By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.


Lisbon Forum discussed the Arab Season

Lisbon Forum 2012: "The Arab Season: from change to challenges"

lisbon forum






The 2012 Lisbon Forum took place on 3-4 December 2012 in Lisbon/Portugal. The event was organised by the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe in partnership with the UN Alliance of Civilizations. It took place in the framework of the Programme “Strengthening democratic reform in the southern Neighbourhood”, funded by the European Union and implemented by the Council of Europe.


The theme for this year’s Forum was "The Arab Season: from change to challenges". It was a follow-up to the previous year’s edition and focused again on the developments in the Arab countries of Northern Africa and the Middle East in order to take stock of the progress made - and obstacles met - on the path towards democracy. Particular attention was paid to new political élites, youth and women activists and to the process of democratic reforms. 

The event report is to be found here while the full programme is available here .

Murat Daoudov ، مراد داودوف

A flashback... 

As member of the North-South Centre Think Tank of the Council of Europe, I had the chance to bring my modest contribution to the preparations of the Forum. Namely, I had worked on the initial elaboration of the concept of this year's Forum and actually had proposed its title "from change to challenges" (by the way, a title applauded by many speakers).

Besides, I had proposed to have also discussions on the local governments in the Arab world. This proposal was adopted by the North South Centre which finally entrusted me with moderating the Workshop 3 "Addressing the challenges of democratisation: political reforms, including the reform of local self‐government". This is my third participation in the Lisbon Forum. In 2010 I had moderated the session entitled “The prevention of radicalisation and religious extremism”, while in 2011 I was honoured with moderating the session on Tunisia, the pioneer of the Arab revolutions. This last experience had inspired me to write the article "Can Turkey inspire Tunisia", which was published in several newspapers in the Arab world. 

* * * 

Here below is the panel setting of this year: 

Moderator: Mr Murat Daoudov, Member of the Think Tank of the North‐South Centre of the Council of Europe; Rapporteur: Mr Younes Sekkouri, Parliamentarian, Morocco
- Prof. Lotfi Tarchouna, President of the Association Tunisienne d’Études et de
Recherches en Démocratie et Affaires Locales, Tunisia
Mr Tarak Mahdhaoui, Member of the ISIE (Independent High Body for Elections), Tunisia
- Mr Atef Rawahneh, Mayor of Lab‐wa‐Mleeh, National Coordinator of United Cities and Local Governments, Jordan
- Mr Philippe Receveur, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
- Sir Roger Gale, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
- Mr Christophe Rouillon, Member of the Committee of the Regions

The workshop conclusions have been presented at the closing session of the Forum by Younes Sekkouri:

Lisbon Forum 2012
 “The Arab Season: from change to challenges”
Workshop 3: Addressing the challenges of democratization: political reforms, including the reform of local self-government
3 - 4 December 2012

Workshop Report
By Younes Sekkouri & Murat Daoudov

The Workshop 3 dedicated to the “challenges of democratisation" that entail political and local self-government reforms was moderated by Mr Murat Daoudov, Member of the Think Tank of the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe and had for rapporteur Mr Younes Sekkouri, Parliamentarian from Morocco.

The session started with a brief introduction of the topic by the moderator stressing the importance of local self-government reforms as a major challenge of democratisation in the Arab world. Then different speakers addressed the issue from various perspectives:

- The Moroccan experience introduced by Mr Sekkouri Younes, Parliamentarian, pointed out the necessity of a complementarity between the central and local governments and the need of identification among the population with the elected bodies. Mechanisms of a better participation are to be found not only in the voting process, but also in involving citizens to follow up the management of their local affairs.

- The Tunisian local government experience was introduced by Prof. Lofti Tarchouna, President of the "Association Tunisienne d'Etudes et de Récherches en Démocratie et Affaires Locales". Mr Tarchouna pointed out standard challenges such as lack of financial autonomy, qualified human resources, tight tutelage by central government and overlapping functions between deconcentration and decentralization. Prof Tarchouna also addressed very specific problems such as lack of legitimacy in the cases where local government bodies were dissolved and replaced by specially appointed delegations.

- Mr Tarak Mahdaoui, Member of the Independent High Body for Elections in Tunisia, outlined the situation under the prism of serious regional disparities, which were source of the socio-economic claims in early 2008 and of the source of the Tunisian Revolution in 2011. He pleaded for better regional development policy in the new Tunisia and for political responses to the problem by strengthening the decentralisation and assuring better representativeness of local bodies.

- Mr Atef Rawahneh, Mayor of Lab-wa-Mleeh, National Coordinator of United cities and Local Governments for Jordan, pointed at the fact that the poor social conditions and general dissatisfaction with life standards had led to the social uprisings in the Arab world. Had there been effective local governments which provide sufficient services to citizen, the social pressure which led to uprisings would probably not have occurred. Therefore current reform process should emphasise the decentralisation and devolution of powers to the local level. Turkey’s experience of efficient local development is a successful example for the Arab countries from the region.

- Mr Philippe Receveur, representing the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, stressed the necessity for strengthening the lowest levels of decentralization, taking inspiration from the European Charter for Local Self government of 1985 and its additional protocols. The closeness of the power to citizen reinforces the democracy, and the culture of tolerance and of the respect of minorities must take root in the territories. He expressed the readiness of his organisation to accompany and support emergent experiences through expertise exchange, as in the cases of Morocco and Tunisia where the Congress already started its cooperation.

- Sir Roger Gale, representing the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe emphasized on the necessity for governments to keep sovereign competencies that necessitate central monitoring and design. He also stated that in the time of current economic crisis the European Union should take necessary measures for austerity through reducing internal bureaucracy. Finally, he strongly recommended that in their current efforts to elaborate new constitutional texts, the Arab countries should provide a strong constitutional basis for local government from the very beginning.

- Mr Christophe Rouillon, Member of the Committee of the Regions witnessed of the French experience in local government and pleaded for more solid European approach in development cooperation. He stressed that in the difficult times of crisis a tendency is to cut from the budgets related to external actions of the Union, which is a historical mistake given the importance of the developments in the neighbourhood to Europe itself.

The workshop panellists and participants formulated following recommendations:

  1. The institutionalisation of local government in the Arab countries should be properly addressed in the constitutions in order to stress its importance.
  2. The State's overall architecture should better separate between sovereign/national and local powers to enable complementarity and clarity between different levels.
  3. The relationship between central and local powers needs to shift from close tutelage to empowerment; the control of opportunity must transform into a control of legality a posteriori.
  4. Local governments should to be consulted systematically by central powers regarding all national policies that affect local competencies.
  5. Local governments should be provided sufficient financial autonomy, through increase of local revenues, increase of tax revenue shares and appropriate mechanisms of transfers for a more cohesive development of territories. Thus, regional disparities should be tackled through balanced regional and local economic development policies.
  6. Local governments should be able to form their associations, for better representation of their interests and better coordination.
  7. The popular participation in the local life should not be restricted to the election processes; various mechanisms of participatory democracy should be promoted.
  8. Equality and gender balance should be assured at local level and social groups with specific needs as well as minorities should be taken into consideration.
  9. The principle of subsidiarity should be promoted and respected; central governments should transfer competencies with sufficient resources to local governments. Thus, countries should seek for an appropriate equilibrium between decentralization and deconcentration.
  10. The status of a local elected official should be given a clear legal and financial framework in order to allow the good exercise of local responsibilities.

The comments are closed.