Contribution by the ACP Local Government Platform.
The position adopted to develop a joint strategy reflecting the needs and aspirations of the peoples of Africa and Europe is a very important step in the right direction. The joint planning of development plans based on a common political vision based on mutual respect, common interests and principle of ownership also has meaning when viewed in the context of the EU-ACP relations.
But, it is also important that the collaborative planning and development of a strategy with a shared political vision be related to the societies of Africa and Europe. If the joint strategy should be a product of central leaders that does not take account of the challenges faced by the people at the local level, then it is obvious that the policy will not yield the expected results.
Historically, political pronouncements from the EU structures and African governments have not yielded results on the ground for these were shrouded in some confusion and probably based on different philosophies especially on how to handle sub national issues of development and related resourcing. The approach of the EU has tended to cause conflict of interest between civil society on the one hand and local governments on the other. The manner in which African institutions were reflected by the policy implementing organs generally left non state actors and local governments in the cold as they were not deliberately brought into negotiations when there were discussions on new or revised policies, especially the local governments. This approach tended to be cascaded down to European structures at the local level.
In our view, the decision to develop and joint strategy based on a common political vision creates congenial conditions for consultation at all levels of the cooperation. It implies cost effectiveness in the implementation of the policy outcomes at national and local levels. But more importantly, the Africa/EU cooperation will be viewed with seriousness as it will have fulfilled one of the most cardinal principles of the type of cooperation (such as AU/EU) through participation. Democracy in theory may not be viewed as democracy by those not involved. Participation coupled with the availing of vital information to the parties concerned builds confidence and helps to create strong linkages between various levels.
It is important that note is taken on how to involve the various groups, institutions on the continent. There is need for holding meetings, workshops to ensure that consultation with various stakeholders in the field is effectively done. In this regard, the meetings will need to be held with representatives of key stakeholders across the continent.
Whilst it may not be appropriate to prescribe the issues to be include in the new strategy – considering that consultation with stakeholders is meant to reflect on the relevant issues – one is tempted to cite some of the topical issues that the continent has attempted to address in the past decades but with mixed success include:
- Governance and its various factors. Democratic governance should be considered, not only at national and global levels, but also at local level. The role and added value of local governments should be fully recognised in the EU-Africa joint strategy. It is indeed at local level that the strategy is tested with the life of local populations, including the poorest, and it is at this level that the new strategy’s credibility is at stake. In addition, appropriate articulation between the various levels of governance should be considered, including the establishment of a clear mechanism for a structured dialogue between the local, national and global governance.
- Role of local government in a very wide range of issues over and above the traditional services but new areas such as peace making. Most conflicts have their roots from tension between local communities. The early involvement of local governments in conflict prevention will help lessening the number of open conflicts. In the same vein, at the end of a conflict, local authorities are the ones responsible for implementing conditions for returning to communities’ normal life. Thus local government should be involved in conflict prevention and management of the aftermath.
We know this can only be achieved where there is capacity. The capacity of local governments have various dimensions that will need to be addressed hence the need to include it.
There is also the issue of relations between European and African local government organs that needs to be reflected to strengthen their current linkages especially in programming.
At present there is less of Local Government in the African Union as compared with the situation in the EU though, the African local governments have not very much participated in the EU supported programmes. Accordingly, one sees an opportunity for both continents to take advantage of this envisaged joint strategy to strengthen local governments in both sides of the divide.
The ACP Local Government Platform (ACPLGP) is an umbrella organisation established in 2001 by mayors and representatives of existing local government associations across the ACP countries. Its mission is to promote ACP local government’s role in the cooperation strategies and programmes supported under the Cotonou Agreement. Further information on the Platform is available on its website: www.acplgp.net
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