Dr. Najat Zarrouk is Director of Development, Capacity Building, Knowledge Management and ALGA of UCLG Africa. Najat holds a PhD in Political Science and graduated of the National School of Public Administration in Rabat and the University of Paris. She has years of management experience in public administration, served at the UN as a member of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) for 7 years. She has received several rewards, including the "National Order of Merit, Outstanding Class" awarded by His Majesty the King of Morocco, the UN Medal of Excellence in Public Service in 2013 and the OP DWIVEDI AWARD 2015 from the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IAIA), to recognize her outstanding contribution to Public Administration and the advancement of public policies around the world.
This year’s CIB annual meeting will be taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, and will be hosted by UCLG Africa and its African Local Government Academy (ALGA). For the first time since the existence of CIB, the CIB annual meeting will be organized in Northern Africa; a fantastic opportunity!
Question: Why did you decide to invite the network of CIB to Marrakech for this year’s meeting?
Najat: In my capacity as Director of Development, Knowledge Management and ALGA of UCLG Africa, I had the honor of taking part in two Annual Meetings of the CIB in Vienna (Austria) and Saint-Nicolas (Belgium). It was an opportunity for my Organization to get an idea of the mandate, the vision, the mission and the Network of this Working Group of UCLG, and especially what it can bring to my Organization.
This is why we have offered to host the CIB Annual Meeting for 2023 in Marrakech (Morocco) for the first time in Africa, since the creation of this Working Group by UCLG.
Several issues, concerns and priorities bind us to the CIB. Allow me to name a few:
1) UCLG Africa is the Regional Section in Africa of UCLG, and it seemed normal to us that it was the turn of this Continent to host this Annual Meeting.
2) UCLG Africa believes in Cooperation and Partnership as strategic levers for the promotion of peace, solidarity, sustainable and resilient development. We thus contributed to the elaboration of the Policy Paper on development cooperation which was solemnly adopted at the end of the UCLG Summit in Daejeon last year.
3) In the framework of the implementation and localization of the Sustainable Development Goal 17, UCLG Africa is also in the process of designing a holistic Roadmap to support its Members and Network on Decentralized cooperation and multi-actors partnerships. CIB work and Policy Paper will help in this regards and the Annual Meeting will certainly allow us to feed and improve this Roadmap.
4) Ensuring the empowerment and participation of women at the local level is also another priority for UCLG Africa. Moreover, it is at the level of this Organization that the networking of local elected women in Africa was initiated and succeeded in 2011, giving birth to REFELA which is a practice of excellence worthy of being shared among the CIB Network. We will also learn more about Gender Knowledge Hub and how this space can serve as another opportunity to empower and capacitate African women politically, economically and socially. We hope that many REFELA members will be able to join the CIB gathering, to empower themselves, learn from others, and have spaces for peer-to-peer learning.
One of the primary areas of focus for UCLG Africa has been ensuring women’s participation in local decision-making processes for equitable representation in social, political, and economic domains. UCLG Africa has actively contributed to the new UCLG-CIB Policy Paper on development cooperation,
Q: What do you believe are the main opportunities and challenges for African local governments in this field?
Najat: African Local Governments have demonstrated their capacity for resilience during the Covid-19 Pandemic and have been on the bridge and on the front lines to maintain and ensure their activities, to continue the delivery of basic public services (water, electricity, household waste collection, urban transport, civil status, etc.).
Nevertheless, these public institutions continue to face a multitude of challenges, both structural and cyclical: resistance to change and mentalities at the level of central administrations, the real and concrete transfer of roles, responsibilities and skills, the concomitant transfer resources, the problems of local public administrations, undergoing unprecedented urbanization, climate change, youth unemployment, management of migratory flows, etc...
Since 2015, the International Community has adopted and is implementing the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development “The World We Want”; Program being implemented, localized and territorialized also by Local and regional Governments, based on the national context specific to each Country. In the African case, we must not forget the need to align this Program with the African Agenda 2063 and its 7 Aspirations where partnerships and gender equality are among the priorities for the “Africa We Want”.
CIB Meeting is an excellent space where we can share knowledge and methodology, favorite peer-to-peer learning, showing case of best practices, and building a common narrative.
Q: What has happened in the field recently and how will this be reflected in the programme of the CIB annual meeting?
Najat: For me personally, it is first of all the Policy Paper on Development Cooperation which represents a reference document for creating a favorable and enabling environment for Partnership and Decentralized Cooperation, with initiatives and projects citizen-driven and oriented.
Then, it is the creation by the Kingdom of Morocco, through the General Directorate of Territorial Collectivities of the Ministry of the Interior of an African Support Fund for International Decentralized Cooperation (FACDI) in 2020, a unique example in Africa which has made it possible since its creation to support 57 projects in 21 African countries, covering very diverse themes such as youth employability, promotion of culture and heritage, support for basic public services such as water, electricity, sanitation, urban development, capacity building, scholarships. For example, ALGA of UCLG Africa received 43 Scholarships to implement its Executive Master in City Management thanks to this Fund.
Q: What aspects of the CIB annual meeting are you most looking forward to in particular?
Najat: We are preparing a substantial program for this Meeting where each Segment will be a unique experience, in terms of content, experiences and knowledge presented and shared, products exhibited, and co-creation opportunities for the future.
Peer learning moments will be exceptional moments also, in addition to field visits.
The fact that DeLog joins this Meeting will certainly add value and open new perspectives for the mobilized Partners.
Finally on behalf of UCLG Africa and it’s Academy ALGA, we would like to express our Gratitude for the Trust and Support.
We are delighted and honored to host this event and as said by the Hon. Chair of CIB, Dr Neila, we are making all our efforts to make Marrakech Meeting, the event where you must be…