Empowering Local Authorities in partner countries for enhanced governance and more effective development outcomes

 LPSI News posted by Administrator
 May 15, 2013

 European Commission

On May 15, 2013, the European Commission released a communication that articulates the EC's view on the need to empower local authorities in developing countries around the world. With this communication, the EC emphasizes the importance of local governments not only as important agents for democratic governance, but also, as key stakeholders in the process of localizing public services and development.

Centrally-led, top-down development policies and programmes cannot alone succeed in addressing the complexities of sustainable development and fighting poverty. Public and private actors have their role to play especially at local level. In the last two decades, many central governments in developing countries have attributed responsibilities to local authorities in country development processes, with a view to allow local governments to target local public policies and local public services to local realities. However, the political recognition given to local governments has not always been accompanied by an adequate level of autonomy, capacity development and financial resources, leaving their empowerment incomplete.

In many EU partner countries, funding directly channelled through local authorities only represents a small part of national public sector expenditure and of international development aid. As such, a number of obstacles have to be overcome in order to unlock the development potential of Local Authorities. It is with this purpose that the European Commission reaffirms the importance of local authorities in partner countries, in achieving development objectives and proposes a more strategic engagement for their empowerment.

The participation of citizens in decision-making processes that affect their lives and access to accountability mechanisms is fundamental to the promotion of sustainable development and poverty reduction. This is particularly relevant at the local level, where citizens live and work, where basic services are provided and where enterprises are established. Being closer to citizens than other public institutions, local authorities are well-positioned to mobilize the voices of residents and civil society at the local level while acting as catalysts for change. This is particularly true in terms of more efficient public administration, more inclusive development processes, and solutions to urgent challenges faced by local communities.

However, effective and responsive local governance does not emerge on its own. In many countries, the quality of local governance is primarily linked to the political willingness of central governments to create a conducive environment at local level, through legal and regulatory instruments, allowing local authorities to benefit from a sufficient level of autonomy in exercising power and acquire specific capabilities. In addition, the quality of local governance is also related to the way local authorities manage and implement public policies and services on the basis of local policy-making processes and interactions with other public institutions, citizens and private sector and through the allocation of available resources.