The World Local Economic Development Forum opens in Turin on the 13th of October. This will be an opportunity to demonstrate that the sustainable development goals of inclusive growth and decent work for all are not just a job for nations and international organizations. Local and regional development can lead the way.
Decent jobs are critical to poverty eradication. The recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly promotes (in Goal 8) “sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. However, it is not a challenge solely for nations and international organizations, there must also be “bottom up” solutions and strategies that incorporate local economic development (LED).
Context is important. Several localized economic, social, political and cultural factors will influence and shape the strategies needed to overcome many of the barriers that stand in the way of providing decent work and inclusive growth. Local authorities are well placed to understand not only the difficulties but also the strengths and resources of their region to meet the tasks at hand. That said, the challenges are formidable and manifold: rising unemployment, particularly amongst young people; a lack of worker’s rights; increasing inequality; discrimination and inadequate social protection.
Building new partnerships is an important step in meeting these challenges. The Turin LED forum , in this sense, is very welcome as it brings together local authorities and their associations, international organizations, the private sector, employers and workers organizations and civil society. The city of Turin’s leadership has been an essential partner in hosting and supporting this conference.
The LED forum is also an occasion to showcase ILO involvement in South-South and city-to-city / triangular cooperation (SSTC). SSTC typically involves two or more developing countries in collaboration with a third party, like a developed country government or organization, contributing to the exchanges with its own knowledge and resources.
LED: Providing decent work at the local level
As the 3rd local development forum will illustrate, localizing the decent work agenda encompasses several dimensions: the social and solidarity economy, green jobs, developing employment schemes for youth, enhancing the role of the private sector and ensuring employment for migrant workers. All of these elements contribute to localizing employment generation; all of them contribute to the promotion of decent work.
From informal to formal work in Mozambique food markets
In 2012 following a World Bank underwriting of the redevelopment of the Food Markets in Maputo, Mozambique, the city government called on the institutional memory of their peers in cities around the world to help better manage the impact on city food vendors. Using a training platform partly developed by the ILO, with cooperation from local authorities from Durban, and the Brazilian cities Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre, Maputo was able to improve its policies on the management of city spaces and move ahead with formalization of the city’s food vending economy.
Developing city-to-city cooperation for LED in Chefchaouen, Morocco
The principal aims of the city-to-city strategy are three: raising awareness, building capacity and joint advocacy to make the changes in practice.
Like many regional centres in North African nations, the 50,000 inhabitants in the Moroccan city of Chefchaouen, some 2 hours’ drive south west of Tangiers, face many of the challenges to development. The population is young (median age in Morocco is 27 years), with chronically high levels of unemployment. Women in this region have traditionally been excluded from the paid workforce.
Working alongside the local development organization, United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) and UCLG Africa, the Mayor of Chefchaouen invited representatives of cities from Senegal, Mali, Tunisia, Benin and other countries, to share their experience with its local development agency, to articulate the economic priorities for his city. The ILO helped focus those priorities on youth and women’s employment. In response, an implemented tactic was to take advantage of new national legislation to establish food processing cooperatives. This helped boost local employment and began to integrate women into the workforce.
These types of approach provide a platform for multilateral partnerships, bringing together political, technical and local leaders who are working directly with communities and citizens. It also helps improve institutional and management capacity to better strategically plan, and more effectively implement the Decent Work Agenda, while supporting and sustaining local economic development.
Given that cities are projected on current trends to be home to seven in ten of the world’s people by 2050, the role of local governance in implementing the Decent Work Agenda is destined only to grow.
To adapt, a number of steps are going to be needed. Cooperation across national lines between cities and regions must be scaled up. Shared solutions and knowledge must be facilitated. Field research on the effectiveness of policies and to deepen the understanding of the power of city-to-city cooperation is needed.
International bodies like the ILO have a broad role in furthering this cooperation and sharing of field experience. There is work to be done on targeting training, developing ways to adapt the Decent Work Agenda to their local context and supporting local authorities’ attempts to implement these policies.
As well, the local economic development networks need to be in dialogue with national and international policy makers. Advocacy must be a two way process with local governments recognized as key development partners.
Combined, these elements can contribute to the capacity of local authorities to further economic development in their communities, and to promote a vision of sustainable development with decent work at its heart.