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REGIONAL EU SEMINAR (Nairobi, 11-14 November 2013)

DECENTRALISATION & LOCAL GOVERNANCE IN ANGLOPHONE AND LUSOPHONE AFRICA – Exploring relevant EU response strategies in a rapidly evolving African and international environment

The regional (Anglophone and Lusophone African countries) seminar in Nairobi took place in the context of a rapidly evolving African context and major policy changes in EU cooperation. These changes required a fresh look at how to better integrate the local level in the development process; how to engage in a strategic way with local authorities; and how decentralisation can be used as an instrument to foster improved development and governance outcomes. Through highly interactive exchanges, participants to the seminar (EU Delegations, experts and local level actors[1]) identified a set of key messages presented below which carry important strategic and operational messages for EU development practitioners across the board.

The agenda of the workshop reflected these challenges. It consisted of four main parts: (i) setting the scene (both in terms of decentralisation dynamics in the region and evolving EU strategies); (ii) understanding the political nature of decentralisation; (iii) exploring windows of opportunities for using decentralisation as an ‘instrument’ to achieve better development and governance outcomes; and (iv) identifying main challenges for future EU support strategies.

You can find the full agenda of the seminar, including most presentations, here.

The workshop was conceived as a highly interactive exchange seminar between EUD staff of a strategic and operational nature.

–      Strategic because the EU is currently seeking to redefine its overall approach towards decentralisation and local governance following (i) the policy orientations defined in the Agenda for Change; (ii) the outcome of the recently concluded Thematic Evaluation of EC support to decentralisation processes and (iii) the strengthened partnership proposed in the May 2013 Communication on Local Authorities which calls for “empowering local authorities in partner countries for enhanced governance and more effective development outcomes”. These new EU vision ambitions regarding decentralisation and local authorities should now to be translated at regional and national level. This obviously requires an active involvement of the EUDs concerned.

–      Operational because the seminar will dedicate considerable time to (i) discussing what the recent EU Communications concretely mean for EUDs interested to better integrate the local level in the development process; (ii) exploring new ways of using decentralisation and local governance as “instruments’ to foster priority EU development and governance objectives in the region (such as sector support programmes, inclusive growth, equitable management of natural resources; domestic resource mobilisation, accountability towards citizens, etc…); (iii) exchanging on good practices with regard to engaging with local authorities (as key representatives of the ‘local public sector’) and enhancing their autonomy; (iv) considering various possible aid modalities (budget support or smart projects) to support local development and decentralisation.

 Underlying the whole approach to the Kenya seminar, is the belief that decentralisation has probably been too much encapsulated in the ‘good governance agenda’ and therefore subjected to rather ‘normative’ approaches (= decentralisation is good per se). The challenge at hand is now to adopt a more pragmatic and ‘instrumental’ approach to decentralisation (= when, under what conditions and how can decentralisation be a vehicle to foster key development objectives). This means recognizing that decentralisation processes are all about ‘politics’ and bargaining between actors with divergent interests at various levels. It invites EUD to look at ‘windows of opportunities’ to use (imperfect) decentralisation processes to better embed the various EU-supported (sector) programmes at the ‘local level’ and to work together with the local public sector (that decentralisation helped to create) with a view to getting better results and greater sustainability.

You will find the "Summary" of the seminar here

In addition, the presence of international experts during the seminar proved a major added value. Benefitting from their presence, DEVCO B2 recorded a set of interviews. In the resulting videos, each of the experts further clarify and operationalize a number of key notions that EU Delegations need to master in order to design and implement meaningful response strategies. The video library explaining key concepts and debates within the decentralisation and local governance field in Capacity4dev can be found via the link:

[1]  The seminar was attended by EU Delegations from Eastern and Southern Africa, West Africa as well as from Palestine, India and Palestine.

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18 June 2014

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