Local Authorities in Crisis Management : the Local Generalist Approach :
This study investigates the role of local governance in crisis stricken areas and fragile States.
It is the outcome of work carried out over the past 17 years within Cités Unies France (CUF), a network which has served to facilitate and coordinate international actions for French local governments for over 40 years. CUF has often been witness to the hardships experienced by local authorities in times of natural disaster, civil war and, more generally, when the State is absent.
French and European local authorities have often served to give a voice to their afflicted counterparts. CUF work on the issue of "crises and rehabilitation" stems from the request by French local authorities desirous of helping their colleagues in situations of emergency or post-emergency. Their question was the following : how can we help local authorities coming out of a critical crisis situation to continue to perform their duties and provide indispensable local public services ?
This first led to the creation of solidarity funds, sourced by French local authorities, following earthquakes, wars and famines. These funds are disbursed over a period of one to two years, and have served to rebuild municipal services or to improve housing conditions. They have often taken the form of direct budgetary assistance to municipalities. Nicaragua, Algeria, Morocco, Palestine, Japan, Haiti and the Philippines are among the countries where CUF, on behalf of French local authorities, have worked toward empowering and reinforcing local governance.
Past experience and acknowledgment of the limits to existing systems have led us to define a new approach to such post-crisis periods, which follow upon situations of emergency and which unfortunately can last for years.
We propose what could be called a "local generalist approach". This is financial and technical assistance to local authorities to enable them to manage all the problems that fragile populations have to face.
Our approach has been progressively structured around several realizations :
– increasing decentralization the world over leading both to strong territorial identification and new local political elites with immense responsibility towards their constituents but not always the means to fulfill their duties ;
– an increase in the number of weak or failed States unable to fulfill their state duties and, a fortiori, to manage crisis situations ;
– ever more recognition of the role of local authorities in the development of their country ;
– the close links between emergencies, reconstruction and development ;
– the rise of multilateral humanitarian assistance with large budgets but little knowledge of local particularities.
Given this state of affairs, we have concluded that local authorities and local solidarity networks such as Asabiyya in the Arab world, and Manteka in the Persian world, are the best positioned to address these difficulties for three reasons : their proximity, legitimacy, and durable presence in their communities. This has convinced us to support them while, at the same time, pressuring the major donors to change their mindsets on the subject. Our goal is not to develop a system to replace what already exists ; instead we strive to establish new parameters to improve the crisis response systems of the UN and EU.
This study analyzes the responses that local governments can bring to situations which are more and more often beyond the reach of the international community. It lays out the theoretical grounding for CUF’s conviction that it is necessary to promote and enhance the intervention of local authorities in crisis situations. In the second part, the various phases leading to the definition of a local generalist approach are explained. The conclusion of this study provides suggestions as to interesting perspectives to develop this new approach.