ORU Fogar's first steps

The idea of creating an organisation of world regions was born during the mid-2000’s,  as a result of a reflection by the CPMR and other European and non-European cities and regions associations; and, thanks to the significant progress of many international cooperation and partnership projects, it was well-received and followed with interest by the UNDP and the European Commission. Nowadays we are at a phase of strong centralist reflux, just about everywhere, but in those days pressure was being exerted to attain an efficient solidarity-based decentralisation, capable of involving the vital forces of the territories in the national and the EU policies. 

The inception of what would become the Fogar took place in Marseille in March 2007, where – thanks to the efforts of the then president of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, Michel Vauzelle - the "First International Convention for a territorial approach to development”.

I shall return to this important meeting later, but first I would like to talk about the study and preparation period that lead, at a cultural and programmatic level, to the outcomes in Marseille. I am referring to the Seminar on "Regions and Globalisation”, which was held in the Azores in June 2006.

This gathering, which today appears truly visionary and prophetic, was devised and prepared by the technical staff of the CPMR and his then Secretary General, the late Xavier Gizard, a deeply pro-European and pro-Cooperation man that I still remember with emotion.

I still recall the arguments that we put forward in favour of a “global role” of the Regions. Our discourse had three main points. In the first place, there was an institutional issue. In a fast moving and rapidly globalising world, we found that democracy, politics and the institutions were not able to follow the speed and the presence of the market and the finances. This created an imbalance between the economic and financial governance and the institutional and democratic governance, which prevented the regions from playing their role efficiently. This was a major constraint, which required a general reform of the United Nations and support the historical reasons for decentralisation and regionalism.  

Secondly, there was the issue of the relationship between the global and the regional dimensions. It was obvious for all that a sort of "swaying movement", more or less like that: the more we moved towards the global dimension, toward the standardization of the world, its products, customs and life styles; the more reappeared the need for a local or regional identity, for preserving the differences, the specificity… in a narrower sense, the "biodiversity". In a broad sense, we stated that in a world were differences were perceived as an obstacle to globalised uniformity, regions showed, in contrast, the viability, the utility and the need for diversity and local identity. That richness of experience could only have a positive outcome. And the regionalisation was, in institutional and social terms, completely at odds with the monolithic thinking of the economic and financial sustained by the economic and financial dimension of globalisation. 

Lastly, the third point: the emphasis on the fact that, in order to achieve quality economic, social and cultural development, there is a need for greater cooperation and collaboration, as well as more neighbourhood policies among the different regions, in all continents and also among continents. We realised that, separately, regions didn’t have the capacity to solve their problems. 

The main challenges posed by climate change, migration, new social emergencies and development imbalances can’t be addressed at a local level, but they require a broader vision and supranational instruments.

With these new ambitious and dynamic ideas, we concluded the Ponta Delgada Seminar, in the Azores. These ideas were reinforced by the speeches of Manuel Barroso, Michel Barnier, Christophe Nuttal, and by Kofi Annan’s message, then Secretary General of the UN.

Nine months later we were in Marseille. It was exciting to see the harmony among the representatives of the regions worldwide. From Morocco to Indonesia, from Argentina to the Arctic, from Canada to Tuscany. It was a very constructive meeting, full of enthusiasm and marked by the conviction that the Regions’ place is not only in their countries, but also in the international arena. At that time, people like Commissioner Danita Hubner were very helpful, always attentive to the reasons of the territorial institutional levels. 

After an intense debate, a document that is still worth reading was drafted. It was rich in analysis, proposals and commitments to promote long-lasting and sustainable development in environmental, social and cultural terms.

At the end of the meeting, the representatives of the regions of the world decided to set up an organising committee for the creation of a global association, which nominated me as President. For me it was a great responsibility, but also a great joy. It afforded me the opportunity to work on something bigger and more important, since there was still a lot to do in the defence of the regions’ role.  

At the end of August of 2007 we met in Cape Town, South Africa, to official found the new Association. Tasneem Essop, member of the Low Carbon Frameworks of the WWF, received us with the utmost courtesy. She had been with us in Marseille. We dealt in depth with the reasons why cooperation and territorial cohesion are essential in an age of globalisation.

The idea of using the name FOGAR, Forum of Global Regions Association, arouse from a conversation between Gizard and me. I am pleased to note that this acronym held out to this day, even though with the necessary changes. 

After Cape Town, I recall other important moments with great depth of content. In May 2008 we met in Tanger, Morocco, to further discuss the issues dealt with in Marseille et to talk, mainly with African regions, about cooperative and balanced development. In October 2008 it was Saint-Malo’s turn, in Brittany, where we dealt in depth with climate change and adaptation policies, as well as the relationship between the regions and the power. 

One year later we were in Whitehorse, in the magnificent Canadian territory of Yukon, to reflect together with the Northern Forum regions, on the global crisis, its impact on the territories and the actions to be undertaken to emerge from it. 

From 2009, we started to work on the fundamental right to food and on the revival of sustainable agriculture. We were very impressed with the grass-roots movements against hunger and the lack of food. For more information on this topic, I recommend to read the document of the Assembly held in Florence (March of 2009), the conclusions of the Political Bureau held in Dakar in January 2010 and the materials of our collaboration with the FAO, who considered Fogar as one of its more reliable partners in implementing the new food policies.

My last engagement with FOGAR was the meeting in Manta, Ecuador, in July 2010. I was no longer the President of Tuscany, so I couldn’t continue to represent my regional government. In this meeting I handed on the baton to Michel Vauzelle, who met with the new regional representatives like, Paúl Carrasco, who also became President of Fogar after Vauzelle. 

I would like to offer a fraternal greeting to the new President, the Moroccan Abdessamad Sekkal, and express my gratitude to all those who have contributed to Fogar’s birth. Of all my institutional experiences at an international level, this is without a doubt the shortest, but also the most interesting. I miss those days when we had to think “long-term” and take far-reaching action, beyond the asphyxia of local politics. 

I still believe that regions have a lot to say on sustainable and inclusive development, as they are centrepiece between the territorial and the general levels; they are the closest instrument to the living forces of society and the best equipped to mobilise them in order to attain the most ambitious goals.  

I wish ORU Fogar another ten years of success, which I will follow as always with simpathy. 

 

Claudio Martini

Member of the Italian Senate 

Former President of Tuscany, the CPMR and the FOGAR

 

 

 


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