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Local and regional governments join the global celebrations of International Democracy Day

15 September 2017

This article was initially published on UCLG website.

The message of International Day of Democracy 2017, “Democracy and Conflict prevention” focuses on the critical need to strengthen democratic institutions to promote peace and stability. A more integrated approach to foster resilient societies calls for effective and inclusive democratic governance with respect for human rights. 

Democracy is one of the founding values of our organization and it is our firm belief that local governments, as the level of the government closest to the people, are best placed to build a firm foundation for democracy by listening and responding to the needs of our communities.

Local authorities, and cities in particular, have first-hand experience of conflict prevention and resolution as well as of peacekeeping. Indeed, regardless of the nature of the conflict (economic, political, religious or cultural), local governments have a responsibility to safeguard the well-being of their citizens and to promote sustainable development in their territories. Local governments ensure that services are delivered to citizens notwithstanding any crises that may unfold. They must therefore ensure there is order and cohesion within their territory and are required to manage various types of conflicts that may arise between different interest groups and communities.

Local governments promote and facilitate peace, freedom, democracy and prosperity by developing public policies that allow the territory to tackle any constraints (social, economic, natural, demographic/migratory) it may experience in a sustainable way.

The capacity of local governments to act is linked to their legitimacy and proximity to citizens. Local elected officials understand their citizens’ needs and are in a unique position to respond to them during crises.

City diplomacy is a viable and effective alternative to preventing violent conflicts and has led UCLG to identify the role that local governments can play in consolidating peace as a priority for the organization. A committee dedicated to city diplomacy, cooperation and development has also been set up, and various initiatives have already been undertaken. In June 2008, UCLG organized the First World Conference on City Diplomacy, which led to the adoption of The Hague Agenda on City Diplomacy. UCLG also launched the first Peace Prize for local governments, awarded during the organization’s Congress in Bogotá in October 2016.

However, effective decentralization and self-government are needed for local governments to implement public policies and strategies on territorial diplomacy, and to allow them to play their part in consolidating peace.