150 leaders of local and regional governments from African and European Union met in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on 27 November 2017 in the framework of AU-EU Summit where the theme was “investing in youth for a sustainable future”.
The meeting was organized under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire. It was addressed by:
the President of the Pan African Parliament;
the President of the Committee on Development of the European Parliament;
the President of the Specialized Technical Committee of the African Union, for public service, urban development, local government and decentralization (STC n° 8);
the Representative of the Estonian Presidency of the European Union;
the Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, representing the President of the African Union Commission;
the Deputy Management Director, Africa Division, European External Action Service; the Head of Unit for Cities, Local Authorities, Digitalization and Infrastructure, Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development, European Commission.
The conclusions of the Forum had six strong messages to deliver at the Summit but unfortunately because of time constraints the organizers could not allocate a slot for the representatives of the Forum of local and regional governments to present the conclusions of the Forum to the heads of State and Government at the Summit, despite the fact that this slot was mentioned in the official program of the Summit.
The First Message highlights the difficulties the two regions face as consequence of the feeling from the citizens that their governance is not right. To change this, there is a need to restore trust between the citizen and the public authorities. The leaders of local and regional governments being the public authorities closest to the people, are well placed to rebuild relations and confidence between the people and the government, provided they are empowered to do so. This first message aims to convince heads of State that a strong and people-centered state is a state which is strongly decentralized, and that effective decentralization is one of the best ways to improve public governance in our countries and in our unions as a whole.
The Second Message: Time to change the paradigm of development is now. The two regions will not address the challenge of climate change nor implement the sustainable development goals, not to mention Agenda 2063 or 2030 Agenda, if they do not embark on the pathway of transition towards sustainable and inclusive development. This transition should be at the heart of the partnership between the African Union and the European Union. Local and regional governments are key in the initiation of this paradigm shift, since they are in the space where this shift can more easily result in the development of sustainable and inclusive local economies that lead to job creation, and contributes to bringing back hope for the youth who constitute the vital energy of territories.
The Third Message focuses on the need to promote a renewed desire for unity and partnership among the people of both the African Union and the European Union. To that end citizens at the grassroots level should be part and parcel of the dynamic of development and integration within and between the two regions. Hence the need to recognize local and regional governments who represent these people where they live, as the cornerstone of State building and regional integration. They should therefore be included in the discussions of any partnership agreement between the African Union and the European Union from inception.
The Fourth Message is that The Partnership should contribute to reinforce a political dialogue among equals between the African Union and the European Union. Local and regional governments of the two regions call therefore on the European Union to treat Africa as one, and not maintain the artificial division between the African countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the countries from Sub-Saharan Africa. They also request that any new partnership agreement succeeding the Cotonou Agreement from 2020 onwards should be negotiated between the African Union and the European Union institutions, which are the legitimate political representatives of the two regions.
The Fifth Message is that there is a need for the leaders of the local and regional governments of the two regions, to drastically revise the narrative on migration, and change their perspective on handling this issue, that shifts from a negative and mainly security-oriented narrative, towards a more positive and development-oriented narrative. Migration is intrinsically linked to the history of humanity. Globalization and migration are two faces of the same medal. Cities and Territories are the point of departure and the point of arrival of migration flows. The leaders of the local and regional governments from the two continents should therefore be at the fore front in managing migration. They call for a serious revision of the European Union migration policy, and encourage the African Union to define one, with the best situation being for the two unions to have a common and agreed AU-EU migration policy.
Finally, the Sixth Message. Given their prominent role in the implementation of the national, regional, continental and global agendas, local and regional governments have raise the issue of access to funding to fulfil their mandates. First, they call for a fair share of public financial resources between the different spheres of public governance. They also advocate that the AU-EU partnership should be supported by a unique legal and financial instrument calibrated consistently with the ambitions of the new AU-EU partnership. At least 20% of the resources of this instrument should target the cities and territories of Africa, using as appropriate, decentralized cooperation mechanisms developed between local and regional governments of the two regions. They also welcome the EU External Investment Plan to which local and regional governments should be granted direct access so that they are capable to address the challenge of rapid urbanization, climate change, migration investments, and the transition towards inclusive and sustainable local development. Local and regional governments from both regions call for the organization of regular political dialogues around the issue of financing for development, whichthey should be part of, and have a say because they have a stake in what finally matters the most: the improvement of the living conditions of the people at the grassroots level, so that no one is left behind.
The Way Forward captured by the leaders of the local and regional governments of the two unions is a commitmentto working side by side, and to play their part in the implementation of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the European Union New Consensus for Development, as well as the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Protocol on Disaster Management, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The leaders of the local and regional governments of the AU and the EU have defined a roadmap…(http://apo.af/ryDhzW). There was also the Forum Declaration (http://www.afriquelocale.org/en/news-and-events/news/item/1281-declaration-of-the-africa-europe-forum-of-local-and-regional-governments ) and a Declaration by the Pan-African Council of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa on the practice of slavery in Libya (http://www.afriquelocale.org/en/news-and-events/news/item/1279-declaration-by-the-pan-african-council-of-the-united-cities-and-local-governments-of-africa-on-the-practice-of-slavery-in-libya ). These documents were handed over to the Minister of Interior of Côte d’Ivoire, for their delivery to President Alassane Dramane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Host Country of the 5th AU-EU Summit.
*United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa)