The 2016 EU guidance

Supporting Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development through a Territorial Approach


Over the last decade, a shift in the understanding of decentralisation has occurred. There is a clear move beyond the rather narrow concern of reforming the state to ensure efficient resource allocation.

The focus now is more on the actual political drivers of decentralization reforms and their ability to help unleash the potential of territories in order to effectively fight inequality, create wealth and jobs, and tackle other pressing development challenges.

This shift has, in turn, led to a greater acknowledgement of the proactive development role that local authorities (LAs) could play if empowered to act as political entities on behalf of their constituencies.

Empowering local authorities in partner countries for enhanced governance and more effective development outcomesIn 2013, the European Commission issued a communication on LAs, ‘Empowering local authorities in partner countries for enhanced governance and more effective development outcomes'. In this landmark document, the European Union (EU) commits to promoting territorial development and embraces a larger view of:

  • the role of LAs as key representatives of local polities in a given territory, not just managerial agents of the state;
  • the instrumental value of decentralisation as a vehicle to create space for developmental LAs

tools & methods series 23Against this background, in 2016 a new EU guidance has been produced to clarify how a territorial approach to local development (TALD) could help reconnect the decentralisation and development agendas, while aiding in translating the new EU vision on the developmental role of LAs into a coherent set of support strategies in different country contexts. This guidance updates the 2007 reference document on decentralisation and local governance that helped frame EU interventions in this area over the past decade.

This document is the product of a broad consultation process involving different units in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, other European Commission directorates, EU delegations as well as various sources of external expertise. Several seminars were organised at EU Headquarters and in various regions with a view to ensuring a co-production process in formulating this guidance.

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  • The key features of the new EU guidance on “Supporting decentralization, local governance and local development through a territorial approach”


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last update
14 July 2017

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