Report of LPSA, UNDP & DeLoG Webinar Series on Decentralization and Local Development in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) - Now Available
As part of the global webinar series on Decentralisation and Local Development around the World, the Local Public Sector Alliance hosted the ''Decentralization and Local Development in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) – Knowledge Sharing Week''. The webinars were co-organised with the World Bank Subnational Governance and Decentralization Global Solutions Group, UNDP, UNCDF, and several global partners from 07 - 11 March 2022.
Together with UNDP, DeLoG co-hosted the sessions “Local Governance, Conflict, and Peacebuilding” and “Urban Governance, Social Inclusion and Fragility”.
Effective decentralisation and localisation form an important precondition for resilient, inclusive, sustainable, equitable and efficient development. Have decentralisation processes taken place in the countries in the MENA region since the Arab Spring in 2011? Did they increase accountability of local and regional governments? This webinar series discussed trends regarding decentralisation and local development in the MENA region.
The Knowledge Sharing Week offered insights into:
- Regional overview(s) of decentralisation and localisation reform trends in Middle East & North Africa, offered by World Bank, UNDP, and other regional experts.
- Presentations and discussions of DLG country reform experiences from the MENA region.
- Researcher/practitioner exchanges on policy-relevant research on decentralisation and local development in Middle East & North Africa.
This webinar series introduced the audience to different contexts of decentralisation efforts in Middle East and North Africa, by bringing together the expertise of practitioners and scholars working in the field. The Knowledge Sharing Week started with a comparative analysis of decentralisation and subnational governance in MENA. The second day of the webinar series highlighted reforms and progress in the MENA region related to decentralisation efforts. In the second half of the Knowledge Sharing Week, the webinars co-hosted by DeLoG and UNDP “Local Governance, Conflict, and Peacebuilding” and “Urban Governance, Social Inclusion and Fragility” took place. In the four sessions, the countries in focus were Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.
The panellists emphasised the importance of decentralisation for resilient, inclusive, sustainable, equitable and efficient development in the Middle East and North Africa. In different contexts, communities have successfully taken over service delivery and administration following the Arab Spring in 2011. Issues such as weak leadership, a lack of accountability and inadequate service distribution due to insufficient tax bases have been highlighted as the main challenges to decentralisation processes in the region.
Below you can find a detailed account of the sessions and the links to the recordings.
The first webinar kicked off the Knowledge Sharing Week with a comparative analysis of decentralisation and subnational governance in MENA. Lynn Carter highlighted key steps of the decentralisation progress and relevant legal frameworks while referring to a USAID paper on Subnational Governance (2020). The webinar, moderated by Najiyah Alwazir, addressed challenges and progress linked to a new spike of interest in decentralisation in the MENA region after the Arab Spring in 2011. Leonardo Romeo and Salim Rouhana added valuable remarks as discussants.
The second webinar highlighted reforms and progress related to decentralisation and inclusive local governance in MENA. Jens Kristensen presented the key questions of the webinar and introduced the speakers of the session. Abel Bove provided an initial overview of decentralisation reforms in Morocco and pointed out ways to improve fiscal decentralisation and local government’s autonomy. The following country example of Tunisia was presented by Dina Ranarifidy who identified key challenges to fully operationalising a decentralised framework and highlighted necessary steps to move forward, for instance through leveraging decentralisation to address regional disparities. Shahla al Kli presented the final country example of Iraq. In this case, popular discontent and demographic factors of an increasingly politically mature population have been identified as important entry points for more decentralisation in Iraq.
In the third webinar, Tehmina Akhtar, Senior Strategic Advisor at UNDP in the Arab States, moderated the panel discussion on political decentralisation andpeacebuilding in Iraq, Libya and Somalia. Deputy Minister of Planning of the Republic of Iraq, Maher Hammad Johan, presented challenges for decentralisation, such as a lack of coordination of administrative and financial powers and the implementation of federal laws at the local level. In his experience, supporting local governments for effective service delivery has proven the best way to mitigating conflicts and security issues. In Somalia, the contestation of the provisional constitution has led to a state of suspension between several Somali states and the national government, said Fridah Karimi, manager of UNDP Joint Programme on Local Governance in Somalia. As a result, the need to contextualise policies brought local governance to the forefront of peace and conflict management. A lack of security, accessibility and data, as well as political interference remain the main challenges for decentralisation processes in Somalia. Larissa Riepl, advisor for peacebuilding and donor coordination at GIZ Libya portfolio, introduced Libyan governance structures. The demand for more decentralisation following the Arab Spring aims to bring governance closer to the constituents. Local governments can contribute to representing the diversity of the country in national politics, though weak municipal leadership remains a driver of insecurities and conflict due to mistrust in local leaders. Stronger local governance mechanisms might produce valuable local insights to be included in the overall peace process in Libya.
The final webinar of the Knowledge Sharing Week set focus on urban governance, social inclusion and fragility in MENA. Deen Shariff Sharp, fellow at London School of Economics (LSE), moderated the virtual round table discussion. The first country example of Lebanon was presented by Sami Atallah. Key issues for local governments are the rapidly increasing number of municipalities, unable to provide adequate services for the constituents because of their limited tax base. Taxation is also used as instrument to steer local politics. Some mayors have been promising tax alleviation in constituencies supporting their election. The misuse of taxation, accompanied by a lack in reliable demographic data, raises doubts concerning local officials’ accountability and their incentives for service delivery. Dastan Jasim, Fellow at the German Institute for Global and Area studies (GIGA), addressed the case of North-East Syria. Decentral governance structures in this part of the country developed in the context of the Arab Spring. When Syrian Armed Forces withdrew, mostly Kurdish forces started self-governing and self-administering the area. The institutionalisation of these structures is still an ongoing and highly costly process, that reflects the challenge of bottom-up approaches in state-building dynamics. Neila Akrimi, director general of the Centre for Innovative Local Governance (CILG-VNGi), highlighted different gender-related aspects of decentralisation and social inclusion in the MENA region. Inclusion of women and youth, economic growth and justice can be addressed by appropriate decentralisation policies that allow people to be heard on the local level. Noura Wahby, assistant professor at the at the American University in Cairo (AUC), discussed urban governance and social inclusion in Egypt with a particular focus on informal structures in cities like Cairo. Research has shown that state governments’ such as in Egypt do not always have a monopoly on service distribution. In fact, communities are developing and maintaining everyday solutions to better urban governance and deal with environmental issues such as water scarcity – mechanisms that might become even more important in the future.
You can now access the recordings online. Below you find the links to the respective webinars of the “Decentralization and Local Development in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) - Knowledge Sharing Week”:
A comparative analysis of decentralization and subnational governance in MENA
- Lynn Carter, MSI: A comparative analysis of decentralization and subnational governance in MENA
- Salim Rouhana, World Bank: Discussant remarks
- Leonardo Romeo, Local Development International: Discussant remarks
Decentralization and inclusive local governance in MENA: reforms and progress
- Jens Kristensen, World Bank: Introduction to Webinar Session
- Abel Bove, World Bank: Reforms and progress in Morocco
- Dina Ranarifidy, World Bank: Reforms and progress in Tunisia
- Shahla al Kli, Middle East Institute:Reforms and progress in Iraq
Local Governance, Conflict, and Peacebuilding in the MENA region - Please click here to watch this session
- Tehmina Akhtar, Senior Strategic Adviser, UNDP Arab States (Moderator): Introduction to Webinar Session
- Maher Hammad Johan, Deputy Minister of Planning, Republic of Iraq: Political Decentralization and Peacebuilding in Iraq
- Larissa Riepl, GIZ Libya: Political Decentralization and Peacebuilding in Libya
- Fridah Karimi, UNDP Somalia: Political Decentralization and Peacebuilding in Somalia
Urban Governance, Social Inclusion and Fragility in the MENA region - Please click here to watch this session
- Deen Shariff Sharp, LSE: Introduction to Webinar Session
- Sami Atallah, The Policy Initiative: Urban Governance, Social Inclusion and Fragility in Lebanon
- Dastan Jasim, GIGA Institute: Urban Governance, Social Inclusion and Fragility in North-East Syria
- Neila Akrimi, VNG international: Urban Governance, Social Inclusion and Fragility: Gender
- Noura Wahby, American University in Cairo: Urban Governance, Social Inclusion and Fragility in Egypt
To learn more about the knowledge sharing series on Decentralisation and Localisation, please follow this link.