Why EU must guarantee funding for local, regional governments in post-2020 development policy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Member States must strongly support the proposal of the European Parliament to add a budget line for local authorities to tackle global challenges, including through their decentralised cooperation, writes Marlène Siméon. [Orgalime]

Member states must strongly support the proposal of the European Parliament to add a budget line for local authorities to tackle global challenges, including through their decentralised cooperation, writes Marlène Siméon.

Marlène Siméon is the director of PLATFORMA, a network of local and regional governments and their national, European and global associations that engage in international cooperation for sustainable development.

There is no doubt: local and regional governments will be the ones implementing the global sustainability agendas. And the message is clear: we need a strong role for local and regional governments, as key partners of the European Union, to ensure the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Europe and in partner countries.

This is what PLATFORMA has been calling for in recent months, asking for an ambitious European budget for development cooperation in the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF).

Why? Because the localisation of the SDGs requires an inclusive and integrated territorial approach which mobilises stakeholders and citizens in the territories. Sub-national governments should play a coordinating role and encourage other levels of government and civil society to work in partnership.

The mandate of towns and regions is distinct and complementary to that of central governments and civil society organisations. All kinds of efforts, using all levers of action, will be needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

Last month, the European Parliament, Council and Commission began negotiations on the next Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) for 2021-2027, the main tool by which the EU finances international cooperation. Member states must strongly support the Parliament’s proposal of adding a budget line for local governments to tackle global challenges through decentralised cooperation.

On the positive side, the legislative proposal would support local authority platforms to participate in the EU’s DEAR programme, which aims to inform EU citizens about development issues and mobilise the general public.

In addition, local and regional governments are mentioned as partners to be consulted for the programming of geographic programmes and city twinning is recognised as a method of cooperation with partner countries.

Need for dedicated financial support

However, all these modalities need to be further clarified and budgeted with the EU and its member states: only this will guarantee that the technical and political role of local and regional governments is fully recognised.

So far, municipalities and regions have no reliable legislative guarantees ensuring they will be key players for the EU’s future development policy. This is despite the fact that local government’s role was recognised in the 2017 European Consensus on Development and the 2013 Communication on strengthening decentralised cooperation.

The trilogue negotiators must reinforce the partnership principle’s place in the proposed legislation. This will ensure the systematic involvement of local and regional governments in partner countries in the consultation and decision-making process on all issues dealing with public administration and service delivery.

What’s more, EU institutions must secure dedicated financing for local and regional governments and decentralised cooperation through a specific budget line: only this would contribute to the implementation of the Global Agendas and the localisation of the SDGs in partner countries and in Europe.

Therefore, PLATFORMA calls for the adoption of Parliament’s amendment #107 to the legislation, which would ensure financial support and participation for local governments.

Our 3 main recommendations to go further

  • Firstly, to avoid that local and regional governments be dependent on the good will of central governments, the EU and its Member States should earmark budgets in Regional Indicative Programmes to empower towns and regions, and put decentralisation on the table in bilateral programmes with partner countries.
  • Secondly, the EU should explicitly recognise and support the role of local and regional governments in the localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals, by involving them in the development of Integrated National Financing Frameworks.
  • Thirdly, the EU should further embrace the EU Country Roadmaps for engagement with Local and Regional Governments as a strategic tool for political dialogue and joint programming.

PLATFORMA is led by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) which has signed a framework partnership agreement in 2015 with the European Commission on behalf of PLATFORMA, together with four other associations of local governments: AIMF, CLGF, UCLG, and UCLG Africa.

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