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Supporting decentralisation, local governance and local development through a territorial approach

Tools & Methods series - Reference document n° 23

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.

In 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.

These policy developments in the EU mirror what can be observed at the international level. Through their associations, LAs have become recognised actors in dialogue processes atthe global, continental and regional levels. They are also expected to play a catalytic role in promoting territorial approaches to local development at the national level

Against 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.

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Noelle Aboya - Chevanne
14 December 2016

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Regions & Countries


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