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Ensuring the delivery of essential public services

The fight against poverty and universal and lasting access to essential public services (water, sanitation, waste, energy, transport and telecommunications) at an affordable price and without any negative impact for the environment, are priorities for French Cooperation. They are some of the most telling indicators in the assessing decentralisation policies.

For the first time in History, half of the world’s population, or 2 billion inhabitants, consists of city-dwellers. For this reason, achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will depend in large part on the cities, which are becoming players at the forefront of poverty-reduction efforts and the implementation of sustainable human development. One of the main challenges consists of reducing the divide between formal cities and informal cities, which are now home to nearly half of the South’s citizens, by guaranteeing the entire population access to essential equipment and border security.

In order to support the local authorities toward this end, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs supports greater consideration for the local authorities in the international cooperation system overall. It provides support to the government agencies in charge of decentralisation in defining and implementing institutional reform and national plans to support the local authorities. It contributes to capacity-building in the administrative department of the local authorities through training initiatives for the elected officials and administrative personnel, in particular in the fields of local planning, public funding and project management. Lastly, it supports structuring for the municipal movement by building up national, regional and global associations of local elected officials.

French Cooperation also encourages the mobilisation of the private sector, solidarity and civil society organisations, as well as decentralised cooperation initiatives. Above and beyond the financial resources and technical considerations, the main challenge for implementing essential services lies in the creation of dialogue between the national, central and deconcentrated institutions, the local authorities, economic players, service providers and the populations around a shared long-term project. The said project must match local needs in technical, financial and cultural terms, as well as the operating procedures and resources of the institutions responsible, all the while ensuring the defence of general interest. France is currently elaborating a strategy in the field of urban governance, which aims at adopting more partnership-based action procedures, to respond to the increasing number of players who aspire to more participation in the negotiation of sustainable urban projects.

For instance, universal access to essential services in compliance with the concept of inclusiveness is one of the best ways for rebuilding confidence in public action. Above and beyond its technical dimension, dialogue about essential services offers an opportunity to build political legitimacy. Access to public services contributes to creating legitimacy for the decentralisation processes underway in the Southern States and the concept of public services itself.

Updated on: 15.10.09


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