“Decentralisation is a major condition for strong local governments and sustainable urban development.”
This strong message was sent out by the participants of the DeLoG side event on the “Empowerment of local governments through decentralization and partnerships” at the Habitat III conference in Quito on 19 October 2016. High level representatives from DeLoG member organisations, DeLoG partners and the Bolivian Vice-Minister for Autonomous Regions and Municipalities, Emilio Rodas acknowledged the important role of decentralisation reforms for advancing the New Urban Agenda. However, there was a consensus that decentralization reforms are highly political processes which depend on the political will of national governments.
National government representatives and implementing agencies emphasized their work on decentralization and pointed out their organisations distinctive approaches: Tania Rödiger-Vorwerk, Deputy Director General at the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), stated that Germany, as one of the largest bi-lateral donors for decentralization and local governance, is planning to continue its support. She eventually referred to the refugee crises where support to host municipalities is needed as the burden is often highest at the local level. Elisabeth Claverie de Saint-Martin, Deputy Director for Sustainable Development of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE), with an strong focus on territorial governance, stressed the relevance of traditional authorities and the importance of decentralised cooperation. Benoit Legrand, Head of Infrastructure and Urban Management of the Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC), highlighted BTC´s approach which is putting local governments at the center of their support. He underlined the relevance of multi-level and horizontal partnerships for achieving sustainable urbanization. Fiona McCluney, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Montenegro of UNDP, illustrated that the NUA has to be seen as part of the process of localising the SDGs. UNDP is focusing on multi-level partnerships to assist local governance and local development.
In addition, Emilia Saiz, UCLG´s Deputy Secretary General, acknowledged the role of local governments, nevertheless she pointed out that not all states have a positive attitude towards decentralisation and are willing to share power and resources with local governments. She thus called upon the present countries and development partners to support local government associations, for giving them a stronger voice in the international development debate.
Finally, Luiz de Mello, Deputy-Director of Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate of the OECD, stated that the OECD has conducted research which identified the strong role of the subnational level for public investment and sustainable urban development. OECD has elaborated proposals for strategic partnerships between the subnational and national level which will be necessary to implement the New Urban Agenda.
The event was moderated by Christoph Beier, Vice-chair of the GIZ Management Board, who also referred to the importance of decentralisation reforms in the governance portfolio of GIZ.