Understanding the transformation of relationships between territorial authorities, the State and supranational bodies

Relationships between territorial authorities and the State are mainly governed by a strict division of competencies and resources amongst the various levels of local authorities. The decentralisation process advocated by supranational bodies has strengthened the role of local authorities in many countries, but the level of financial, legal, regulatory and human resources available to them remains very uneven, and the actual impact of decentralisation--currently in flux--is an object of debate across the world.

A two-part question lies at the heart of this division of competencies: what is the pertinent level for decision-making and management of public policies? And how should the various levels be coordinated? This leads to a territorial and functional division that overlaps and combines with varying complexity depending on the country. In addition, local and territorial authorities act within a global context, so nowadays there is both more inter-city competition and more international dialogue between cities and between cities and supranational authorities. This dialogue is a sign of cities’ desire and capacity to position themselves beyond their administrative boundaries, a new element that affects relationships between local authorities and the State.


Texts gathered under this transition issue are intended to shed some light on the following questions:

  • What are the dynamics that trigger changes in the relationship between local authorities and the State (i.e. decentralisation)? Why does the relationship change? What new roles have been transferred to the various authorities?

  • How are competencies redistributed amongst participants in public action? How can we define the levels of public action in territories and the process of coordinating the various levels? Multi-level governance is something everyone wants, because no significant societal issue can be resolved on a single level. But how can it be concretely implemented?

  • What are the modalities of cooperation between territorial authorities at the national and international levels? What is their impact on the implementation of public policy and on the reconfiguration of relationships between territorial authorities and the State?

  • What is the role of supranational authorities, and exchanges on the international level, in redefining the roles of public actors at the local level?

10 dossiers