French Guideline for the International Action of Local Authorities
The idea of putting forward a State strategy regarding orientations for decentralised cooperation and, more generally, action undertaken abroad by local and regional authorities may seem both somewhat ambiguous and somewhat ambitious.
Somewhat ambiguous because autonomous management of local and regional authorities is enshrined in the French Constitution: the law since 1992 - and to an even greater extent since the “Thiollière” law was passed in 2007 - recognises that local and regional authorities have the freedom and authority to develop cooperative relations with other foreign local authorities.
Somewhat ambitious at the same time because this cooperation is extremely diverse, not only in terms of the subjects it addresses, but also in terms of the stakeholders it mobilises and the geography covered.
There is a very strong consensus in France on the complementary role of the State and local and regional authorities when it comes to international relations. This is thanks to a strong tradition of dialogue between the State and national associations of elected officials.
It is against such a backdrop that this document has been drafted.
This is an overview that will enable the reader to better understand and define decentralised cooperation. France is in fact the first country to come up with an Atlas of Decentralised Cooperation which lists the various initiatives undertaken by its local and regional authorities around the world. France’s Atlas is also contributing to the creation of a European Atlas on which the European Commission has begun to work.
Furthermore, this document illustrates the strong political will that France has manifested over the last few years to garner international recognition of the role that local authorities play in development policies and the importance of local governance for the Millennium Development Goals. It underscores the fact that decentralised cooperation can be a marvellous tool not only for making technical contributions, but also by spreading the political message of enhanced governance and local democracy.
In Europe, France has been very active in furthering the position of local authorities in development policies, be it in the European Council, notably during the French Presidency, in the Committee of the Regions or the European Parliament.
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