Local actors are playing a crucial role in the process of designing and implementing the new global development agenda. This makes good sense, because a development programme that fails to integrate the local level is destined to fail. This point became the key message of a recent Post-2015 event in Germany. With the theme of “2015 – and then what? Local action for global objectives”, the conference took place in Stuttgart in mid-October. Primarily organised by the Stiftung Entwicklungszusammenarbeit Baden-Württemberg (SEZ), it is the latest in a series of events, now numbering 150, being held at local level in different countries around the world.
Local governments as pioneers of change
It is essential to include local and regional governments and civil society groups engaged in development cooperation in the international agreements on the Post-2015 Agenda. Many local authorities are already effective in pioneering change and can act as innovators on the path to sustainable development. Speaking in Stuttgart, Johannes Krassnitzer of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) highlighted the enormous grassroots interest that exists worldwide in the Post-2015 Agenda process and in implementing the agenda in people’s own countries. This approach contrasts sharply with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were formulated by officials meeting in seclusion. The Post-2015 Agenda has formulated seventeen goals, which emerged through dialogue with people on the ground. Steffen Bauer of the German Development Institute (DIE) said the Agenda in its present form was very encouraging. It had, he argued, succeeded in bringing together the development process and the sustainability process, something that could by no means have been taken for granted just a few years ago.
Still too few structures for local dialogue
The course taken so far by the Post-2015 process has shown that, despite an internationally high level of civic commitment, development cooperation is still regarded by many as a task for the individual nation states and therefore a matter for governments. This is especially true for Europe. Within the EU we find, according to Krassnitzer, a clear difference: municipalities and citizens in the countries of Southern Europe are engaging much more strongly in the process than they are in Northern Europe. The reason, explained the UNDP official, lies in a tradition of local-level dialogue. For the most part, these structures still have to be created in northern EU countries.
In the state of Baden-Württemberg, however, such structures do already exist. For instance, the state has built a partnership with Burundi, which is why a delegation of representatives from Burundian association of local authorities was able to take part in the Stuttgart conference. For these local-level politicians from Burundi, the discussions produced some positive practical outcomes they could take home with them. There was agreement, for example, on setting up closer cooperation with Baden-Württemberg’s Association of Cities and Towns, and plans were laid for training Burundian administrators in Baden-Württemberg, with the costs being borne by the UNDP. Still in the role of European Energy Commissioner, Günther H. Oettinger also attended the event and pledged his support to the Burundian delegation for the initiation of energy partnerships within the framework of cooperation between Burundi und Baden-Württemberg.
Results are reflected in the BMZ Charter for the Future
The results of the Stuttgart conference have been summarised in a policy paper that sets out concrete actions. A central focus here is on concerted efforts by all the actors, from local communities up to the international level. The paper also calls for action to strengthen and extend value chains in the countries of the South, build education and training systems, and bolster small-scale farming.
The results of the Stuttgart conference are to be reflected in the Charter for the Future, a policy document being drawn up by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). This is to be presented to Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on 24 November.
Beate Wörner, journalist, Fellbach/Germany