Territorial Approach in the Post-2015 during the 2013 European Development Days

Dec 3, 2013

Speakers at the panel on the territorial approach in the post-2015 during the European Development Days. Photo: UNDP ART

The 8th edition of the European Development Days organized by the European Commission brought to Brussels thousands of development practitioners, advocates and decision-makers to debate on the approach to successfully finish off the Millennium Development Goals and outline their vision for a post-2015 development framework. In this context, the Barcelona Provincial Council, the EU Committee of the Regions and UNDP joined forces in the organization of two panels on the topic of the Territorial Approach in the post-2015.

The lively debates and broad participation proved the increasing relevance of the territorial approach in the global discussions on the future development framework, as recognition of the key role that sub-national governments and local stakeholders play not only in providing basic services and advancing sustainable development but also as references for national deconcentration and decentralization policies. Speakers in both sessions stressed that, in order to seize the development potential of sub-national governments, the international community should promote inclusive partnerships for development, based on multilevel governance and multiactor programmes bringing together local, national and global actors as well as public and private stakeholders. Another recurrent message of the discussion was the need to further encourage decentralization processes, in respect of the principle of subsidiarity and considering the strategic role of intermediate levels of government, to ensure competent, resourceful, efficient and transparent sub-national governments.

Giovanni Camilleri, International Coordinator of the UNDP ART Initiative, outlined the main elements of the post-2015 process and pledged for an important for sub-national governments in the definition of future instruments and modalities as well as for the implementation and localization of the identified priorities. Camilleri stressed that implementing a territorial approach to development comes with a high degree of complexity which, based on UNDP field experience, can be overcome with country-level frameworks facilitating local-national-international coherence and public-private partnerships.

Camilleri also informed about the opportunity for sub-national governments and civil society organizations to participate in pilot schemes in those countries where both the new UNDP strategy on local governance and local development and the post-2015 will be tested. He finally reflected on the opportunity to articulate the UNDP local governance and local development strategy with that of the European Commission on local authorities and non-state actors, in order to facilitate operational coordination at country level.

Angelo Baglio, Head of Unit for Civil Society and Local Authorities from the Directorate General for Development and Cooperation of the European Commission, recalled that both the communications on Local Authorities in Development and Decent Life for All highlight the crucial role of sub-national governments in development, as tier of government closest to the citizen. In regards to the territorial approach to development, Baglio pointed out the important role played by intermediate levels of government, and the need for multilevel and multi-actor schemes to effectively implement it.

Mercedes Bresso, vice president of the Committee of the Regions of the EU, stressed the importance of sub-national governments as providers of basic services, and as such, with a better understanding of the needs and demands of citizens. Thus, she signalled the need for their participation in defining the post-2015 agenda. Bresso welcomed to increasing cooperation between the CoR and UNDP, particularly in regards to decentralized cooperation.

Eva Joly President of the Committee on Development of the European Parliament reminded that the EU is the largest donor despite the crisis but warned that efforts must be maintained. Joly stressed the need for increased coordination between the various cooperation programs, since the lack of communication means a very high cost due to waste of resources and duplication of activities. Finally, she stressed the role of sub-national governments in achieving the MDGs, as well as their role in conflict areas such as Afghanistan and Syria.

Juan Carlos Garcia Cañizares, Deputy Assistant to the President of the Barcelona Provincial Council, highlighted that local governments are effective in managing and optimizing resources, as they are aware of the needs of citizens. He also stressed that the progress in local economies translates into progress of the global economy, while the correlation in the opposite direction is much more complex.

Among the main messages to take away from the discussions were:

  • The decentralization/deconcentration process is a challenge worldwide: there is need for increased institutional capacity of sub-national governments, transfer of powers and resources, in order to enhance democracy and fight corruption.
  • It is essential to move from a paternalistic and vertical approach to development cooperation to an approach based on horizontal and equal partnerships.
  • A multilevel and multiactor approach is crucial to tackle the complexity of global problems locally and to effectively implement the territorial approach to development.
  • The post-2015 agenda should be common to all, but recognize local peculiarities: there is no single solution for everyone.
  • There is an opportunity for sub-national governments and civil society to be actively engaged in pilot schemes of the new UNDP Strategy on local governance and local development and the post-2015 Agenda.
  • There is also an opportunity to maximize the complementarities between UNDP strategies (Local Governance / Local Development and the post 2015) and the EU strategy on Local Authorities in development.
  • We need to seize the opportunity of 2015, the European Year of Development to bring development cooperation closer to the citizenry.