The corona pandemic threatens already strained human rights around the world. It is now more important than ever with democratic institutions at the local level to function. Here, Swedish municipalities and regions with their knowledge and experience can make a difference, writes Johan Lilja at the International Center for Local Democracy.
For a society to function in both everyday life and crisis, there must be local decision-makers who have a clear role and sufficient resources to act - while at the same time being able to be held accountable by their citizens. A functioning local democracy is a counterweight to authoritarian expressions at the national level - and to the reduced democratic spaces that we can see today in several countries.
We at the International Center for Local Democracy, ICLD, work to strengthen democracy at the local level around the world. We do this by developing capacity and strengthening local and regional politically controlled bodies and local self-government in our partner countries. We then build further on knowledge and experience from Swedish municipalities and regions and on the research and knowledge development around decentralization and local democracy that exists in an international perspective.
Through the international form of cooperation "municipal partnerships", Swedish municipalities and regions can make a difference in the world at the same time as they themselves receive new methods, knowledge and tools through global exchange. An exchange that is becoming increasingly important to ensure a viable democracy, both during and after the pandemic.
In the ongoing pandemic, we see examples of how the municipal partnerships make a difference and how Swedish municipalities and international partners have developed methods, knowledge and tools that are now a resource in the crisis.
To name a few examples, we see the internal working methods and strategies that were developed within the partnership between Malmö and Lusaka in Zambia. They have contributed to the municipal management in Lusaka acting quickly in response to providing information about covid-19 to the citizens, through effective cooperation across departmental boundaries.
The municipal partnership between Växjö and JB Marks in South Africa points out that it has provided tools for cooperating in crises between the political opposition and the majority. This means that the municipality has quickly been able to take concrete action in reducing the spread.
We can also see how the management systems and reporting channels created around dengue fever within the municipal partnership between Region Västerbotten and Yogyakarta in Indonesia are now used to communicate about covid-19 in the country.
This is good for the individual municipalities and for the countries where the municipal partnerships are implemented. It's good for Sweden and it's good for the world!
We therefore encourage Swedish municipalities and regions to get involved in municipal partnerships, with your knowledge and the experience you have, you can make a difference.