Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)
24 Clarence Street
Ontario K1N 5P3
Tel: + 1 613 241-5221
Fax: +1 613 241-7440
Email : federation@fcm.ca
Internet: www.fcm.ca

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Canadian municipalities offer partnership
to cities in Latin America, Asia and Africa

9 June 2003: In 1987, Canadian municipalities gave the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) the mandate to be their representative internationally. From its beginnings as the ‘International Office’, the International Centre for Municipal Development (ICMD) has been the only legitimate representative of Canadian municipalities internationally, and the main source of Canadian municipal practitioners and resources for international work.

FCM’s ability to deliver successful international programming is demonstrated by the portfolio of partnerships, initiatives focusing on management capacity-building and decentralization policy development. Through ICMD, FCM has involved over 100 Canadian municipalities internationally, including 40 partnerships linking Canadian municipalities with local governments in 15 countries in Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America. FCM also currently manages bilateral projects in China, the Philippines, Guatemala and Guyana.

FCM has also developed partnerships with private sector firms and NGOs to deliver bilateral projects in Guatemala, Vietnam and Peru. In these instances FCM provides the Canadian team with municipal management expertise to ensure that project implementation includes focused support for municipal government within a broader bilateral initiative.

FCM’s strength is the ability to draw upon its municipal members, corporate members, and civil society network for the technical and professional expertise required in international and domestic programming. In the past ten years, FCM has involved over 100 Canadian municipalities in initiatives overseas. They contribute to sustainable development by emphasizing processes that bring municipal governments and communities together. The objective remains that of strengthening the capacity of overseas municipalities to respond to basic issues in the lives of its citizens – specifically by helping them determine, design and implement efficient solutions to their service delivery needs. With an eye to promoting development education at home, the participating FCM members also emphasize raising the awareness of their constituents about the nature and results of their involvement in MIC.

As a result of FCM’s international programming, Canada has gained a reputation for excellence. It is known in overseas municipalities, the international network of municipal associations and here at home in our own communities, as the donor community.

Municipal partnerships
Linking Canadian municipalities with overseas counterparts is an important part of FCM's international effort. Activities focus on municipal management and governance. By sharing expertise and technology, partners support processes that help communities find ways to involve the public in decision-making and help build the capacity of local governments to provide improved services.

Following a framework provided by FCM, participating municipalities manage their own partnership, which usually takes place over a period of a few years. The approach distinguishes itself from traditional twinning in that it is focused on municipal government operations and attains tangible results. A series of short-term visits take place between staff, council members and community representatives. In these exchanges, hands-on training leads to changes in specific areas of municipal operations.

Currently about 40 municipal partnerships are active in 15 countries. FCM’s Partnership Program has a regional focus, with partnerships in selected countries of Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America.

The following sections on each of these regions provide some examples of partnership activities.

Africa is evolving rapidly towards greater economic growth and democratization. During the past decade, over three-quarters of sub-Saharan nations have held elections and many of these have courageously undertaken reforms with a view to empower local governments and liberate their economies.

Despite real progress, Africa remains the poorest continent in the world. Local governments have scarce resources to operate with, which do not allow for proper infrastructure development and quality municipal services. Urbanization has often been unplanned and beyond the control of local authorities, exerting enormous pressure on cities. This, in turn, has had a negative effect on sanitation and health conditions. Because Africa has to meet such important challenges and because Canada has a long assistance tradition on the continent, the Partnerships Program has established over 20 partnerships focusing on municipal capacity building.

Latin America
Latin America is becoming increasingly familiar to Canadians because of immigration. Many municipalities are becoming home to new Canadians of Latin American origin. With Mexico’s inclusion in the Free Trade Agreement in 1994, a significant step was taken to reduce the distance between Canada and Latin America in the search for economic opportunities and improved quality of life for both sides. Since 1994, a number of economic missions to Mexico and Chile have taken place under the leadership of Canada's prime minister.

The modernization and democratization of the majority of Latin American countries have raised expectations and created interesting initiatives, particularly among local populations. Thanks to promising decentralization processes initiated in the early nineties, civil society and rural communities are focusing their energies into capacity-building and resource development, both human and economic. The processes vary from country to country and enable nations to face the challenges raised by ‘municipalization’ in their countries.

Many countries in Latin America have a history of political activism and community organization, which has raised the importance of governance issues at the municipal level. After two decades of dictatorship, many municipal governments have had to rebuild a relationship with civil society by inviting community participation in decision-making. The relationship between urban and rural communities in the framework of the municipality has grown as a pressing issue, especially because of the potential role of the municipalities in the fight against poverty.

FCM’s Partnerships Program is active in Chile and El Salvador where municipalities have made significant steps through their national associations, which promote and lobby for real municipal autonomy and a more independent financial basis, by demanding standard criteria for funding decentralization.

The associations have responded to the training needs of elected officials and municipal staff, when municipalities are confronted with the national challenges of reconciliation and poverty, and the municipal issues of governance and community participation.

South-East Asia
Home almost to half the world's population, Asia is a tremendously diverse human mosaic. Canadian municipalities have a long tradition of links with Asia, established through relationships with their own citizens of Asian origin, as well as through a vast array of business and institutional relationships.

FCM’s Partnerships Program became active in South-East Asia in 1994. The program started in the Philippines and Thailand, two countries with advanced democratic practices and institutions.

The Republic of the Philippines, an archipelago of some 7,000 islands with a population of about 64 million people, has extensive natural resources in minerals, agriculture and fisheries, as well as a well-trained industrial workforce. The manufacturing and industrial bases have demonstrated appreciable growth since 1986. The Philippine experience in the devolution of powers and functions to local authorities and the people, via the 1991 Local Government Code, can accurately be described as 'revolutionary' and assessed as being fairly successful.

Located in the heart of South-East Asia, Thailand, a country of some 62 million people, has an 800-year old constitutional monarchy, which has traditionally had a highly centralized system of administration. This is being changed and decentralization is rapidly gaining ground as part of a broader policy to form the basis for long-term development.

ICMD has developed a strong link with the national association, the League of Municipalities of Thailand. The country's gradual transformation from an agricultural society to an emerging industrialized state has placed it in a strategic economic position.

World Mayor 2023