The European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions have urged regional and local governments across Europe to embrace the opportunities offered by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Both institutions have called on them to integrate the sustainable-development agenda into their policies and to reach out to cities and regions – whether in Europe or in Africa, Asia and the Americas – to learn from them and to collaborate as much as possible.
Neven Mimica , European Commissioner for Development, and Markku Markkula (FI/EPP), the President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), were speaking at a large international gathering on 10-11 July co-organised by the European Commission and the CoR to discuss ways in which local and regional authorities can set about achieving the SDG goals for 2030. A large majority of the 17 of the goals require action by cities and regions and some – including Goal 11, “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” – are explicitly focused on them. Among the 650 participants at the Assises de la coopération décentralisée /Regions and Cities for Development gathering were mayors, officials and representatives of networks of European and non-European local authorities.
Commissioner Mimica said: “With the adoption of the new European Consensus on Development a few weeks ago, we made a strong commitment: we all need to join forces if we want to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. Because regional and local authorities are close to people’s needs, we will do everything to ensure that they remain at the centre of our work when looking for solutions to face the challenges and opportunities we have as a global community.”
President Markkula highlighted the increased awareness about the role local and regional authorities play in development cooperation. He therefore called for more strategic involvement on the part of regional and local authorities, including through the CoR, in preparations for the EU-Latin America Summit in San Salvador and for the EU-Africa Summit in November in Abidjan. He stressed the added value of city-to-city cooperation, in particular in capacity-building and in projects to improve governance and the provision of services, and urged mayors to be involved in the development and implementation of projects, as is the case in the CoR’s efforts to support Libyan local authorities, known as Nicosia Initiative.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz , the First Vice-President of the CoR, said: “When the Committee of the Regions and the European Commission launched the Assises de la coopération décentralisée in 2009, we thought that the world was failing to recognise the importance of local and regional governments to development. We believed cities and regions needed to be involved, and we were convinced that European and non-European local and regional governments could forge partnerships that would help both sides. The past eight years have shown that we were right, and I am proud, for example, of the support that CoR members are providing cities in Libya. I am convinced that, in county and municipal halls across Europe, our politicians view collaboration with non-European administrations as investment, not aid, and as partnerships, not donations. Now we need more such investment, more international partnerships and a concerted drive to achieve the UN’s goals in our own communities.”
At the Assises de la coopération décentralisée / Regions and Cities for Development, participants took part in debates, roundtables and workshops. The speakers in the debates included: Paul Koffi Koffi, Commissioner for the Department of Community Land Planning and Transports, West African Economic and Monetary Union (CCT-UEMOA); Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary-General of United Cities and Local Governments – Africa (UCLG-Africa); Ajay Kumar Bramdeo, the African Union’s ambassador to the EU; and Nelson Fernández, the mayor of Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, representing the Mercociudades.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) used the occasion to present preliminary findings of a study that it has produced on ‘Official development assistance extended by local and regional governments, and emerging paradigms in decentralised development co-operation (DDC)’.
This was the first Assises de la coopération décentralisée / Regions and Cities for Development since the new European Consensus for Development and of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015. The objective of the event was to share views on how partnerships between local and regional authorities in the European Union and partner countries can deliver on these visions for sustainable development. The focus was on developing international cooperation, optimising food systems, tackling migration challenges, limiting climate change, promoting sustainable energy access, and increasing education about sustainable development.
The European Commission encourages cooperation between European local authorities and their counterparts in partner countries through support for peer-to-peer learning, town twinning and technical assistance. To facilitate exchanges, the European Commission is supporting the creation of an innovative mechanism, CONNECT, that encourages the transfer of experience, knowledge and skills between municipalities and regions around the world. CONNECT is part of a Framework Partnership Agreement signed with the Council of European Municipalities and Regions.
The European Committee of the Regions is the EU’s political assembly for local and regional politicians. It has consultative role in the EU’s decision-making. It supports international cooperation through, for example, forums for local and regional authorities in the southern Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership countries. Its members are also supporting mayors in Libya, through the Nicosia initiative. The CoR set out its recommendations relating to the new European Consensus on Developmentin February 2017 and, on 12 July, it will adopt a set of recommendations for the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
European Committee of the Regions: Andrew Gardner, Tel. +32 473 843 981, firstname.lastname@example.org