The European Union should increase its cooperation with local and regional authorities in the developing world if the United Nations is to achieve its goal of making cities more "inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable" by 2030, the European Committee of the Regions argues in an opinion adopted on 8 February.
The opinion was drawn up at the CoR's initiative, with the aim of contributing to the European Union's ongoing review of the European Consensus on Development. The Consensus, which was adopted in 2005, is being revised and updated to reflect the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2016-30 agreed by the United Nations in 2015.
Jesús Gamallo Aller (ES/EPP), the director-general for external relations for the regional government of Galicia, said: "The United Nations has recognised that cities and regions must be given a bigger role if we are to bring hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty and to improve the life chances of everyone. Local governments provide many of our most basic services, they can help identify and remedy problems, and we cannot have peaceful and well-governed societies if we do not try to tackle inequality and social problems in our cities. And, as we know, the world is becoming more urban. A fast-urbanising world requires more urban responses to development challenges. The EU is the leading provider of development aid, and it should lead in the process of mobilising local governments to contribute to the meeting the UN's targets. That is why we decided to write this opinion."
Mr Gamallo Aller, who drafted the opinion for the CoR, said that the EU should promote alliances between local and regional authorities. He said this should be part of a broader shift in the way the EU cooperates with partners in other parts of the world. The opinion calls on the EU to involve lower-level governments more in its support for development outside Europe, to work more with regional and multilateral organisations and to engage more with "South-South" initiatives established between partners in the globe's poorer, southern hemisphere.
The opinion suggests that the EU should involve local and regional authorities in the framing and implementation of development programmes. It also argues that the EU could make coordination, integration and flexibility easier by making greater use of direct budget support – the transferring of funds directly to recipients' budgets – and of EU Trust Funds, to which EU member states, international organisations and private donors can opt to contribute.
The opinion states that "the ordered management of migration must be one of the aims of development action" by the EU ""in order to slacken the pressure of uncontrolled migration flows". That statement complements another set of recommendations adopted on 8 February, on the EU's emerging migration partnerships in the Middle East and Africa. The opinion on migration partnerships , which was drafted by Peter Bossman (SI/PES), the Ghanaian-born mayor of Piran, supports the partnerships but stresses that they must not divert funding from development aid. "We need to ensure that these partnerships reinforce the UN's development agenda, rather than jeopardise it," Mr Bossman said.
In July 2017, the CoR, together with the European Commission, will host a meeting – the Assises of Decentralised Cooperation for Development – with local and regional authorities from developing countries to explore how to develop city-to-city and region-to-region cooperation on issues such as climate action, economic development and migration. This will be the fifth time that this biennial meeting has been held. The CoR also facilitates cooperation between EU and non-EU cities and regions by matching requests and offers of support.
The UN's SDGs are universal in application and therefore set targets that the EU's member states should achieve within their own borders. The CoR will address the implications of the UN SDGs for the EU's local and regional authorities in an opinion that is currently being drafted by Franco Iacop (IT/PES), president of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Regional Council.
Notes to editors:
Jesús Gamallo Aller (ES/EPP) is the long-serving director-general for external relations and relations with the European Union in the Regional Government of Galicia. He is director of the Galicia-Europe Foundation. A lawyer by training, he has also worked at the European University Institute in Florence and as a professor of public administration.
The CoR's opinion on the " New European Consensus on Development " calls on EU member states to honour the target they have set themselves of dedicating 0.7% of gross domestic product to overseas development aid, which it said would remain a "crucial" source of funding for the poorest countries. At the same time, the CoR backs the EU's move "beyond aid" by blending public and private, domestic and international funding to promote development. The opinion argues that the far-reaching, cross-cutting nature of the universal targets agreed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals – which, for the first time, apply to economically developed as well as developing countries – should oblige the EU to pursue consistency across policies such as humanitarian aid, trade, regional integration, health, energy, fisheries, science and technology, migration and the European Neighbourhood Policy.
The CoR and the European Commission will host the 5th Assises of Decentralised Cooperation for Development in Brussels on 10-11 July. The CoR also works with local and regional authorities in the EU's eastern and southern neighbourhoods to address shared challenges through political meetings, policy recommendations, and the exchange of best practice. During the CoR's plenary on 8-9 February, a group of Libyan mayors and officials visited Brussels and Mechelen as part of a study visit focused on financial management. On 22-23 February, CoR members will meet counterparts from the Middle East and North Africa for discussions that will focus on migration and Libya. The centrepiece of the gathering, in Valetta, will be the annual plenary meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), which was created by the CoR in 2010.
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