Local voices towards permanent dialogue in the Mediterranean - Regional Programme Political Dialogue and regional Integration in the Southern Mediterranean
The findings of the survey “10 Years after the Arab Uprisings: Where does Public Opinion in the Region Stand Today?”, conducted by the Regional Program Political Dialogue South Mediterranean of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung KAS PolDiMed, concluded that in many South Mediterranean countries there is relatively high levels of trust in local and municipal government authorities, especially when compared with other governmental bodies and political parties.
These outcomes vivid debates on the significance of local politics and the respective actors came back to life after the Arab uprisings, which initiated decentralisation reforms in several countries. Decentralisation advocates expect the reforms to foster democratisation, local autonomy and the overall socioeconomic situation.
Since 2011, the region has witnessed upheavals, conflicts, major government changes, and eventually plummeting public trust in political parties and institutions. Failed to fulfil social and economic promises, central governments and political actors gave way to local leadership to be the last resort for citizens to express their needs. Whether elected local leaders within a community, such as mayors, or tribe chiefs, religious leaders, business leaders and other well-known community figures, they all have the ability to influence the people around them.
In this sense, mayors are ideally and legally positioned to directly meet the citizens’ demands and can effectively use their influence and connections as a means of motivating direct action. Furthermore, in many South Mediterranean countries, constitutions state that the governments should engage in a decentralisation process and provide a redefinition of competencies with an increased autonomy assigned to local authoritiest the regional level, such actors that are below state level may play an active role in complementing the activities of governmental and/or intergovernmental actors. Local authorities have the freedom to encourage and boost decentralised cooperation and territorial diplomacy through a number of joint operations and regional and sub-regional initiatives in many important fields and thus to contribute to Euro-Mediterranean as well as South-South regional integration. Euro-Mediterranean regional and local cooperation usually tumble due to obstacles at the national level, but it is also, to a large extent, dependent on the level of decentralisation and local governance achieved by the various partners.
Scope of the seminar
In this context, KAS PolDiMed, in partnership with the Mediterranean network of cities MedCities, organizes a seminar in Tunis which aim is to gather mayors from different South Mediterranean countries in order to discuss the needs and priorities of municipalities, with a regional perspective.
The event will provide a space for the invited mayors to present their activities and highlight the needs of their respective communities. There will be also discussions about the impact of the local political and socioeconomic condition on the region and how the existing institutional frameworks that define the Euro-Mediterranean relations (Barcelona process initiated in 1995 and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) set up in 2008; The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) created in 2008, revised in 2015 and renewed in 2021) could foster the role of local authorities in order to set-up a bottom-up approach for regional integration.
The first event of these dialogues will tackle the link between climate change, unemployment and migration, focusing on the challenges of local authorities in promoting youth oriented interventions to encourage green local economy recovery. According to IPCC report, the Mediterranean region is a hotspot for climate change warming 20% more than the global average provoking devastating heatwaves, water shortages, loss of biodiversity and risks to food production and water availability. Other than the impact of climate change on the cities and the urban infrastructure, there is an inexorable link with citizens’ livelihoods and wellbeing. Especially when it comes to youth, the lack of opportunities is a driver for migration.
The current seminar pretends to unveil the common challenges faced in the nexus between climate, youth, employment and migration as well as to discuss the potential of the role of local authorities to mitigate climate change impact and promote green job creation.
The goal of these dialogues is to set the basis for a permanent dialogue forum to be developed in 2022-23, which will tackle the importance of the role of local authorities in the Mediterranean development.
Tunisia: Sfax, Sousse, Tunis
Lebanon: Tripoli and Sidon
Libya: Misrata and Tobruk