ABOUT THIS SECTOR
In the past two decades, the importance of Local Authorities (LAs) and Associations of Local Authorities (ALAs) in addressing the complexities of sustainable development and fighting poverty have been increasingly recognised, by both the EU and its partner countries. Indeed, as the public institutions closest to citizens, local authorities hold responsibility to execute a mandate to satisfy their constituencies’ needs, mainly through the provision of basic services. They have opportunities to mobilise their local communities, in most of the cases, while acting as catalysts for change.
This is particularly true in terms of more efficient public administration, more inclusive development processes, in cooperation with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs - including community-based organisations, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organisations, foundations, research institutions, trade unions, women’s organisations, cooperatives, professional and business associations and the media), and solutions to urgent challenges faced by local communities.
Moreover, in crisis situations, LAs can represent important political actors in building resilience, and viable interlocutors where cooperation between central governments and the EU is not possible at the moment. Recently, LAs have been also called to respond to pressing issues for their communities, such as: migration, food security, resource depletion, public safety and violence, environmental and social impacts of mining or adaptation to climate change and rapid urbanisation. For instance, by the year 2025, approximately two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas, with 95% of the urban population growth in partner countries.
Local Authorities (LAs)
According to the EU definition included in the Communication “Empowering Local Authorities in partner countries for enhanced governance and more effective development outcomes”, local authorities are public institutions with legal personality, component of the State structure, below the level of central government and accountable to citizens.
LAs are usually composed of a deliberative or policy-making body (council or assembly) and an executive body (the Mayor or the executive officer), directly or indirectly elected or selected at local level. The term encompasses different tiers of government, e.g. villages, municipalities, districts, counties, provinces, regions, etc. Within this wide context, the focus of the European Commission is however on the municipal level, which is generally the lowest government tier of the public institutional system and the closest to citizens.
Associations of Local Authorities (LAs)
Associations of local authorities are considered as umbrella organisations based on membership and representativeness at sub-national, national, sub-continental, continental and international level. They may be in the country of registration. Associations of LAs may be composed of a representative body elected by its LAs members and permanent secretariat. Their main functions include: advocacy, lobby, coordination experience and knowledge sharing among LAs, quality supervision, promotion of local development plans.