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.
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?