calling national governments to officially recognize local level in the policy dialogue);
2.    Promote decentralised cooperation as an essential development cooperation modality (i.e. through strategic partnerships);
3.    Make decentralised cooperation more effective, professional, and innovative;
4.    Further engage decentralized cooperation in the financing sphere
5.    Help create more integrated and coordinated development cooperation between all countries and actors (i.e. create more venues for local governments to connect and create bridges)
6.    Foster stronger public support for decentralised cooperation (i.e. promoting citizens’ engagement and raise awareness at community level).

Comments and discussion
Kelmend Zajazi,NALAS’ executive director, reaffirmed the importance of looking beyond traditional forms of cooperation, especially in times where challenges extend across borders. It is up to local and regional governments to be hubs of innovation and change for a sustainable future. Kelmend Zajazi also brought to the attention of the audience the pivotal role played by mayors in promoting DDC in their community. Raising awareness on their mandate and getting them on board in development projects is essential to strengthen community engagement.   

Further interesting points were raised during the discussion. The lack of funding, for example, is still a major issue for local Governments, strongly affecting DDC. Creating networks aimed at facilitating LG access to funding for their engagement is a necessary step in this process. Through these networks, DDC allows cities and people to remain inter-connected, even in times of conflict. Already in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, DDC is contributing decisively to peace building and reconstruction. Networking and exchanging experiences like success stories are also the most accessible and efficient way to raise awareness on DDC among local officials and within the communities. For example, the dissemination of best practices and implementation tools to mainstream gender at local level is surely contributing to the leaps development cooperation is making for women’s empowerment worldwide. Through peer-to-peer exchange, practitioners will be better able to access funding and familiarize with different engagement modalities. Making the impact of DDC visible among them will work as a multiplier for action within their communities.

Translating these points into a theory of change is the challenge that development partners will have to quickly respond to. For now, we identified three milestones towards change: first, subnational institutions have a role to play in development cooperation; second, DDC is a way for local and regional governments to get into action; third, DDC needs to be recognized as a key modality of cooperation now and in the future.