Rabat, 07 May, 2020
On Thursday 07 May 2020, UCLG Africa organized a webinar on the Interaction between the National Associations of Local and Regional Governments and the European Union (EU) delegations in the framework of the programming process of the EU Cooperation (2021/2027) in Africa.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, UCLG Africa organized a webinar attended by over a hundred people including Presidents of the National Associations of Local Authorities of the five regions of the continent, African Mayors, as well as guests including representatives of the European Commission’s Directorate for International Cooperation (DEVCO), Representatives of the world Organization of Local and Regional Governments (United Cities and Local Governments, UCLG) and experts who facilitated the event.
In his opening speech Mr. Léandre Nzué, Mayor of Libreville and President of UCLG Africa invited his colleagues to take this opportunity to make National Associations of Local and Regional Governments aware of the programming process of EU cooperation. Since the adoption of the 2013 Communication, the European Commission has recognized Local and Regional Governments as state actors and must now be involved in defining the priorities of European cooperation for the period 2021-2027 in the same way as National Governments.
The agenda of the Webinar was presented by Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa, who said that although the priority of leaders of Local and Regional Governments is the implementation of concrete projects to solve people’s problems, the continuity and sustainability of these projects need permissive conditions, in particular institutional and financial conditions negotiated at the level of different actors and stakeholders, for their implementation. UCLG Africa has been active on this front at the level of the African Union and the European Union.
On the African Union level, UCLG Africa was the initiator of the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development, adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the African Union at their Summit held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in June 2014. This Charter is a fundamental tool for the definition, implementation and strengthening of decentralization policies in African countries. It is a powerful advocacy document that Local and Regional Governments should adopt to get all actors and stakeholders to support decentralization processes in their respective countries.
To date, the Charter has been signed by 15 Member States of the African Union and ratified by 6. To become an official instrument of the African Union, the Charter must be signed and ratified by at least 15 Members States and these instruments deposited with the African Union Commission. UCLG Africa has set itself the target of the end of the year 2020 for the Charter to become an official instrument of the African Union.
Similarly, UCLG Africa has worked to ensure that Local and Regional Governments are recognized as public authorities at the level of the European Union. This effort began during the structured dialogue that brought together EU institutions, EU Member States, Civil society organizations (CSOs) and Local Authorities. Previously, Local and Regional Governments were categorized as non-state actors, with non-governmental organizations at their core. UCLG Africa has tirelessly advocated for the recognition of the public authority nature of Local authorities, which must therefore be distinguished from NGOs and recognized as State actors. This effort has resulted in the inclusion of Local authorities among the beneficiaries of the thematic budget line reserved until now for Civil society organizations. Some African Local and Regional Governments and their Associations have benefited from this budget line and have been able to implement concrete projects thanks to the funding they have been able to access following calls for proposals reserved for Local authorities.
Another important outcome of the dialogue was the adoption in 2013 of the European Commission’s Communication on “Empowering Local Authorities in Partner Countries for better governance and more concrete development results”. This policy reference document marks a major change, because for the first time, and from now on, the EU Commission officially recognizes Local and Regional Governments as a public authority and state actor and abandons their inclusion among non-state actors. This improvement has led the European Commission to conclude a framework partnership agreement for five years (2015-2020) with five international and continental Associations of Local and Regional Governments, including UCLG Africa.
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