Alliances in International Co-operation A Change of Paradigm in Urban Governance

Isabelle Milbert

Edited by David Westendorff

An UNRISD publication in association with the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation Geneva, 1 October 2002


Isabelle Milbert’s contribution describes the evolution over the past two decades of trends affecting the formulation and delivery of international technical assistance to cities in developing countries. Until the end of the 1980s, many cities had little autonomy in planning and fewer resources with which to undertake capital investments that might make significant changes in the functioning of the city or quality of life for the majority. Real decision-making powers concerning cities typically rested with central authorities. Resources for international co-operation almost always passed directly through the central government. Sometimes their use at the local level would not be discussed with local authorities until the donor had disbursed the funds to the national government. In the last decade, decentralization and deconcentration processes have in many countries moved decision-making closer to the cities—both in the provision and disposition of international co-operation resources. At the same time, international and domestic NGOs have begun to take on important roles as implementing partners in urban projects, along with the private sector, which has always been there. With so many new actors on the scene, and overall aid resources diminishing toward the end of the1990s, there has been a growing tendency to co-ordinate aid programmes thematically and to combine scarce resources. All the major development actors now promote partnerships involving all the actors, from donors all the way down to CBOs and including the private sector. The author posits that such approaches may serve to blur priorities and approaches when the fragmentation caused by the entry of new actors should be having the opposite effect.

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