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Local governments: the forgotten stakeholders of the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument

3 May 2018

The European Commission released yesterday [2 May] its proposal for the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF). It foresees a merging of 7 of the previous External Financing Instruments (EFIs), into a single “Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument”. But local and regional governments have disappeared in the text!

In its Communication on the Multi-annual Financial Framework 2021-2027, the European Commission details a “strategic simplification of the financing instruments”. This merging includes in particular the Development Cooperation Instrument, and the European Development Fund.

It will include geographic earmarked budget allocations, complemented by a thematic pillar in which global issues or political flagship initiatives are mentioned. But surprisingly, while the civil society organisations are explicitly mentioned, local authorities have been forgotten by the European Commission.

By not including local and regional governments in the new seven-year budget, the EU is stepping back 10 years, regrets PLATFORMA, the European coalition of local and regional governments – and their associations – active in city-to-city and region-to-region development cooperation. Indeed, the current MFF includes a dedicated thematic programme for Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities as key players in development cooperation, but the second part of the equation is absent in the 2021-2027 proposal.

A new External investment architecture, building on the External Investment Plan (EIP) is also foreseen, however it is not clear how the next MFF will take stock of lessons learned from the EIP, since its implementation, in particular for the “sustainable cities” investment window, has even not started.

Reacting to the next-MFF proposal, PLATFORMA calls for:

  • An earmarked budget to support decentralisation, local governance and local development in partner countries, and confirming the key position of local and regional governments to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • The continuation of ongoing pilot initiatives such as the Territorial Approach to Development, international urban cooperation programmes and the “sustainable cities” window of the External Investment Plan
  • The guarantee that CSO-LA achievements will be extended, in particular the Framework Partnership Agreements between local governments’ associations and the European Commission, as well as the development education and awareness raising programmes

Forgetting local and regional governments also goes against the new European Consensus on Development adopted last June: this new framework for EU development policy recalled on several occasions (in particular §86) the critical role local and regional governments play in achieving the SDGs.

In addition, in a report adopted by the European Parliament on 17 April 2018 on the implementation of the Development Cooperation Instrument, the Humanitarian Aid Instrument and the European Development Fund, MEPs take the view that EU external financing instruments (EFIs) “should continue to directly support both EU and local CSOs, local communities, local and regional governments and local authorities in partner countries and their partnerships with European local and regional governments” (§36).

For more information on the CSO-LA programme post-2018, read PLATFORMA position paper.