Decentralised cooperation is based on partnerships between French authorities (regions, departments, inter-municipalities, districts?) and foreign authorities, involving human exchanges and relationships of trust. It is a pillar of French external action.
Based, above all, on the exchange of good practices, know-how, institutional support and training, decentralised cooperation :
- encourages the opening up and attractiveness of territories by promoting the economic, tourist and cultural influence of local authorities;
- responds to a duty of international solidarity and development aid;
- enables French and foreign local authorities to work towards the sustainable transformation of our societies by participating in the implementation of sustainable development objectives (SDOs) while promoting innovation, inclusion and social cohesion;
- enhances the expertise of local authorities representatives/territorial agents, particularly on governance issues and the management of public services to citizens;
- enables the population to become involved in its diversity, through shared initiatives with civil society organizations and by promoting mobility.
Decentralised cooperation projects are partly financed by French local authorities. Numerous co-financing opportunities can be mobilised, both in the territory involved and through the DAECT, the AFD (FICOL) or the European Union.
For more information on decentralised cooperation, see the Operational Guide to Decentralized Cooperation.
What support for French local authorities?
Since the beginning of decentralisation in France in 1992, the State has encouraged and supported the development of the international action of local authorities, whose action is complementary to its own, as stated in the white paper "Diplomacy and Territories" published in 2016 under the aegis of the National Commission for Decentralized Cooperation (CNCD).
The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and its dedicated department, the Delegation for the External Action of Local and Regional Authorities (DAECT), support the implementation of the external action of local and regional authorities through three-year, bilateral or thematic calls for projects, taking into account the geographical and thematic orientations of the State’s development policy and the areas of excellence of local authorities.
In close cooperation with the DAECT, the embassy supports French local authorities in the setting up and monitoring of their decentralised cooperation projects:
- Advice to local authorities wishing to establish a partnership with a South African local authority, support in identifying partners and themes, putting them in touch with each other;
- Promotion of French local authorities to South African stakeholders;
- Follow-up and support for ongoing decentralised cooperation projects.
Decentralised cooperation in South Africa
Decentralised cooperation is well integrated into French practices, with more than 10,000 partnerships and twinning arrangements carried out by 4,700 local authorities with 8,100 partner foreign authorities in 134 countries.
In South Africa, many decentralised cooperation projects have been set up since the 1990s.
- Cooperation between the Bourgogne Franche Comté region and the Western Cape province celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020. Initially focused on bilateral exchanges in the field of winemaking for professionals from previously disadvantaged communities, this partnership has greatly diversified, with projects in the field of training, innovation and the dairy industry, among others.
- Collaboration has also developed between the Réunion National Park (PNR) and the South African national parks SANParks since 2019.
Among the cooperation projects that have been completed to date are the following:
- the Ile-de-France region and the province of Gauteng (urban development - transport, tourism, economic development, etc.)
- the Reunion Island region and the KwaZulu-Natal province (cultural exchanges)
- the Val de Marne department and the city of Johannesburg (social housing and management of early childhood services) the cities of Nantes and Durban (urban development, human rights and culture) or more recently between the Lille European metropolis and the city of Johannesburg (urban regeneration and territorial development).
Decentralised cooperation remains a little-known instrument for South African local authorities and has great potential. As highlighted during the seminar "Developing cooperation projects in English-speaking Africa" organized by the DAECT, many avenues of cooperation could be developed, particularly in the water and sanitation sector, in terms of transition of the local economy (such as the conversion of mining regions), but also on climate strategy and resilience to climate change or innovation.