Local governance and development
There is an evolution of international and European development agendas towards a wider participation of local actors in development. The two global forums for shaping the current and future development agendas – Aid Effectiveness in Busan (2011) and the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development (2012) – both acknowledge the importance of local governance and the role of local authorities in the future development agenda.
For poor people to make their voices heard, local institutions of governance are the most important avenues. This is where the poor, women and minorities can participate in governance and influence decisions affecting their lives, and hold institutions accountable.
Local governance and decentralization have become important areas for the partnership between UNDP and the EU. The work we have done together around the world has been both about working with local authorities and citizens, and on a more global level, influencing policies to increasingly make the voices of local actors heard.
In financial terms, the UNDP-EU partnership in the area of local governance and decentralization represented more than EUR 40 million in 2011.
At the country level, we have worked together to support the reform of public administrations, and trained key people at the level of local administration. This includes support to effectively detect and fight corruption.
In Bangladesh, UNDP, EU and other partners worked with Union Parishads, which are the lower tier of local governance structure, to test and innovate governance mechanisms. This has both changed the way communities engage with their local government institutions, and the way these authorities deliver services. For example, planning and budget sessions, now open to all, are increasing transparency and accountability, encouraging more and more people to take part in crucial decisions that affect their lives.
Since many of the basic services to citizens - such as health, education and professional training - are traditionally delivered at the local level, the partnership has also supported local authorities' capacity to deliver these services.
In Cambodia, we helped communes to cooperate by pooling resources and capacities which abled them to respond to needs locally in a way that they wouldn't have been able to do alone. One concrete example of such collaboration is a school that was established at the local level. Before, many boys and girls, who didn't have a school in their village, dropped out of school to herd cattle or work in the rice field instead. With the support of the project, they now attend a school that is close to home. Another example is the local support to women providing them with skills-training so that they could become independent and earn an income, rather than migrating from their home communities.
Working with European Regions
Through UNDP's ART-initiative, UNDP also engages with representatives from European regions and cities that are present in Brussels. The aim of this work is to create closer ties with European decentralized development cooperation on one hand, and local authorities in developing countries on the other hand, using the platform provided by UNDP.
UNDP support to EU policy-making
The EU recently engaged on a public consultation on a planned new EU policy in support to Local Authorities in Development. The UN-team in Brussels – under the leadership of UNDP – provided substantial input to this consultation. The EU-strategy is expected to be released through a European Commission Communication in early 2013.
Only 11 per cent of parliamentarians are women, while at the local level, the reality is even bleaker. Women comprise barely nine per cent of representatives in local government. Since it opened an office in Armenia, UNDP has been advocating for gender equality. More recently, UNDP and the European Union have teamed-up to support women’s leadership in local communities.more
Kong Theara, 22, beamed broadly when she was handed a seaming machine as a special prize for graduating at the top of her sewing class. Giggling intermittently, she spoke of her plans to set up a tailor shop and about a new, better life that she hopes the business will bring. “I don’t think I will be poor anymore in the future,” she said.more
When 26-year-old So Phorn gave birth to her first child three years ago it took her two strenuous hours on a motorbike, a ferry and a rickshaw to get to the nearest health centre in the neighbouring commune of Beoung Preav, in south-western Cambodia.more
Ten years ago, a pioneering Government of Bangladesh-UNDP-UNCDF initiative in Sirajganj District blew the cobwebs off local governance. The project demonstrated for the first time that empowered local institutions can balance books transparently and engage communities to make the best use of scarce public resources.more
With the support of UNDP and EU, the Government of Uzbekistan has been increasing the role of local authorities and communities in providing essential services and encouraging more funding to come from local resources.more
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UNDP ART initiative
ART is a global UNDP initiative that promotes sustainable human development at the local level. In Brussels, UNDP ART has been present since September 2012.
Brussels is a hub for European affairs, and in addition to the EU-institutions, many European regions and cities are present in Brussels. Through the gateway that UNDP ART provides, its presence in Brussels has been able to engage more effectively with European actors involved in local development.
UN contribution to EC consultation on Local Authorities
In 2012, the European Commission called for public contributions to its future policy on Local Authorities in Development.
The UN team in Brussels, under the leadership of UNDP, provided a joint response to this public consultation in December 2012.
The EU’s strategy is expected to be released through a European Commission Communication in early 2013.