The objective of municipal partnerships is to strengthen local democracy by improving citizen’s access and by expanding opportunities for people to take part in local political processes.
Local democracy is in itself a process, where time and devotion pays off.
While some may dismiss “with age comes wisdom” as merely a cliché, certain aspects of such a statement holds true when considering solutions to meet the challenges ahead. The alarming problems faced by the Global North and the Global South alike – be it poverty, inequalities or climate change – all require cooperation, research, and action. The 12-year partnership between Jinja municipality in Uganda and Skellefteå municipality in Sweden suggests that the aspect of time and experience in working across contexts may be part of the solution.
The overall goal for ICLD is to fight poverty in the world. The Municipal Partnership Programme strengthens local democracy by improving citizen’s access and ability to take part in local political processes. Each project carried out contributes to the process of strengthening local democracy. But making a tangible impact requires devotion and time. ICLD encourages municipalities and regions to strive for longer partnerships, as we have found that the aspect of time to be an important component to success.
One of the longest partnerships is between Gothenburg and Nelson Mandela Bay in South Africa. They have collaborated for 20 years and have had more than ten different projects, mainly linked to sustainable urban planning and urban development. Among other things, the partners have developed a “toolbox” for local authorities to better implement policy and strategy. Such results may be unique – which is why ICLD encourages municipalities and regions to strive for longer partnerships.
– Democracy could never be completed! It is a system that needs continuous maintenance and improvement, says Karin Norlin Bogren, programme director for Municipal partnership
In a municipal partnership, the partners focus on a specific issue in a limited timeframe, typically three years. Since municipalities commonly have several challenges or issues that need attention, there may be a need for several projects – the longer the partnership, the more projects can thus be carried out! Additionally, skills and knowledge gained in projects contribute to organizational learning which facilitates the outcome of new projects, making goals more easily obtained.
The municipalities engaged in the Municipal Partnership Programme may apply to partake in trainings and support from ICLD. This includes the International Training programme, whereby municipal officers and politicians are given the opportunity to participate in the trainings, fostering additional knowledge, skillsets, and experience. In turn, this may contribute to the successes in the projects between the partners. Promising and longer-lasting partnerships may be subject to follow-up studies where positive results can be disseminated and further inform the research community.
Finally, the human aspect of a partnership is perhaps the most crucial component. Evidently, all partnerships are built on trust and mutual understanding, which in turn is created over time. In a partnership, recurring meetings and interactions build both trust and individual and organizational development. As Rajab Kitto said about their 12-year partnership between Jinja, Uganda and Skellefteå municipality in Sweden: “Every time you come you learn a lot of things as an individual and you go back home and change your attitude, change the way you live and change the way you do certain things in life.”