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Decentralized cooperation initiatives better than official development assistance mechanisms?

"Decentralized cooperation (DC) is emerging as an important cooperation mechanism for some donors, and refers to international cooperation initiatives between sub-national governments (SNG) through projects and technical cooperation. There are two current experiences: (1) From European Union SNGs to Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) SNGs; and (2) within MERCOSUR cities under the MERCOCIUDADES program.

"The origin of this cooperation mechanism can be traced to the post-World War II period, when European cities started a system of twinning (hermanamientos) to support the reconstruction efforts. Nowadays, however, DC initiatives constitutes evidence of how globalization has permeated traditional cooperation mechanisms where national governments had the complete leadership and management. In contrast, DC is mainly coordinated by local actors in a more horizontal and participative way and the initiatives include resource transfers, technical cooperation (training, sharing experiences and consultancies), and donations of material and machinery.

"In the case of MERCOSUR, the program MERCOCIUDADES has been promoting development cooperation and regional integration between sub-region's municipalities since 1995. The program is an association of 213 cities from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia and Peru, comprising a population of more than 80 million people."


"DC initiatives have some advantages over more traditional official development assistance (ODA) mechanisms. In general, DC initiatives promote horizontal partnerships to cope with similar problems, are granted without strong conditionalities attached, and the involvement of civil society facilitates the accountability process. Moreover, some authors have indicated that by promoting policies for social cohesion, this mechanism may contribute to reducing exclusion. DC initiatives may also strengthen the process of administrative and political decentralization by shifting capacities and leadership to local governments, thereby helping them develop the ability to implement their own projects and investments.

"In order to improve their role in mobilizing resources for development purposes, these activities should focus on creating and strengthening internal capacities of local governments, promoting the exchange of experiences and best practices among partners, designing better legal frameworks, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to improve their development effectiveness, and make these initiatives more visible so that other cities could benefit as well."

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FORO Nacional International, August 2010, pg. 4: