African Decentralization and Local Development Day- Declaration of UCLG Africa

“African Decentralization and Local Development Day.”

The theme adopted for this year 2016 by the African Union for the celebration of the African Decentralization and Local Development Day on 10 August is “Gender, equity, and women empowerment key for achieving African’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)“; with as sub-themes  :

– “What strategies to improve women’s representation in the various organs of their local governments?”

– “Empowerment of Rural women, critical to ending poverty and hunger in Africa.”

How to ensure the empowerment of rural women if they do not take an active part in the management of their community?How can they take part if they are not represented in the deliberative or executive bodies?And more fundamentally, how can we expect their significant contribution if they have no control over the basics of farming such as access to land, inputs and credit?

The representation of women in political and administrative bodies of local authorities has been at the center of UCLG-A’s concern for more than 5 years.It is indeed during the Africities Summit 2009 in Marrakech, Morocco that the members of our organization have instructed the Secretariat to promote the network of local elected women of Africa (REFELA) whose founding forum was held from March 08 to March 11, 2011 in Tangiers, Morocco.

Since then, the REFELA network was confirmed as the representative voice of elected women within local governments, which is increasingly heard throughout the continent as its National Chapters are being established, but also on the international scene, REFELA ensuring Africa’s representation in the Standing Committee on Gender Equality of the world organization of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). UCLG-A calls on the national associations of elected officials and on the ministries in charge of Local Governments to see to it that in each country a national REFELA chapter is put in place.

UCLG-A supports the idea of striving for parity in gender representation within the political and administrative bodies of local governments of Africa.UCLG-A also calls on political parties and parliaments so that voluntary action is taken and the share of women in eligible positions on candidates for local elections lists is at least 30%, so as to strive for parity during the next two terms.The example of Senegal which has adopted laws for gender parity should be pondered and imitated.

UCLG-A wishes however that players go further than that.There is no real liberation of women without economic empowerment.UCLG-A believes that local authorities have an important role to play from this standpoint.In this respect, the public procurement codes should incorporate rules of preference in the tenders of local authorities in favor of businesses run by women.Deliberate actions (affirmative action) should also be taken for the recruitment of more women in executive positions within the administrations of local authorities.UCLG-A strongly wishes that these goals be integrated among the priorities for action of national associations of local authorities as well as among the priorities of national governments who are anxious to see their public decentralization policies succeed.

One should also recall that in June 2014, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union have adopted an African Charter on the Values ​​and Principles of Decentralization, Local governance and Local Development. The Charter contains useful guidelines both for the design and the implementation of the decentralization policies.Its implementation by the various African countries lays the foundations for the convergence of the decentralization policies within the continent.

Despite its interest and significance for the consolidation of democracy in African societies and for the improvement of the living conditions and living environment of the population, the Charter has so far, just over two years after its adoption, been ratified and signed by only a handful of countries whereas it takes at least 15 countries to ratify it and sign it so that it becomes an instrument of the Union.UCLG-A congratulates the States that have signed and ratified the Charter, and encourages them to complete the process by filing the instruments signed and ratified with the Commission of the African Unionthrough diplomatic channels.UCLG-A cannot sufficiently encourage national associations of local authorities of the countries that have not yet ratified it to conduct advocacy with national governments and their parliaments so that the signing and ratification process of the Charter be speeded up, if those countries and their associations of local governments are really concerned about “Gender, equity, and women empowerment key for achieving African’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)“.

Rabat, August 1st, 2016

Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi

Secretary General, UCLG-A