Since the Nineties, in Italy, as in many other parts of the world, a new method of development intervention, called decentralised cooperation, has been established. It represents:
- A method that allows the establishment of a mutual relationship between Northern and Southern territories of the world, with the aim of promoting local development;
- A process of involvement of different actors of the territory: from associations to enterprises, from universities to citizens;
- A method that gives cooperation a plurality of knowledge belonging to different bodies of the territory and, at the same time, supports the dialogue and the interaction among the bodies themselves.
Many institutions, among which the European Union, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and some Italian Regions and Provinces, have defined their own guidelines and methods of implementation.
Decentralised cooperation in its development within the Italian cooperation
According to the definition taken by the European Union, by the term "decentralised cooperation", performed in the field of development cooperation, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs refers to: "The action of development cooperation performed by the Italian self-government organizations, individually or in group, even with the participation of the organised civil society in the area with the specific administrative competence, undertaken in a partnership relationship, preferentially with similar institutions of DCs, encouraging the active participation of the different actors of the civil society of partner countries in the decision-making process aimed at the sustainable development of their territory." Anticipating the international debate, since 1987 – with appropriate legal provisions in the field of the "New Regulation of the Italian Cooperation with Developing Countries" in force (Law no.49 of 26th February 1987, art. 2, par. 4 and 5) and in the corresponding Enforcement Regulation (DPR no.177 of 12th April 1988, art.7) – Italy has officially recognised Local self-government institutions (Regions, Autonomous Provinces and Local Boards) with a proposal and implementation power in the governance action of development cooperation by regulating the initiative power and the collaboration procedures with the General Direction for Development Cooperation (DGCS).
The latter, therefore, has drafted a document that identifies the guidelines and the implementation methods of Italian decentralised cooperation, as well as the agreement protocols with the National Association of Italian Municipalities (framework agreement MAE-ANCI) and the Union of Italian Provinces (framework agreement MAE-UPI) in order to commit the parts to "enhance the negotiation method so as to allow the collaboration and the coordinated action between the two government levels in the framework of the respective competences" and to encourage "an institutional system of the administrative function that could see the single and associated municipalities as managers of the activities and the Regions as function planners". The involvement of Local Self-government Institutions in the planning and verification activity of DGCS is performed by the latter, through a specific internal structure of coordination, the Decentralised Cooperation Coordination Unit - UCD.