On April 11, 2013 practitioners, researchers, officials and advocates met in the offices of the European Commission in the fourth consultation in our process of building a global community of practice on participatory local democracy.
The meeting was organized by the KIP International School (http://www.kip-un.org). KIP is headquartered within UNOPS at FAO Headquarters. The president of KIP, Luciano Carrino, has had a distinguished career in international development for both the Italian government and the OECD. He has nurtured and inspired a group of friends, practitioners and colleagues around the world. They and others presented their approaches and initiatives at the meeting.
KIP stands for Knowledge, Innovations, Policies and Territorial Practices for the UN Millennium Platform.
Italy is a pioneer in participatory budgeting and other good local governance practices, although many at the meeting expressed fears that the current financial crisis threatens this progress. (“How can you have participatory budgeting with no budget?”).
One unique contribution of this consultation was the emphasis on decentralized cooperation. Italy is a highly decentralized country, to the point where a large share of its overseas development assistance is carried out by its 20 regions and 8,200 municipalities rather than by the central government.
A second unique theme focused on Local Economic Development Agencies (LEDAs). LEDAs are officially established multi-stakeholder bodies that guide and promote economic development in the local territory.
A third theme was territorial development, a term distinguished from “local development” in that it represents a comprehensive, multisectoral approach.
The keynote address was given by Hon. Famiano Crucianelli, Co-President of the KIP International School and former Under Secretary of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Curcianelli emphasized the importance of a community of practice that can multiply human capital, particularly when resources are scarce and at a time when decentralization and democracy are facing new challenges from emerging non-democratic economic powers such as China and Russia.
This meeting was far more of an experience-sharing meeting than our others, and so I will briefly summarize the presentations that were made, with links to where you can learn more about the institution or initiative.
Research and Knowledge Initiatives
- Universitatis is an initiative of KIP that captures and distills the particular local knowledge from innovators and researchers, and presents it in a format designed to make it more universally replicable and accessible. It uses an online open-journaling system to both peer-review and publish the information. See: http://www.universitasforum.org
- IDEASS is another knowledge initiative of KIP focusing on distilling local innovations in participatory territorial development into concise standardized brochures that bridge the gap between what the lengthen local narrative and what a policy maker can actually engage with. See http://www.ideassonline.org
- ARCO (Action Research for Co-Development) at the University of Florence if focused on action research – getting researchers out of their offices and into the field, working directly with local actors. It focuses on inclusion of marginalized groups and creating social capital in a pro-development way. See http://www.arcolab.org
- Oxfam Italia is an Italian NGO that has only recently joined the Oxfam family, and is working to systematize its long experience with decentralized cooperation to make it more available to the whole Oxfam network and others. http://oxfamitalia.org
- Human Rights Film Festival of Naples. Founded five years ago – it has taken an approach of radical participation, making all screenings free. It had 6,000 participants last year. http://www.cinemaediritti.org
Planning and Development
- ANCI: the Italian Association of Municipalities. Italian municipalities not only contribute, but learn from Southern partners – taking participatory budgeting from Brazil, microcredit from India. ANCI promotes development of citizen committees to work with government on sectoral and integrated development. Many municipalities apply deliberative approaches such as citizen juries and open space meetings, and many are working to strengthen strategic planning and adopt participatory process to define and implement this instrument. A specific network ”ReCS” collect the activity of many of these municipalities: http://recs.it
- OICS: (Osservatorio Interregionale Cooperazione Sviluppo) is an NGO whose members are the regions and autonomous provinces of Italy. It’s purpose is to encourage and provide technical support for decentralized cooperation. See http://www.oics.it
- ILS LEDA: A UN/Eurada-supported network of 60 Local Economic Development Agencies (LEDAs) that provides capacity building and technical assistance. ILS LEDA recognizes that capacity building for entrepreneurship and economic development fails if there isn’t a comprehensive ongoing package of support services available. See http://ilsleda.org
- FISPMED: A network of 39 nations for sustainable development and eradicating poverty in the Mediterreanian and Black Sea region. Focuses on environment, water, tourism and promotion of participatory democracy. It is modeled on a similar very successful network of Baltic Sea countries. http://fispmed.wordpress.com
- Roman Hills Regional Development: Taking a holistic approach to tourism, gastronomy and wine. Developed their own “Magicland” amusement park, generating 10,000 jobs. http://asproma.it/
- Municipality of Verbicaro. The mayor described his community’s long partnerships in Mali and Tanzania. http://www.verbicaro.net
- URB-AL III is a European Commission regional cooperation programme with Latin America, whose goal is to contribute to increasing social and territorial cohesion among sub-national and regional groups in Latin America. See http://www.urb-al3.eu
- Veneto Region Decentralized Cooperation. Venice has carried out more than 100 projects in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East over the past 15 years. It sees its added value as to how to group clusters of small family enterprises to connect better to markets. They see decentralized cooperation as critical to strengthening the ability of localities to deal with global issues such as competition and immigration. See http://www.regione.veneto.it/web/relazioni-internazionali/decentralized-cooperation
- Lazio Region Decentralized Cooperation described its partnership with KIP for a long-term partnership for the emergence civil society in Tunisia. The director emphasized the importance of tracking the predeterminants of democracy: cultural barriers, literacy, access to information, gender, youth, the freedom to form new political parties.
- iNext: A strategic planning company that described its work to support multisectoral planning in Albania. See http://inextstudio.eu
- Armadilla is an NGO with 30 years experience with decentralized cooperation in Lebanon, Mozambique and Syria. See http://www.armadilla.coop/