On October 12 and 13 CIB organised its Annual Meeting virtually hosted by FCM. Over 50 members gathered in this online 2-day event to discuss and exchange on developments in our sector of international cooperation at the local level. Below a short narrative recap can be found of some parts of our meeting!
Pascal Lavoie, acting Senior Director FCM Programs, kicked off the meeting by welcoming everyone and expressing his appreciation to everyone present for taking the time to join, even in busy times. Politically seen, the current times are very interesting in Canada, recently having made important steps in the reconciliation process with the indigenous people that started in 2008, as well as having had elections in September, resulting in a minority government. The fact that FCM is a membership driven organization, makes it possible to work independently from the government. FCM is, however, quite representative for the Canadian population, representing 2000 of the 4000 municipalities, enabling them to well embody local governance at the national level. Although FCM exists since 1901, its efforts in development work started in 1987. Currently, FCM is rethinking its international programs, as the world is changing. Pascal experienced that the number of collaborations they are managing to maintain is lower than it used to be 15 years ago and wondered whether other CIB members might experience similar tendencies. The pandemic has not made the work easier either and has unfortunately hit the most vulnerable people disproportionately. Furthermore, it has impacted women specifically, e.g. keeping them out of public positions. It shows that such issues like this pandemic can really divide people again, however, has also shown to be able to unite people.
Peter Knip, Chair of the CIB Working Group and Director of VNG International, expressed his hopes for the next CIB meeting in Flanders to be in real life again, now that international travel is restarting again. We have had and are still living in difficult times with a lot of challenges, thus another hope Peter has, is that our work can help to find the right solutions to these difficulties in the world. The international orientation of local governments is never a given, which makes it worth to emphasize the importance of our joint mission in the world. Peter strengthened this claim using a statement of former Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Sigrid Kaag, from when she visited the VNG International office, stressing the importance of local democracies to act in a coalition to protect inclusive democracy.
Furthermore, Peter announced his upcoming retirement and thus withdrawal from the position as Chair of CIB. He celebrated his 65th birthday a few weeks ago and will finish his work as director of VNG International next year. Around the same time, he will step back from the position as Chair of the working group, thus there are still some remaining months to discuss it and find the best solution going forward. He is very glad that VNG is prepared to continue with both the secretariat of and chairing CIB, if this is what the network supports.
Although it is not a definite goodbye yet, Emilia Saiz, secretary general of UCLG, wanted to thank Peter for the work that he has put into the CIB and UCLG and expressed that she is confident that VNG International will continue to play a strong role in this movement. Continuing on Pascal’s and Peter’s words on these difficult times during the pandemic, Emilia added a very positive remark. Namely, that in the worst of times in the world, the best of times there are for the movement, as something like this pandemic can function as a motor and as a glue to keep on working together and find the right solutions. We do not fully know yet what has hit us and what the consequences of the pandemic are going to be. Therefore, it is important for the CIB to check what and where we need to innovate. We are the implementing arm of the national and international policies, but there is an additional part that we should commit to. That is the innovation around cooperation and development work. This development should be universal, there should not be a north, south, east or west and most of all: it should be feminist. We need feminist leadership, a leadership that approaches the role of nature and consumption differently, a leadership that is for men ánd women.
During the tour the table, where every member organization had the chance to share how the organization has been doing and what is coming up, the effects of the pandemic were again a much discussed topic. Whereas for many the main change was having to move all the work to online platforms and meeting spaces, for others the pandemic has had quite an impact financially as well. E.g. some of the membership based organizations in this network have seen a decrease in payments from their members during the pandemic. Fortunately, such situations could be balanced out by the fact that travelling was impossible or difficult and thus less costs were made on that side. Another advantage of the situation is that in some situations accessibility of events increased, as online capacity is oftentimes easier to upscale than for physical events and it can save travelling time. Then again, this aspect has a downside for others, as the situation increased the digital divide too. All in all, we can conclude that the pandemic has caused disadvantages, but luckily also some advantages. Most of all, it is amazing to see everyone’s adaptability to the new situation, ability to continue working and hopefulness for what the future will bring.
- SALGA has an interesting year ahead, with an expected 70 percent of new councilors coming in after the upcoming elections. This places a huge obligation on the association, as SALGA will need to train those people on capacity building, which is going to be difficult in the coming months, but interesting.
- Deutscher Städtetag is joining the COP 26, for a session on multilateral collaborations. The session will take place on 2nd November, 2pm. It is a multilevel cooperation to implement the Paris Agreement and European Green Deal on local level. They are searching for a Speaker from the UN, who can respond to municipal expectancies. If you have any suggestions, please inform: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Union of Municipalities of Turkey (UMT) have an announcement for EU member states: If you are interested in collaborations/twinning projects with Turkish municipalities, mainly on green development, the UMT can provide grants. The fund for each is €120.000. Please get in touch with email@example.com to learn more about this.
- Vereniging van Vlaamse Steden en Gemeenten (VVSG) shared some interesting materials on SDG’s during the meeting, as well as a publication on SDG's in municipal international cooperation, with 40 'inspirational examples'.
- CEMR-PLATFORMA participated in the European Week of Regions and Cities. Together with the CoR, Eurocities, Regions4 and the OECD they joined forces again to accelerate SDG localization in Europe and beyond in times of COVID-19. Their session aimed to foster exchanges of European and international experiences on how the SDGs can provide a blueprint to ensure resilient recovery policies that leave no one and no place behind. A video of the session can be watched here.
- UCLG/PLATFORMA recently released a publication on EU innovative development funding, which can be found here.
- The Network of Associations of Local Authorities of South-East Europe (NALAS), together with PLATFORMA, published a New Handbook on Decentralised Cooperation, which can be found here.
- An interesting publication on ‘How to improve social services at local level and ensure participation of minorities in the Western Balkans’, based on an event hosted by NALAS in July this year, can be found here.
- UCLG Africa will launch an online learning initiative soon and will invite all CIB members to join it. The next annual meeting of UCLG Africa will be mid-December. It will focus on digitalization and smart cities. Those who can come in real life are more than welcome, but online is also fine.
- VNG International will enter into a new contract with the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs. It will focus on 10 countries in the world, on the topics of security, rule of law, migration, local revenue mobilization, taxation, access to capital market and integrated water management.
Sara Hoeflich, director UCLG Learning, talked us through the new SDG Module 4. This learning module is created in collaboration with PLATFORMA. It focuses on localizing the SDG’s through decentralized collaboration and aims to enable participants to create better partnerships. The first roll-outs of the learning module will take place in October and November. Furthermore, UCLG is preparing a SDG training soon. This will be done via an online platform for everyone to join, which aims to create engagement amongst everyone.
Jaideep Gupte, sr. fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), and Saba Aslam, Research Assistant at IDS, shared the key findings from their research on decentralized cooperation in the 21st century. During the event the chat was very lively and well-used, below you will find a selection of raised questions that were asked during the annual meeting, including Jaideep and Saba’s answers:
- In the list of contributors, there was also a Chinese organization. My experience is that the way Chinese look at development can be very different that how we see it. Can you say anything about the trends you see from a Chinese perspective?
In the paper we do not distinguish between the purpose of the studies, and whether their understanding of development differs from our point of view. Positionalities on the issues might differ, but the thematics are similar. Another thing that this table that I used does not do is differentiate for the length and amount of funds.
- What are the focus points for establishing a working relationship between local government and research and have you identified any incentives that would get it started?
It is really important that we do have insight into the motives and incentives in research and development cooperation. From the point of view of a researcher myself: it is deeply meaningful to have working relationships with local cooperation. The focus on basic services really stood out. How local actors are setting their priorities required detailed roadmapping. This is a space that research funders are keen on.
- COVID-19 has exposed the mentalities across local, provincial and national government in the South African context, particularly in dealing with services without due regard to related services delivered by another level of government. A positive COVID-19 experience though, has seen an increase in the working relations between neighboring municipalities as well as between local, provincial and national government. Are there similar experiences elsewhere, where a pandemic or a disaster has resulted in improved relations between different levels of government? This may also result in revisiting the current allocation of powers and functions.
It wasn’t a specific objective of this paper, but from my own work, we do find examples where relations have indeed improved. They have changed, but not all for the worse. The role of civil society groups has increased. I take you back to the first few months of the pandemic, when we thought all civic space needed to be shut down, but we also found community services that believed and continued their services as it was needed. Local and regional authorities that were open to civil society leadership really strengthened their relationships for the remaining months. That doesn’t mean however that the opposite is not also true, the networks of solidarity has changed and might have soured. There has been change in how people connect, act and support, it is not only about the digital, but about being hybrid. Various members have different strategies to enable them.The CIB Secretariat is looking forward to engage soon again on our next year's Work Plan!