United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) is an organization that promotes local governments and their work globally. UCLG published the Third Report of the Global Observatory on Local Democracy and Decentralization (GOLD III) on Tuesday, June 17. The report, Basic Services for All in an Urbanizing World, emphasizes the need for local governments to provide basic services as they look ahead to the post-2015 agenda.
This year’s report is dedicated to the issue of basic services, as the international community has recognized that sub-national governments are essential to providing basic services and that basic services are fundamental in poverty alleviation and sustainable development. UCLG has identified basic services as a priority since local governments must provide their citizens with basic services such as water, sanitation, education, waste management, transport, and energy.
GOLD III explains that local governments face challenges in keeping their services both affordable and financially sustainable. Rapid urbanization, along with demographic and environmental changes, make these challenges even more complicated. Failing to address the issue of urban access would have severe repercussions for sustainability and human development.
The report criticizes the Millennium Development targets for using the same parameters to measure water and sanitation improvements for both rural and urban areas. The report acknowledges that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been helpful for drawing attention to basic needs, but did not resolve who would be responsible for implementation. National governments made the MDG commitments but the local governments were ultimately responsible for carrying them out. Many argue that Africa failed to reach its MDG targets because local governments were not empowered and involved in basic service delivery. GOLD III recommends that local sub-national governments be involved in international negotiations such as the post-2015 agenda.
Looking forward, UCLG recommends a localization of all targets and indicators in the post-2015 agenda. GOLD III shows that basic services are best provided when local governments are empowered and have authority, resources, and capacity. Local governments are willing to provide basic services, but they need resources, particularly financially, to do so.
Some of the key recommendations for local, urban, and national governments include:
- “‘Putting people first’ means putting basic local services first.’’
- “Local and regional governments should take responsibility for ensuring universal access to basic services and, in pursuit of this goal, develop long-term strategic plans for basic service infrastructure development.”
- Local governments should “develop sustainable financial strategies that ensure access to quality basic services for all.”
- Local governments should “promote innovative multi-stakeholder and multi-level partnerships.”
- Local governments should “build in-house policy-making, management and oversight capacities.”
- “Urban and metropolitan governments should adopt measures to ensure inter-jurisdictional coordination.”
- Urban governments should “harness land management and land added value to develop service provision.”
- Urban governments should “encourage participatory strategic planning.”
- “National governments and international institutions…should apply the principle of subsidiarity.”
- National governments should “define and implement an effective multi-governance framework for basic service provision.”
- National governments should “equip local governments with the financial resources to improve basic service provision.”
- “National and local governments and international institutions should promote decentralized cooperation between local governments and public-public partnerships between utility operators.” They should also “support international and regional training centers and programs to strengthen capacities of local governments and service providers and improve provision.”
- “Public and private sector service providers should carry out their contracts in accordance with International Guidelines on Decentralization and Access to Basic Services for All,” and recognize their corporate social responsibility.
The full report is available here.