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We, Member States of the African Union (AU):
Inspired by the vision of the African Union of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena;
Guided by the objectives and principles enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, particularly Articles 3 and 4, which emphasise the significance of good governance, popular participation, the rule of law and human rights;
Recalling the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (2003), the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007), the African Charter on the Values and the Principles of Public Service and Administration (2011);
Recognising the contribution of regional organizations, Member States, local authorities associations and civil society organisations in promoting, protecting, strengthening and consolidating decentralisation, local governance and local development;
Determined to promote the values and principles of decentralisation, local governance and local development in Africa as a means for improving the livelihood of all peoples on the continent;
Convinced that legitimate local governments or local authorities are key cornerstones of any democratic governance system;
Reaffirming our collective will to deepen participatory democracy, citizens and community empowerment, to promote accountability and transparency of public institutions, promote and protect cultural diversity, and promote gender and trans-generational equity at the local or sub-national level and to ensure access to basic services for all people on the continent;
Cognisant of the various forms of decentralisation, including devolution, deconcentration and delegation in the political, administrative and financial spheres;
Inspired by the Yaoundé Declaration adopted by African Ministers in charge of Decentralisation and Local Development on the 29th October 2005;
Recalling the AU Executive Council Decision EX.CL./Dec.677 (XX) adopted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 28th January 2012 as endorsed by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government relating to the development of an African Charter on the Values, Principles and Standards of Decentralisation and Local Governance;
Have agreed as follows:
DEFINITIONS, OBJECTIVES AND VALUES
In this Charter, unless otherwise stated, the expressions below shall have the following meaning.
AU means the African Union
Assembly means the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union
Charter means the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Decentralisation, Local Governance and Local Development
Commission means the African Union Commission
Constitutive Act means the Constitutive Act of the African Union
Decentralisation means the reorganisation or transfer of power relationships, responsibilities, capacities and resources among national and all sub-national levels of government with the aim of strengthening the ability of the latter to both foster people’s participation and delivery of quality services.
Local development means the mobilisation of local, national and global human, economic, socio-cultural, and political and natural resources for the improvement and transformation of livelihood, communities and territories at the local level.
Local economic development means an element of local development which emphasises the mobilisation of endogenous resources and local knowledge and skills in a manner that attracts investments to generate inclusive economic activities and growth and promotes the equitable redistribution of resources.
Local Governance means governance processes and institutions at the sub-national level, which includes governance by and with local governments or local authorities, civil society, and other relevant actors at the local level.
Local Public Official means a locally elected representative of a local government or local authority.
Member States means Member States of the African Union
Ministers means Ministers of the central government or any authority of the central government responsible for decentralisation, local governance and local development
Regional Economic Communities means regional integration blocks of the African Union
State Party means any Member State that has ratified or acceded to the Charter and deposited the instruments of ratification or accession with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission
STCs means the Specialised Technical Committees of the African Union
Sub-national level means all levels of government below the national level
- The objectives of the Charter are to:
a) Promote, protect and act as a catalyst for decentralisation, local governance and local development in Africa;
b) Promote and champion local self-government and local democracy as the cornerstone of decentralisation in Africa;
d) Promote a shared understanding and a common vision of Member States on matters relating to decentralisation, local governance and local development;
e) Promote the core values and principles of decentralisation, local governance and local development;
f) Guide policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation at the continental, regional, state and sub-national levels on decentralisation, local governance and local development;
g) Encourage effective coordination, harmonisation and knowledge sharing within Member States and among regional economic communities on decentralisation, local governance and local development;
h) Promote the association and cooperation of local governments or local authorities at the local, national, regional and continental levels;
i) Promote civil society and private sector participation in decentralisation, local governance and local development initiatives; and
j) Realise the vision and objectives of the African Union as contained in its Constitutive Act in order to achieve continental integration and African unity.
This Charter seeks to promote:
b) Local governance
c) Local development
This Charter shall be informed by the following values:
a) Community spiritedness and community well-being
c) Respect for human and peoples’ rights
d) Diversity and tolerance
e) Justice, equality and equity
g) Civism and citizenship
The following principles shall underpin the approach to decentralisation, local governance and local development in Africa:
- The law shall recognise local governments or local authorities as distinct sub-national entities of self-government from the central government, entitled to freely exercise their competencies. Recognition of this principle, as well as powers and responsibilities derived therefrom, shall be enshrined in the constitution of State Parties.
- Local governments or local authorities shall be endowed with a legal personality and financial autonomy within a national framework of decentralised powers and functions.
- Local governments or local authorities shall have the powers to freely administer themselves through democratically elected, deliberative assemblies and executive organs in accordance with the provisions of the law.
- Boundaries of territories falling within the jurisdiction of local governments or local authorities shall be modified in accordance with the provisions of the law and only after consultation with local governments or local authorities.
- Local governments or local authorities shall be consulted in advance as individual or collective entities on any national or sub-national regulatory instruments, sectoral policies, programmes, or projects that directly or indirectly affect their competencies to impact on the lives of local populations.
- Decision-making, policy and programme initiation, adoption and implementation shall not be transferred to a higher level of government when local governments or local authorities offer a better guarantee of pertinence and efficacy.
- Local governments or local authorities are best placed to provide basic services to local communities.
- Harmonisation and coordination of public policies at the local level shall be the principal responsibility of local governments or local authorities.
- Local governments or local authorities shall cooperate with central governments and other local actors to achieve increased efficiency and effectiveness in public action for the delivery of public services.
- Central governments shall create enabling conditions for cooperation and coordination between national and all sub-national levels of government.
- Central governments shall play a supportive role to local governments or local authorities to discharge their duties and responsibilities.
- Central governments shall ensure that local governments or local authorities provide equitable, effective and affordable basic services to their people, taking into account, among others, issues of inclusion, gender, indigenous knowledge, modern or alternative technologies, the environment and sustainable development.
Resource Mobilisation and Local Economic Development
- Central governments shall adopt legislation and establish appropriate mechanisms to empower local governments or local authorities to mobilise resources at the local level for local economic development.
- Central governments shall adopt legislation, measures and establish relevant mechanisms to give local governments the authority to raise taxes at the local level for local economic development.
- Local governments or local authorities shall raise and manage local taxes in close consultation with central government, civil society and the private sector through legislative, institutional and clearly defined participatory mechanisms.
- Local governments or local authorities shall encourage and ensure civil society, private sector, communities, national and sub-national entities pay local taxes and user services through clearly established, inclusive, and participatory processes and mechanisms.
- Central governments shall work in close collaboration with local governments or local authorities to promote private sector and community development investments or initiatives through legislative, financial and institutional frameworks.
- Central governments shall adopt legislation and create the necessary oversight and evaluation mechanisms to ensure that the percentage of taxes, which are due to local communities raised at the national and local levels are effectively transferred to local governments or local authorities for local economic development.
Diversity and Differentiation
- Local governments shall exercise their powers having regard to local realities, values, and customs as well as national principles, norms and standards.
- Local programmes, projects or initiatives shall be implemented in consultation with stakeholders and carried out in such a manner as to recognise the cultural, religious and gender diversity of the people within its territory in urban and rural areas.
- Consultation frameworks may take the form of advisory boards, informed by local conditions to make proposals or give opinions concerning guidelines or decisions in the management of affairs falling within the ambit of local governments or local authorities. However, the role of local elected authorities shall remain primary.
- Local governments shall adopt by-laws and implement local programmes, projects or initiatives in a manner consistent with national laws and regulations.
- States which are party to regional, continental and/or global treaties and policy instruments shall support local governments to comply with such instruments and treaties at the local level.
Inclusion, Equity and Equality
- Local governments or local authorities shall discharge their responsibilities and duties in a manner that it is inclusive, equitable and gives equal treatment to all local residents to ensure that citizens and local residents have equitable access to quality services.
- Local governments or local authorities shall ensure that historically marginalised groups and poor communities in both rural and urban areas shall be included and given priority in service delivery.
- Local governments or local authorities shall develop pro-poor initiatives and pay particular attention to women and the youth, as well as vulnerable groups including but not limited to the elderly, persons with disability, HIV/AIDS-affected households, child-headed households, street children, the indigent, the illiterate, slum dwellers, poor rural households, the unemployed and underemployed, refugees, the homeless, the displaced minorities in programme or project development, implementation and service delivery.
- Local governments or local authorities shall not discriminate on the basis of sex, age, disability, social status, religion, place of origin, ethnic or racial origin, linguistic association and political ideology in exercising their functions, setting policies, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating programmes or projects.
- Local governments or local authorities shall discharge their duties and responsibilities having regard to sustainable development, which includes the development of future generations, inter-generational development and environmental sustainability into account.
Shared Responsibility and Complementarity
- Local governments or local authorities shall promote and improve the livelihoods and environment of local communities.
- Local governments or local authorities shall, in the spirit of good local and central government relations, involve all relevant national, sub-national, private sector and civil society actors in the development and implementation of local development plans and programmes, and ensure consistency with national, regional or continental development policies.
- Local development plans and programmes shall be specified in operational cooperation frameworks, such as a Commitments Charter, and shall be adopted by all relevant actors.
- Central and local governments or local authorities shall be bound by law to establish mechanisms to cooperate and support each other to attain global, continental, regional, national, and local development priorities.
- National development agencies, public institutions, private sector and civil society shall collaborate with local governments to support the implementation of local development priorities.
- Local governments or local authorities shall be accountable to their citizens regarding local development decisions and policies, the implementation of such decisions and policies and the management of financial resources. Local community and citizen responsibilities in this respect shall be clearly defined to facilitate collaboration with local governments or local authorities.
- Local governments or local authorities shall, in accordance with national legislation and in the spirit of good cooperative governance, be accountable to central governments and communities as regards the discharging their duties and responsibilities and in the implementation of programmes, projects or policies.
- Provisions shall be made in law to address all kinds of disputes arising from all levels of government through appropriate forms of dispute settlement.
- National legislation shall guarantee the rights and outline responsibilities of citizens to participate in public life at the local level.
- Democracy shall be the foundation of local government and shall take a participatory and representative form..
- Local governments or local authorities shall promote participation of all segments of society in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, programmes and projects through structured community platforms and other forms of participation to ensure the delivery of quality services.
- Local governments or local authorities shall promote the development of innovative democratic and peaceful public expression platforms.
- Local governments or local authorities shall make provision for the meaningful participation of communities, civil society and other actors in local governance and development.
- Central governments, in collaboration with local governments or local authorities, shall invite and encourage the full participation of the African diaspora in the promotion of decentralization, local governance and local development through clearly defined policies and mechanisms.
- National legislation shall be enacted to empower and encourage local governments or local authorities to adopt appropriate forms of popular participation, civic engagement and other forms of expression.
- Election of local public officials shall be enshrined within the legal framework of State Parties, which shall clearly define the modalities and timeframes for such elections.
- Central governments shall enact electoral laws that promote regular, democratic, free and fair local government elections.
- Central governments shall establish innovative measures and appropriate mechanisms to ensure the full participation of all eligible citizens, including specific measures for the representation of women and marginalised groups in local government elections within the framework of national legislation.
- Local public officials shall duly represent the interests of local communities and shall consult with their populations on an on-going and regular basis through clearly specified mechanisms and timeframes.
- Central governments shall adopt legislation and establish administrative and financial mechanisms and use information and communication technology (ICT) to encourage local residents and communities to provide feedback to their locally elected representatives, make their grievances heard, and seek redress.
Transparency, Accountability and Ethical Behaviour
- Measures for the promotion of transparency and accountability by local governments or local authorities shall be clearly outlined in national legislation. Such legislation shall clearly define the respective roles and responsibilities of national and sub-national governments, public agencies, service providers, elected and administrative officials, and civil society organizations.
- Central governments and local governments or local authorities shall make provisions for community participation and establish accountability systems in local governance and local development programmes by publishing annual local government performance reports and disclosing financial statements in full.
- Central governments and local governments or local authorities shall establish mechanisms to combat all forms of corruption.
- Central governments and local governments or local authorities shall establish innovative mechanisms in the resolution of grievances to promote and protect whistle-blowing relating to all forms of corrupt behaviour and practice, including bribery, patronage and nepotism, as well as the resolution of grievances.
- Local public officials shall display ethical behaviour and integrity in discharging their duties.
- Central governments shall adopt legislation and create mechanisms to monitor standards of ethical behaviour by local governments or local authorities.
Mainstreaming Gender, Youth and Disability
- Local governments or local authorities shall integrate gender, youth and disability issues in the overall process of formulating policy, planning for development and providing services, as well as in implementing, monitoring and evaluating development programmes and projects.
- Local governments or local authorities shall promote and ensure the equal and effective participation of women, youth and people with disability in public life, leadership and management positions on all matters relating to local governance and local development.
- Local governments or local authorities shall promote and increased participation of the women, youth and people with disability in all matters relating to local governance and local development.
- Local Governance Administration
a) National legislation shall be adopted to empower local governments to determine and manage the organization of local public administration within a common national framework of standards, in order to ensure effective and enhanced delivery of quality and affordable services to local communities.
b) Local governments or local authorities shall identify and implement innovative service delivery modalities to local populations within a framework of national legislation.
- Resource Mobilisation and Utilisation
a) Local governments shall be provided with the required human, financial and technological resources to effectively and efficiently discharge their responsibilities.
b) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) shall be made accessible and effectively used to make local governance and local development more effective and efficient.
- Capacity Development
a) Local governments or local authorities, as well as local government associations, shall undertake comprehensive and continuous capacity development initiatives to enhance the performance of locally elected representatives and officials to effectively and efficiently carry out their duties and functions.
b) Central governments shall establish civil service institutions, create special programmes and develop special curricula on local government and local public administration
c) Central governments shall encourage such initiatives to share experiences and best practices at the bilateral, regional and continental level.
d) Communities, civil society and citizens shall benefit from capacity development in order to effectively contribute to local public administration and local development.
e) State Parties shall promote voluntary peer review processes within and between countries.
- Natural Resources
a) National legislation shall be adopted, and mechanisms which include local government, civil society and local populations shall be established, to ensure the responsible and sustainable use of natural resources at the local level.
b) National legislation shall be adopted, and mechanisms which include local government, civil society, and local populations shall be created for local communities to benefit from natural resources exploited in their communities.
c) Central governments shall be responsible to equitably redistribute natural resource benefits acquired from natural resource exploitation in given localities and communities to all sub-national governments and local communities.
- Local Governance Financing, Financial Management and Local Development
a) Central governments shall enact national legislation which strives to entrust local governments with full the responsibility to manage financial resources at the local level.
b) Central government shall ensure, through appropriate support and oversight, that allocated financial resources are managed effectively and efficiently without undermining the principle of local financial autonomy.
c) National legislation shall be adopted to ensure the financial sustainability of local governments.
d) Central governments shall define local resources as well as conditional and unconditional financial transfers.
e) Conditional and unconditional financial transfers from central government to local governments or local authorities shall be transparent and predictable.
f) Conditions under which local governments shall gain access to loans, financial markets, and development assistance shall be defined by law.
g) Local governments shall implement accounting, auditing and management systems for the effective, efficient and transparent management of financial resources in strict compliance with national financial and accounting laws, norms and standards.
h) Local governments or local authorities shall identify and establish mechanisms and processes for the efficient or optimal use of financial resources in the delivery of quality services as defined by law.
Solidarity, Cooperation and Partnership
- Local governments or local authorities shall prioritize and be free to form partnerships and cooperate with local governments of other African countries to achieve common local, national and regional development and continental integration objectives.
- Local governments or local authorities may enter into appropriate partnerships with non-African local governments to promote cooperation, especially South–South cooperation.
- National laws shall be adopted to regulate conditions under which such partnerships or cooperation shall be governed.
- National legislation shall be adopted to recognize the right of local government to form a national association to speak with one voice when dealing with the central government and other partners.
- Such national association shall be governed by public law and shall be integrated into the decentralisation management institutional mechanism.
- Local governments or local government associations at the national level shall be free to join regional, continental and global local government associations.
- Central governments shall encourage, support and ensure the full participation of local government associations as the collective voice of local governments in national, regional and continental development matters or decisions.
- Central governments shall encourage and support the independent and effective functioning of local government associations.
- Regional integration initiatives shall promote local government or local authority cooperation among Member States; the framework for cross-border cooperation shall be established by Member States and Regional Economic Communities.
- Central governments shall support local governments to fully participate in processes, mechanisms and programmes at the regional and continental levels .
MECHANISMS FOR APPLICATION
To give effect to the commitments contained in this Charter, the actions listed below shall be taken at the following levels:
1. Individual State Party Level
a) Central level
To ensure and facilitate the implementation of this Charter, State Parties shall:
i. Adopt appropriate legislative, executive and administrative measures to align their national laws and regulations to the objectives of this Charter and adhere to the values and principles contained therein;
ii. Take all necessary measures to ensure the broader dissemination of this Charter;
iii. Undertake a coordinated effort to place decentralisation and local development at the center of governance and development;
iv. Demonstrate the political will, through inter alia, the allocation of appropriate resources, for the realisation of the objectives, values and principles of this Charter in a concrete manner;
v. Integrate commitments, objectives, values and principles of this Charter in national policies and strategies; and
vi. Take the necessary steps to develop cooperation and share experiences in the areas of decentralisation, local governance and local development in accordance with the objectives, values and principles of this Charter.
b) Local level
Local governments or local authorities shall:
i. Equally be responsible and accountable to their local populations for the implementation of the objectives of this Charter, and the adherence to its values and principles;
ii. Cooperate with central government and other sub-national levels of governments to realise shared development priorities;
iii. Participate in national Local Government Associations and collaborate with civil society and the private sector to achieve the objectives of the Charter;
iv. Demonstrate the political will to advocate for and ensure the implementation of the objectives, values and principles of this Charter, together with the central government;
v. Commit to create favourable conditions for the dissemination and implementation of this Charter; and
vi. Commit to participate in the monitoring, evaluation and reporting of the implementation of this Charter.
2. Commission Level
a) Continental level
To ensure and facilitate the implementation of this Charter, the Commission shall:
i. Ensure the establishment of a Conference of State Parties;
ii. Develop guidelines for the implementation of this Charter in partnership with the Conference of State Parties;
iii. Establish, in consultation with the Conference of State Parties, a Secretariat to coordinate and implement the duties, obligations and responsibilities contained in this Charter;
iv. Facilitate the creation of favourable conditions for good local governance and development for the delivery of quality public services on the continent at the local level through the harmonisation of policies and laws of State Parties;
v. Support and facilitate the establishment of an appropriate advisory continental platform or forum for the collective voice and action of local governments within the AU framework;
vi. Assist State Parties to implement this Charter and coordinate its evaluation;
vii. Mobilise the necessary resources to support State Parties to build their capacity to implement this Charter; and
viii. Undertake periodic review of the Charter and make recommendations to the Policy Organs of the African Union.
b) Regional level
In accordance with their constitutive instruments, Regional Economic Communities shall:
i. Encourage Member States to ratify, accede, implement and monitor this Charter;
ii. Integrate and take into account the objectives, principles and values of this Charter in drafting and adopting regional policy and legal instruments; and
iii. Support and facilitate the establishment of an appropriate advisory regional platform or forum for the collective voice and action of local governments.
- State Parties shall submit every two years, from the date the Charter comes into force, a report to the Commission on the legislative or other relevant measures taken with a view to giving effect to the principles and commitments of this Charter.
- A copy of the report shall be submitted to the relevant organs of the African Union for appropriate action within their respective mandates.
- The Commission shall prepare and submit to the assembly, through the Executive Council and the conference of State Parties, a synthesised report on the implementation of this Charter.
- The Assembly shall take appropriate measures aimed at addressing issues raised in the report.
Recognition, Award System and Commemoration
- State Parties shall institutionalize a transparent and an impartial system for recognizing outstanding performance, creativity and innovation in decentralisation, local governance and local development.
- State Parties shall promote a continental recognition and award system to acknowledge and emulate excellence in decentralisation, local governance and local development.
- The Commission shall promote innovative experiences and institute a system of awards for innovation in decentralisation, local governance and local development.
- State parties shall commemorate the “Africa Day on Decentralisation and Local Development”, on the 10th of August of each year as a means to promote the values and principles of this Charter.
- No clause contained herein shall affect more favorable legislation on decentralization, local governance and local development or better laws on rights and obligations contained in national legislation of State Parties or in other national, regional, continental or international instruments.
- In the event of a contradiction between two or more provisions of this Charter, the interpretation that shall prevail is that which favors the rights and legitimate interests of local governments and communities.
- The African Court of Justice and Human Rights shall be seized with matters of interpretation arising from the application or implementation of this Charter. Pending the establishment of the Court, such matters shall be submitted to the Assembly.
Settlement of Disputes
- Any dispute or differences arising between States Parties with regard to the interpretation or application of this Charter shall be settled amicably through direct consultations between the States Parties concerned. In the event of failure to settle the dispute or differences, either State may refer the dispute to African Court of Justice and Human Rights.
- Until such time as and when the latter shall have been established, the dispute or differences shall be submitted to the Conference of the States Parties, which will decide by consensus or, failing which, by a two-third (2/3) majority of the States Parties present and voting.
- In the case of any dispute between the central government and the local government, the matter shall be settled amicably through negotiation and mediation. National legislation shall make provision for the settlement of the dispute through non-judicial, including Executive, processes. As a last resort, the matter shall be referred to the Constitutional or Supreme Court of the State Party.
- In the event of the non-satisfactory resolution of the matter by the Constitutional or Supreme Court of the State Party, the matter shall be referred to the Regional Courts of the Regional Economic Communities.
- In the event of the non-satisfactory resolution of the matter by the Regional Courts of the Regional Economic Communities, the matter shall be referred to the African Court of Justice and Human rights as the final and last resort of the arbitration process.
Signature, Ratification and Accession
- This Charter shall be open for signature, ratification and accession by all Member States, in accordance with their respective constitutional procedures.
- The instruments of ratification or accession shall be deposited with the Chairperson of the Commission.
Entry into Force
- This Charter shall enter into force thirty (30) days after the deposit of the instruments of ratification by fifteen (15) Member States.
- For each Member State that accedes to this Charter after its entry into force, the Charter shall become effective on the date the State deposits its instrument of accession with the Chairperson of the Commission.
- The Chairperson of the Commission shall notify Member States of the entry into force of this Charter.
Amendment and Revision
- Any State Party may submit proposals for amendment or revision of this Charter.
- Proposals for amendment or revision shall be submitted, in writing, to the Chairperson of the Commission who shall transmit copies thereof to the State Parties within thirty (30) days following the date of receipt of such proposals.
- The Assembly shall, on the recommendation of the Executive Council, consider such proposals within one (1) year following the notification of State Parties, in keeping with the provisions of paragraph 2 of this Article.
- Amendments or revision shall be adopted by the Assembly and then submitted for ratification by all Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional procedures. Such amendments or revisions shall become effective following the deposit of instruments of ratification by fifteen (15) States Parties.
- This Charter shall be drafted in four (4) original texts in the Arabic, English, French and Portuguese languages. All four (4) texts shall be equally authentic, and be deposited with the Chairperson of the Commission who shall transmit certified copies thereof to each signatory State Party and notify them of the dates of the deposit of the instruments of ratification or accession.
Registration of the Charter
- This Charter shall, after due ratification, be registered with the Secretariat of the United Nations through the Commission of the African Union in conformity with Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.
- State Parties shall not make or enter reservations to this Charter that is incompatible with the spirit or objectives, values and principles of this Charter.
ADOPTED BY THE ……ND ORDINARY SESSION OF
THE ASSEMBLY, HELD IN ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA,
ON ……….. 201…..