The external action of local government bodies involves French and foreign local governments for cooperation projects in fields including culture, the climate, sustainable urban and rural development, education, youth and economic development. Where external action is carried out under an agreement between partner local governments, it is called decentralized cooperation.
Local government bodies support the international expansion of businesses while carrying out development projects or implementing policies to support local governance.
From Brittany to Mali, and from Strasbourg to Vologda in Russia, around 10,700 cooperation projects are being implemented by almost 4,700 French local governments. Partnerships have been launched with some 8,150 foreign local governments in 134 countries.
Almost 5,000 French local authorities are involved in development activities abroad, working with more than 8,000 partner local authorities, with a total of more than 10,000 projects in 134 countries. They form the largest such network worldwide, on a scale comparable to that of France’s bilateral diplomatic network.
The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is also involved in these initiatives, supporting local authorities in their external action which has been recognized in law for three decades. The Ministry’s support is in large part provided via the dedicated Delegation for the External Action of Local Government (DAECT), which is responsible for taking stock of decentralized cooperation, making proposals to strengthen it, and implementing a policy of partnership with local government bodies, based on triennial, annual, thematic and bilateral calls for projects. Under the auspices of the DAECT, an Atlas of Decentralized Cooperation has been created, and local governments have annually declared their official development assistance (ODA) since 2007.
Through the sharing of local experience, decentralized cooperation helps promote French expertise in key fields of excellence, such as management of local public services, creation of basic infrastructure, rural development, urban planning, transport, tourism, e-government, and management of the environment. It also supports outreach on global challenges, where a local approach is often needed: democratic governance, sustainable development, the climate, services to citizens and economic initiatives.
In particular, France’s overseas communities have a specific role in national and European efforts, given their location and the economic, academic and migratory ties they have with their regional environment.
The leverage provided by the external action of local government bodies needs greater recognition and perspective, through a modernized legislative framework and more effective institutions, as recommended in the report by André Laignel that was delivered to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in January 2013. Moreover, the Interministerial Committee for International Co-operation and Development (CICID)’s conclusions of 31 July 2013 called for local government bodies to play a growing role in territorial development, taking into account decentralization support policies as much as possible. These recommendations were followed by the white paper on Diplomacy and Territories (in French), published by La Documentation Française in 2017. The latter’s implementation is regularly discussed by the National Commission on Decentralized Cooperation (CNCD).
It is the CNCD, a body for interagency cooperation where, since a 1992 act of parliament, the national associations representing local government bodies and major government administrations are represented on an equal basis to discuss these new roles, with a view to strengthening the activities of local government and its international role.
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The role of Parliament
Parliament is involved in cooperation policy, supervising the government’s action in this field. Its powers for the adoption and monitoring of finance acts were strengthened with the entry into force of the Act on Finance Acts of 1 August 2001 (LOLF). It is responsible for examining the finance bills submitted to it annually, sometimes amending them, and adopting them. The debate on these occasions enables it to question the ministries involved in development assistance precisely on their activities. This monitoring of execution and these discussions with the executive branch continue throughout the year by other means, such as control and evaluation missions, written questions, questions to the Government, and legislative procedure.
The Parliament’s involvement in development assistance has increased considerably, including through changes in its prerogatives as regard external relations. This growing role has led to much consultation of Parliament and the publication of several parliamentary reports on development assistance issues, demonstrating its desire to contribute actively to the design and follow-up of development policy.
Mise à jour: July 2019