Reflecting on the events currently happening in North African countries, Rodríguez advocates increasing international decentralized cooperation with towns and municipalities.
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The desire for freedom expressed by the citizens of several Arab countries cannot fail to move us, we have a neighborly relationship with these people and in such crucial moments we have to be at their side. Those on the bank of the Mediterranean like us have a special obligation and we have more responsibility to know the reality behind the apparent calm in these countries. Undoubtedly, the people of Libya are going through the most dramatic situation. Finally the international community's response in defense of the Libyan population opens a door to hope and is perhaps the moment to change the course of relations with Arab countries. Information these days is focused primarily on the military response to the harassment of the Libyan regime to its citizens, but certainly there is a lot of work to be done, there are many answers we have to give the citizens of these countries. The claim of civil rights makes us discover its proximity, which was often concealed under the veil of the exotic. Recently in a newspaper article, I tried to respond to one of the questions raised by one of the media, in which, after commenting on the various Spanish initiatives, was wondering: What else can be done in this situation?
I believe that there are many things to be done from the various departments of state: diplomatic, information, cooperation staff cooperation, cultural representatives. I imagine that by now all of them are alerted and asked for advice on what should be carried out from now or the course to be taken in the relations, in this case between Spain and these countries. But this response should not only come from the central state, we must all feel involved.
For my part I want to continue to contribute modestly by answering that question highlighting the role the so-called Spanish decentralized cooperation can play in these moments; the programs and foreign cooperation activities especially driven by the municipalities can play an important role in this situation.
Local government is closest to the citizen and the cooperation and dialogue that can be established between the towns on either side of the Mediterranean can more accurately convey the concerns and needs of citizens. This direct relations that municipalities can establish, may be particularly open, as it is devoid of the many formalities involved in the relations between states. It is closer to the population and far from the political and economic interests. What can sometimes be challenging for states to address can be done more naturally from the municipalities. This communication between local entities is always desirable, but now that changes are occurring in the "town squares", I understand that this relation is absolutely necessary. The changes that occur in towns and through collaboration between the municipalities best and more accurately capture the concerns of citizens and for this, there nothing better than visiting the squares and souks. The language of the street is more intelligible. Changes in the structures of the states that are surely going to take place in these countries may find in the direct relation between towns a field for cooperation in the shared study of local governance. The decentralized model of government, especially local politics entails that citizens be involved more directly in the administration of specific things, the discovery that politics is part of daily life.
Recently, just before the events in Tunisia became evident, I had the opportunity to participate in a seminar at the University of Rabat in the context of the Almutamid program on the Spanish experiences of regional and local self-governing systems, and the various proposals being discussed at that moment in Morocco and which, rooted in the fervor of the last events, are gaining importance. Honestly, I was impressed by the interest shown by young students to build an administration that is closer to citizens, which they feel part of. I think we can play a decent role in this. The Spanish political transition can acquire again a new value and, talking about the political transition, I do not want to go off the topic of municipalities I myself have delimited. Local cooperation has never had resources to spare, but now that these are scarce we may realize that not everything is about money, and in times of shortage we can discover the importance of some type of cooperation, that is if we want it to be less showy as the to share experiences, good practices that have been implemented in local government, and we can realize the importance of such collaboration, more modest, if possible, but surely much more effective. A collaboration from which we also have much to learn, everything to gain, among other things, we can restore a sense of dignity in this gloom, this pessimism into which we seem to have fallen because we feel less wealthy than we thought we were in our society. The enthusiasm with which these people claim that another world is possible, the demand for a decent life, is already a lesson for this conformist world in which we seem to live in the best of all possible worlds, something which is surely true for a few. Regaining a sense of neighborhood relations with these people may also have the impact of activating in our politics that sense of closeness which we are so needy of. On the other hand, the dialogue between the cities should not be viewed as a competition with the central state, but can be a complementary form of the relation between states.
Municipalities have to understand that they are part of the state; this entails greater coordination between the various administrations of the countries involved in cooperation. Along with many qualities of the Spanish decentralized cooperation, the lack of coordination that has already been pointed out many times. Undoubtedly, there is unnecessary prominence from the ones and the others and we must also take into account the shared objectives. Furthermore, local cooperation can help us discover its political sense, beyond assistance through the construction of a school, hospital, etc.., cooperation must be part of local political discourse, and can not be subjected to the fashions of the moment. There are many different experiences of Spanish international cooperation from local policies, both in the Arab world and particularly in Latin American countries, and they are evident through sister city programs, development cooperation agreements between municipalities, local cooperation initiatives driven by state agencies, municipal associations, and international organizations. I think we must find and share best practices of experiences in this area and, I am referring particularly to those carried out in Central America. From my personal experience, I have seen the effectiveness of the municipal cooperation through technical assistance, training, communication between political representatives, assistance to associations in the municipalities and the role of local political parties. I think reflecting on these experiences can be very helpful, and it is not a bad idea to take into account the positive actions we undertake.
Involved as we already are in practice in an electoral period to decide the near future of our cities, I think it is appropriate to think that foreign policy issues also must be treated from the proximity of the town, because in fact, foreign policy is also subject to citizens’ control and must not be reserved for small groups of insiders. Foreign policy is domestic policy also. It affects our daily life. Undoubtedly, from a local perspective we can better understand the concerns of citizens, regardless of what part of the shore of the Mediterranean we are. The town square as we have seen these days is a good school for democracy. In our towns and cities squares of our towns and cities, which have always been meeting places, we discover the dignity of citizens feel.