The role of decentralised cooperation to address rising inequalities

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promotes decentralised cooperation to harmonise and strengthen progress towards more equitable territorial development. Andalucía is a region that fosters territorial cohesion and is strongly committed to international solidarity and cooperation. The region's model of development cooperation has demonstrated great capacity to mobilise institutions and knowledge, as well as local and regional experiences through long-term partnerships. The model serves as catalyst to address rising inequalities. But challenges remain. How does the 2030 Agenda present an opportunity to address shortcomings still inherent in development cooperation models and to what extent do these findings apply to the model of decentralised cooperation?

Key points

  • Decentralisation and inequalities between and within regions rank high on the development agenda
  • The drive towards decentralisation is fuelled by the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the recognition that resources are scarce
  • Decentralisation demands a place-based, multistakeholder approach
  • Many local governments have found success by using the SDGs to reinvent their development strategies


Decentralisation and efforts to address inequalities between and within regions have long played central roles in development cooperation. Agenda 2030 and the drive to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are pushing decentralisation to the forefront as a potentially transformative strategy. This is reflected in the new cooperation plan in the Spanish region of Andalusia. The plan is designed to address the needs of all generations and to stand on the main pillars of development: environmental, economic and human. Given tight budgets, the quality of outlays matters at least as much as quantity. In this context, a “multi-level” and multi-agency approach can help ensure success. Finally, citizens in rich countries should be encouraged to play a greater role in the SDG process, especially since it applies to everyone and not just developing countries. A European Union initiative that involves municipalities is trying to encourage greater cooperation at the local level. This includes working with local governments and forging partnerships with civil society, the private sector, universities and others. Contracts for the first phase of this programme are set to be signed soon. After another round of project approvals next year, the programme should encompass 50 partnerships worth about €150 million. Agenda 2030’s success will depend in large part on local policies that encourage inclusion, participation and coordination. Some efforts put local governments at the forefront of planning and the provision of basic services. They apply a place-based, multistakeholder approach. The most successful initiatives are using Agenda 2030 to reinvent their development strategies. One partnership between Benin and Belgium has helped boost the number of newborns who receive birth certificates. In addition to the personal benefits for the young citizens and their families, birth registration helps the government better understand the nature of population growth and plan the construction of roads, hospitals and schools.


One speaker provided five rules for aid agencies that work in developing countries:

  1. Stay out of domestic politics
  2. Align your efforts with national development plans
  3. In Africa, keep in mind that many leaders have dovetailed Agenda 2030 into the African Union’s own Africa 2063 framework
  4. Focus on institutional capacity building

Organised by


Johannes Krassnitzer
International Coordinator ART Initiative
United Nations Development Programme
Marlene Simeon
Gabriel Ferrero
General Director of Sustainable Development Policies
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Spain
Mª Luz Ortega Carpio
Agencia Andaluza de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo
Paolo Ciccarelli
Head of Unit
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development