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Refounding the legitimacy of public action through local governance

The fight against poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals require the ability to draw upon stable and recognised public institutions

The decentralisation that makes it possible to build local democratic governance offers a major opportunity in the process of restoring legitimacy to public action. For many States have become fragile today, often seen as socially artificial areas that slice through cross-border human and commercial movement streams and do not necessarily reflect the historical construction of a shared living experience. This decline in confidence is such that the issue of development is no now longer considered solely at the macro-economic level, but rather with consideration for local dynamics as well. The State’s traditional borders have also been transformed by strong social demand for greater participation on the part of all players: civil society and the private sector.

Above and beyond sound management in public affairs, a stronger Rule of Law and anti-corruption efforts, trust and legitimacy are drivers in the social coordination process that shape public action: participation on the part of all players, consideration for all of the interdependent realms within society (political, economic, societal, environmental and cultural), and different territorial levels: local, national, regional, cross-border, etc. The territory, as a place of living, learning about citizenship, contrasting interests and legitimacies, cohabitating between ethnic groups, managing relations between society and the environment and experiencing economic dynamics, is the essential level for mobilising the said dynamics.

The participation of all players in defining and implementing the policies negotiated is the source in which democracy can take root and from which effective public policies may spring. It is built by reconciling the desire for consensus specific to customary and informal practices with the open expression characteristic of democracy, in order that public action can truly be integrated into the political processes of local societies. Such blending of structures, values and traditional and State reference standards is essential in particular with regard to land issues.

From its perspective as an intermediating contributor, French Cooperation supports the construction of public places for dialogue and capacity-building for local authorities (which are catalysts for the expectations of citizens and guarantors of the defence of general interest) and civil society both.

Admittedly, the implementation of decentralisation policies follows different paths, depending on the institutional and economic development settings in each region and each country, from a long-term perspective. However, local governance can become a laboratory for citizenship and development. By lending legitimacy to different ways of contributing to political activity and creating a place for civic action, it offers an opportunity to reconcile the populations with public action and refound State governance.

Updated on: 15.10.09


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