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(10-13 June 2013)

EU Delegations from Latin and Central America and experts review three decades of decentralisation dynamics and explore possible new response strategies.

The context

The regional seminar in Quito took place in the context of evolving societal dynamics in the region and major policy changes in EU cooperation, including differentiation of partner countries. These changes require 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.

The agenda of the workshop reflects 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, here.

Looking back

Participants first took stock of experiences gained over the past three decades with processes of decentralisation and related support programmes. The resulting track record is mixed. On the one hand the reforms profoundly affected the institutional landscape of the region, amongst others by creating a ‘local public sector’ with growing (legally enshrined) roles and responsibilities, political authority and fiscal means. On the other hand, available research shows that systemic constraints continue to undermine local level development dynamics as well as the consolidation of autonomous local authorities. In several countries, central authorities seek to assert new roles as “development state” or to recentralize competences away from the local level. In this context, the empowerment of local authorities -for better development and governance outcomes- remains a pressing challenge in the next decade. Donor agencies can contribute to further unleashing the local development potential through politically savvy support strategies.

For those interested to know more about the history of decentralisation reforms in Latin and Central America see the desk study prepared for the Quito seminar:

Overview of the decentralisation porcesses in Latin and Cantral America: Main achievments, trends and future challenges, prepared by J. Bossuyt (ECDPM), May 2013.

Looking forward

The prospective analysis started with the recognition that the EU has recently committed itself to a more strategic approach to supporting local authorities and decentralisation. This is the result of the policy priorities defined in the Agenda for Change; the outcome of the recently concluded Thematic Evaluation of EC support to decentralisation as well as the May 2013 Communication on “Empowering Local Authorities in partner countries for enhanced governance and more effective development outcomes” a title which aptly captures the new EU political commitments.

Subsequently, the various sessions explored existing windows of opportunities across the region to: (i) better integrate local level dynamics; (ii) strengthen local authorities as public institutions endowed with democratic legitimacy, a general mandate (as catalyst of local development) and accountability obligations towards the citizens of its territory; (iii) enable national associations as key interlocutors in domestic policy processes: and (iv) develop more constructive intergovernmental relations.

You will find the "Summary" of the Quito seminar proceedings, here

The full agenda of the seminar includes the various presentations made by EC staff and external experts

The presence of international experts during the seminar proved a major added value. Benefiting 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. A few of these interviews are presented below, you will find a complete video library, explaining key concepts and debates within the decentralisation and local governance field, here.

Leonardo Romeo on the link between local development outcomes and interactions between local authorities and civil society:


Tulia Falleti explores how decentralisation differs from other types of state reform, drawing particularly on examples from Latin America:


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last update
20 April 2018

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