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The European Commission Communication entitled "Local Authorities: Actors for Development" and published on 8 October 2008, was the first EU reference document dedicated to highlighting the role, place and importance of local and regional authorities (LRA) in EU development policy. In the communication, supported by the Committee of the Regions' opinion, the European Commission recognised that local and regional authorities bring a unique added-value to development processes. In addition to concrete actions in developing countries, LRA have a key role in mobilising different stakeholders to work together, thus generating collaborative approaches to attaining common development goals.

The Communication foresaw several new proposals, notably:

  • Establishing a dialogue on development policy with local and regional authorities. It will take the form of conferences and discussions involving all those active in development cooperation in order to strengthen the contribution LRA and their networks and associations, enhance aid effectiveness and ensure long-term sustainability of their actions. The first dialogue was the so-called "Assizes" of Decentralised Cooperation, held on 2nd of December 2009 at the Committee of the Regions. They brought together in a meeting all levels of authorities including a large number of LRA from the EU and developing countries as well as representatives of the EU institutions. For others editions of the Assizes please click here

  • Creating mechanisms to report more effectively on local and regional authorities' development cooperation. The Atlas of Decentralised Cooperation is the empirical translation of this proposal and it provides an opportunity for LRA to declare their development cooperation activities in order to answer and overcome the lack of data.

  • The Atlas is part of Portal of decentralised Cooperation, bringing together as much as possible information, contacts and exchange opportunities on cooperation for development for LRA. The Portal provides means to match skills and capacities with needs, allows discussion through forums, alerts about European and other funding opportunities, as well as informs about existing country strategies which would enhance the effectiveness and coherence of the programmes and initiatives undertaken by European LRA on development cooperation.

The European Union Council's conclusions on above mentioned communication, adopted in November 2008, sent a clear message that Member States also recognise the increasing role and added-value of local and regional authorities in cooperation development policy. Furthermore, the document stressed the importance of the contribution made by local authorities to democratic local governance, to inclusive and equitable local development and to the provision of basic services needed by the population.

The above mentioned Committee of the Regions' opinion, provided full support for the three proposals above. It stressed the specific contribution of LRA in development and recognises the need to coordinate cooperation activities at all levels. In addition, the CoR opinion called for progress on integrating LRA into development and cooperation policies. Moreover, the opinion committed the CoR to take all necessary steps to organise, jointly with the European Commission, the dialogue on decentralised cooperation for development, i.e., the Assises, and approved the idea of involving "all those active in this system of cooperation".