Opinion article | EU global response to COVID-19: a global pandemic with local solutions!
This op-ed by PLATFORMA Director, Marlène Siméon, was originally published in English in Euractiv.
As a pandemic, COVID-19 is a truly global problem which knows no borders. The situation is now spread almost all over the world and some countries – near and far – could soon be heavily impacted, despite the youth of their population.
As such, the European Union recently presented its “global response” to coronavirus, which mobilises €20 billion in support for partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the eastern and southern neighbourhoods of Europe to fight the pandemic.
While the pandemic is global, wherever it spreads, towns and regions are at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis: they are the ones managing lockdowns every single day.
They are the ones coordinating health services. They are the ones ensuring waste collection. They are the ones finding solutions for daily needs of citizens: offering access to online public services, culture or education to name a few.
As such, it is crucial that local and regional governments collaborate and learn from each other, especially through town-to-town and region-to-region development cooperation, also named decentralised cooperation. It will help find quicker and better solutions.
This is what PLATFORMA, the pan-European coalition of towns and regions acting at the global level, is asking with 11 recommendations addressed to the EU: towns, regions and their representative associations, both in partner countries and in the EU, need to be on board of the #TeamEurope, in order to ensure a genuinely global and coordinated approach!
There is no doubt: this global challenge calls for solidarity to leave no one and no place behind. For that, international collaboration is essential, and learning from each other’s’ approach is crucial: municipalities that were struck first or already went through such situation can share their experience in dealing with the crisis.
Networks and national associations of towns and regions play a key role in that: they are collecting and disseminating best practices, organising webinars to share expertise and advice they are coordinating the responses with the national governments and regional institutions…
For us, the EU must devote part of its support to the institutional strengthening of local governments and their associations in partner countries.
Why? To make sure municipalities are empowered to provide their citizens with the appropriate answers, within their own local governance system. EU budget support at local level, twinning and technical assistance will be crucial in the next Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) to help find more locally-led solutions.
Decentralised cooperation between EU and partner countries’ municipalities and regions must also be supported for mutual learning, assessing needs and building the institutional resilience for the recovery. Because municipalities, cities, regions and their associations do not only react at home: they work closely with their peers on a daily basis!
Moreover, policy coherence for development will be crucial to ensure that measures taken in Europe do not have a negative impact on partner countries’ social structures and economies.
This is why reinforcing the institutional capacity and the governance at all levels to address the crisis is of paramount importance to have a coordinated and inclusive global response, at different levels, and at the different stages: during the “emergency phase” and the “recovering phase”.
Therefore, at PLATFORMA, we believe that the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be the leading reference for any action developed all along the process. It is more than welcomed that the focus on the green deal, poverty reduction and the fight against inequalities, gender equality, climate change and SDGS will not be put aside by the EU.
Local and regional governments will also have a key role to play in raising awareness of their inhabitants in the aftermath to avoid a withdrawal into themselves of European territories. Openness, solidarity and peer learning should remain the core value of any sustainable territorial development.
There is no doubt: this pandemic will not be contained if it isn’t contained equally in all the regions of the world. Let’s work together. Let’s work with towns and regions. #TeamEurope