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Moscow, 22 Nov 06

UN-HABITAT’s drive for decentralization and strengthening local authorities last week received the backing of the Council of Europe.

At its institutional session held in Moscow last week, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe congratulated UN-HABITAT on the progress made and adopted a supportive resolution on this matter following a presentation of the Guidelines and a general debate among 150 elected representatives of 46 Council of Europe member States.

The Congress said it had been following with the greatest interest UN-HABITAT’s preparation of the Guidelines on decentralization in the context of the international dialogue on decentralization and strengthening of local authorities.
The decision by the Congress comes hot on the heels of a similar action last month by over 500 Mayors and city councillors from around the world who pledged at a meeting in Marrakech, Morocco to lobby for support for a UN-HABITAT backed initiative on decentralization.
Meeting under the auspices of the United Cities and Local Governments World Council, the civic leaders resolved to request to member States of the United Nations to adopt the international Guidelines on Decentralization when they meet at the UN-HABITAT Governing Council in April 2007

In her keynote address to the Congress, the Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka briefed the members on the agency’s crucial partnership with local authorities and their associations.

She said, “In a rapidly urbanizing world, decentralization takes on a new dimension. What we are witnessing today is that the competitiveness of nations depends on the competitiveness of their cities. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa where we have yet to realize that half of our people will soon be living in urban areas. Making our people, industries and agriculture more productive and competitive will require that we empower our local authorities to engage in local economic development, urban and regional planning, infrastructure and investment programming.”

Mrs. Tibaijuka explained that it was against that milieu that the “Draft International Guidelines on Decentralization” were developed, also based on the conviction that effective decentralization should particularly enable those concerned to improve governance at all levels. After nearly a decade of effort, many rounds of consultations at the regional and global levels, and extended negotiations within the Governing Council of UN-Habitat, the Executive Director requested the support of the Congress members to the Guidelines.

The Congress, further to a proposal from its Bureau, adopted a resolution asking the “committee of Ministers and governments of Council of Europe member States to give the draft guidelines their full support”. The resolution also recommends that “the member States adopt the Guidelines at the next meeting of the Governing Council of UN-HABITAT”.

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