“An AU-EU Summit without local governments? Never again!”
A hundred of local and regional elected leaders from Africa and Europe took part in the first ever Africa-Europe Local Government Forum yesterday in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, two days before the 5th African Union-European Union Summit, which will bring together eighty diplomatic delegations representing nearly two billion people.
After a full day of panel and round-table debates, leaders of local and regional governments adopted a common Declaration – to be delivered at the Summit – calling for local and regional governments and their representative organisations to be systematically included and involved in the dialogue on the AU-EU political partnership.
“There will never be another AU-EU Summit that does not take into account the voice of local and regional governments,” said Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of CEMR and Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG-Africa, concluding the debates, just before handing the Declaration to Sidiki Diakité, Minister of Home Affairs and Security, Côte d’Ivoire. He will give it to Cote d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara during the Heads of State and government summit.
European and African local leaders have expressed the wish to give new impetus and ambition to the UA-EU political partnership to bring shared, innovative and sustainable solutions to the challenges and increasingly complex problems. Mr Vallier and Elong Mbassi added: “For an effective future partnership between the AU and the EU, people need to be implicated. And this is best done through their local governments”.
This first Africa-Europe Local Government Forum was jointly organised by PLATFORMA, UCLG-Africa, CEMR and the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the support of the European Union and the African Union, the Association of Regions and Districts of Côte d’Ivoire (ARDCI) and the Union of Cities and Communes of Côte d’Ivoire (UVICOCI).
“The future of Africa is the future of Europe”
Earlier during the day, Stefano Bonaccini, President of CEMR said: “the future of Africa is the future of Europe. And as representatives of Europe’s towns and regions, I can only stress that we are eager to contribute to this sustainable future of both continents. We are here because we believe in partnerships.” He added: “we demand the AU and the EU to listen to us but we also need to listen to each other as equal partners”.
Mpho Parks Tau, President of UCLG, called for a renewed global compact between citizens and States. “Even if we have different realities, we need to work together,” he said.
Ideas that were largely echoed by Linda Mc Avan, MEP, Chair of the Committee on Development and member of the EU-ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly: “We must have local governments as real partners in the AU-EU partnership,” she said, mentioning the European Parliament work on the revision of the European Consensus on Development, the negotiation mandate on the future of EU-ACP partnership and the discussions around AU-EU strategy.
Reference was made to the phenomenon of migration, which will be one of the hot potatoes of the 5th Summit, as well as equal opportunities and young people: “You are the frontline actors on migration, resilience, youth and empowerment. You are sometimes the only form of government present,” said Brigitte Markussen, Deputy managing director – Africa Division of the European External Action Service, speaking on behalf of High Representative Federica Mogherini.
In the Declaration, local leaders undertake to “to include a gender approach at all steps of [their] territorial development and decentralised cooperation activities” and call for the launch of an ambitious “Youth Employment programme that mobilises African and European youth creativity”.
Ms Markussen actively supported decentralised cooperation “to act together and exchange on experiences”. Finally, she said that “twinning cannot be replaced by any other tool to bring development forward”.
Long term investment and partnerships
With regard to private investment, local governments reaffirmed their role: any project to mobilise private or external private investment in local development should be “aligned and consistent with the development priorities of [the] cities and territories,” the Declaration reads. “Local economic growth should be sustainable and equitable,” it also says.
Väino Reinart, Undersecretary for External Economic Policy and Development Cooperation, Estonia, confirmed the EU Presidency strong commitment to give local authorities “the seriousness and resources they deserve”. He said: “all problems are – in a certain sense – local”. And added: “the post-Cotonou negotiations will not work without cities and regions”, speaking about the ACP-EU Partnership after 2020.
Jean-Marie Tetart, Mayor of Houdan (France) and representative of Cités Unies France, insisted on “long term partnerships to deliver better services and democracy” He also underlined the role of local government associations “to create stability and sustainability”.
Monica Barni, Vice President of the Tuscany Region (Italy) and member of PLATFORMA Political Council spoke about the concrete impacts of her region partnerships with Tunisia. She stressed that it was “not only about technical assistance but also at the political level”.
Paolo Ciccarelli, Head of Unit Cities, Local Authorities, digitalisation and infrastructure, in the European Commission department for international cooperation and development, made clear that the budget dedicated to sustainable cities in the External Investment Plan (EIP) would go directly to cities.
For Kalev Härk, Councillor of Valga (Estonia), member of PLATFORMA Political Council, “donors should think about new mechanisms to support local governments that take into consideration their specific reality”.
Clean and affordable energy for all
“Local and regional government can achieve a great deal to reduce climate change and improve their finances at the same time. As a result, local and regional government is now recognised by the national and international community for its role in climate change,” said Marianne Overton, Councillor of Lincolnshire (UK) and CEMR Spokesperson on Environment. “We have clear financial advantages from using energy that is cleaner and more efficiently used,” she added.
At the end of the day, 15 mayors signed their official commitment with the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoM SSA), an initiative which aims to increase the capacities of cities in the region to provide access to sufficient, sustainable, affordable and clean energy services to urban and peri-urban populations (especially the most vulnerable). CoM SSA is part of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, the largest coalition of cities and local governments around the globe tackling climate change.
Pictures of the Forum are available on FlickR.