Example “Decentralisation”

Visitors: high-ranking officials of a country’s institutions responsible for strategic and operational decision-making on decentralization; representatives of regions and municipalities.

Objectives of the visit: obtain an understanding of a functioning decentralized system (roles and distribution of tasks between national and decentralized levels, fiscal equalization, legal protection of decentralized units, oversight, cooperation), reflection on the challenges, approaches, solutions.

Program overview

Day 1: Introduction to the Swiss political system

  • Official reception of the delegation
  • Introduction by experts (according to the specific interests of the delegation): institutions, political processes, principles of the federal and decentralized Swiss system (orientation towards compromise and consensus, subsidiarity, fiscal equalization, etc.)
  • Tour of Bern with a focus on living governance (the political institutions of Confederation, canton and city of Bern, with explanations of the tri-level system).

Day 2: Municipalities and their tasks: fact-finding visit to a city in the Capital Region Switzerland

  • Presentations of the municipal authorities, with discussion: What tasks does a municipality have? How are the tasks funded? Who takes decisions, how are the procedures crafted? Possibilities for the citizens’ participation? Cooperation with neighboring municipalities? Challenges?
  • Visit to the municipal administration and/or institution: How are tasks rendered in specific areas, e.g. for the water services, waste management, fire department? How are tasks delegated to the private sector (Public-Private-Partnership)?

Day 3: The role of the cantons

  • Presentation by and discussion with cantonal authorities from Capital Region Switzerland, responsible for the supervision of municipalities
  • Presentation by and discussion with cantonal financial authorities competent for financial equalization between municipalities: different forms of fiscal decentralization and financial equalization, challenges

Day 4: Municipalities and their tasks: exploratory visit to a rural municipality in the Capital Region Switzerland (program similar to day 2)

Day 5: Cooperation among municipalities

  • Presentation by and discussion with the Cantonal Association of Municipalities in one of the cantons in the Capital Region Switzerland: lobbying for municipalities in cantonal legislation and administration, support for municipalities in their tasks
  • Visit to a regional conference, with presentations and discussions

Day 6: Joint reflection

  • What surprised the delegation? Any questions?
  • What insights will the visitors take back home?
  • How can they use the new insights in their own context?