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Benin: Laying down foundations for a Regional decentralization and resilience strategy

COTONOU, Benin, 11 October 2012 - UNICEF Regional Office for West and Central Africa convened , within the social justice and equity agenda, a three day workshop to discuss the implementation of decentralization and get critical insights on this issue. The workshop that focused on ways to ensure equitable access to high quality basic social services pursued two main objectives. It aimed at engaging countries of the Region in a process of sharing experiences and laying down foundations for a Unicef regional strategy, based on UNICEF areas of interventions and its comparative advantages. How can we build on decentralization at strategic and operational levels to deliver results for children and promote equity?

The UNICEF Regional Advisor for Social Policies, Gustave Nebié, pointed out that the decentralization strategy provides a “niche” for UNICEF because “poverty levels and vulnerability are very high in the West and Central Africa Region. In many countries, more than half of the population lives below the poverty line and huge geographic disparities still persist between urban, peri-urban and rural settings. The decentralization strategy will help provide adequate response depending on settings to be considered”.

Welcoming that first regional meeting on decentralization, UNICEF Representative in Benin, Dr. Anne Vincent, recognized the main role that the decentralization approach plays in favor of a local and equitable development. “It will be very difficult to reach our targets who are vulnerable groups, without connecting and working hands in hands with local actors. They represent a strategic link in improving the delivery of basic social services that have an impact on population lives”, she asserted.

In his official opening speech, the Beninese Minister in charge of Decentralization, Raphael Edou, declared: “Decentralization grounds itself on service efficiency. It aims at positioning the citizen who is the unique beneficiary of financial and technical support, at the heart of the decision making process on issues related to human development”. While congratulating the initiators of the workshop, he emphasized that it is subsequent to the national discussion UNICEF supported on decentralization in Benin. The minister called on participants to “thoroughly examine organizational and efficiency problems and rethink the devolution of roles and tasks between the State at central level and local structures. This exercise should respect each other level of competencies and know-how. But no result can be achieved unless beneficiaries join us”, he added.

The workshop gathered participants from 11 countries: Benin, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Ghana, Guinea (Conakry), Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Results achieved were very encouraging. Although similarities and differences could be notably observed in experiences shared, UNICEF strategic niches are more visible. They relate to the generation of evidence, the strengthening of information systems at local level, a quality service delivery, the promotion of a local demand that is more aware of its role, the legislation and regulation, and the partnership and capacities building at all levels.

Different recommendations were formulated to better support the implementation of decentralization: Produce an initial report on the current situation and build on lessons learnt in all 24 countries of the Region, draft a concept paper enriched with concrete field experiences, pursue the reflection on the strategic use of decentralization to optimize results for children, strengthen linkages between local and community approaches as well as strategic partnership with key actors involved in decentralization, devolution and local development. Finally, ensure documentation of various experiences and share them with countries.

For further information, please contact:
Gustave Nebié, Social Policies Regional Advisor, UNICEF WCARO - Dakar. Email: gnebie@unicef.org
Hamidou Poufon, Chief of Social Policies , UNICEF Benin, Email: hpoufon@unicef.org
Gisèle Langue Menye, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Bénin, Email: glangue@unicef.org

 

 
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