UCLG Africa resolve to support local authorities and their national associations in dialogue and interaction with central government and the European Union delegation at country level in the framework of the new programming of EU cooperation (2021-2027)

UCLG Africa organized a second webinar on 19 June 2020 as part of the preparation of local and regional authorities and their national associations in dialogue and interaction with central government and the EU delegation at country level at the next EU programming cycle (2021-2027).

Aimed at permanent secretaries of national associations of local and regional authorities and national consultants in charge of technical support to the national association, this second meeting followed the webinar held on 7 May for the benefit of presidents and permanent secretaries of national associations.

The European Union will start the programming process of its cooperation with partner countries for the period 2021-2027 in July 2020. For the first time, local authorities will participate in this process as public actors alongside the central state, which was previously the only public actor involved in defining the priorities of European cooperation.

In order to carry out this process, it is important for African local and regional authorities to focus on two stages:

– The first step must concern the dialogue with the State and Government to build a united front of public authorities and have a common position on the priorities that the public authorities of the country wish to put forward in the framework of the European Union’s cooperation program.

The second step will involve negotiating with the European Union delegation the priorities for the new cooperation and the concrete arrangements for its implementation.

The meeting saw the participation of 22 national associations of local and regional authorities and consultants retained by UCLG Africa, to support them technically in order to succeed in the negotiation process. The secretariat of UCLG Africa proposed that the associations that wish to mobilize the services of a consultant do so at their own expense.

In his speech, the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, recalled the selection process of consultants that was done jointly with the national associations. The latter has submitted a short list of five country consultants, one of whom was selected by the selection committee of UCLG Africa.

Mr. Mbassi referred to the new context favorable to the participation of local authorities in European cooperation, the obstacles to be overcome for the full participation of local authorities in the programming process of EU cooperation, the preparation of local authorities to play a proactive role in the programming process, the strategic dialogue to be engaged between the central state and local authorities and the importance for EU delegations to interact with local authorities.  He concluded by presenting the 5 steps proposed by UCLG Africa to facilitate the integration of local and regional authorities in the programming of EU 2021-2027.

Step 1: Strategic dialogue between the national government and the national associations of local authorities;

Step 2: Joint/concomitant consultation between public authorities (central government and local authorities) and the European Union’s delegations as part of the European cooperation programming process;

Step 3:  Negotiation and Conclusion of a Framework Partnership Agreement (FPAs) between the EU Delegation and the NALAs for the duration of the cycle;

Step 4: Exploration with the central State and the EU delegation of funding mechanisms guaranteeing direct access and LAs to European cooperation funds;

Step 5: Influencing the drafting by DG DEVCO of guidelines and a political orientation note relating to the integration of LAs in European cooperation.

Following Mr. Mbassi, the President of UCLG and President of the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Communal Councils (AMPCC), Mr. Mohamed Boudra, gave a word of encouragement to the participants. He stressed that the work to be carried out was at two levels, “The political level and the technical level.  We have a platform for the Africa-Europe dialogue through the first Africa-Europe Local Government Forum to be held in 2017. The declaration produced at this meeting must be used as a basis for negotiations at the political level.  The struggle for decentralization is not easy. It is a permanent struggle to make it a success and it must be conducted in such a way as to avoid breakdowns. Partnership with the EU is important for the success of decentralization.

The space was then given to exchanges with the permanent secretaries and consultants on three fundamental aspects: the understanding of the consultants’ terms of reference, the nature of the relationship between the State and the association in each country and how participants appreciate the 5 proposed steps. The terms of reference were accepted by the different associations and the consultants.

The relationship between the central government and the associations of local and regional authorities will materialize through dialogue in several countries. This is the case in Senegal, Cameroon, Zambia, Liberia, Mozambique, Burundi, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and the Central African Republic. Nevertheless, tensions can arise when it comes to the transfer of resources. “The challenge is to create good relations with central governments for finance,” says Maurice Mbolela, Permanent Secretary of the Local Government Association of Zambia.

Guinea’s relations with the central government are considered to be average. In Libya, the context of crisis in which the country finds itself with two governments at the helm, does not allow local authorities to play their role fully.

Some associations have already contacted the EU delegations in their countries. For Mali, the AMM (Association of Municipalities of Mali) made initial contact after being informed of the new dynamics adopted by the EU, during the first UCLG Africa webinar.  This is also the case for Comoros, Zambia, Mozambique and Mauritania. In Benin and Burkina, ANCB and AMBF are used to working with the EU delegation.

In addition, the national associations present adhered to the 5 proposed steps and committed to holding national webinars to prepare their members for further negotiations.  Some countries expect to manage tight deadlines due to the installation of new mayors (Comoros) and the renewal of the national associations’ bodies (Cameroon).

Others raised the difficulty of access to the Internet for the holding of the national webinar, (Burundi, Liberia, and Chad). The schedule of national webinars for those who can attend will be established at the end of June. The meetings will be held with the logistical support of UCLG Africa.

At the close of the meeting, Mr. Mbassi emphasized that, “it is important to work with the State for the recognition of local and regional authorities as public actors. In this sense The African Charter on Decentralization is a strong argument to start the dialogue with the central state,” he explained. “Furthermore, the EU recognizes local and regional authorities as partners and all countries have adopted Agenda 2030, which will have to be localized so not to leave anyone on the sidelines. We must therefore seize the opportunity offered to us by European programming. The central state must know that it has a new ally, the local and regional authorities, to improve the lives of its citizens. At the end of these dialogues, a framework agreement must be concluded between the three parties.