Decentralized Coorporation between Belgium & Romania

There is no universally accepted definition of decentralized cooperation. Jangu Le Carpentier, former president delegate of united cities organizations emphasized in 1994 that: “What is important today is the realization that decentralized cooperation is a concept with a significant impact. … It is a concept, which is still a bit vague. (…) If we try to define it more precisely, we take a risk: either it is defined so generally that it becomes a maze of contradictions, or it is defined so restrictively that everyone is completely lost.”

However, many forms of it have as a common feature the involvement of non-state actors in the development and provision of services. In January 2000, Philip Lowe of the European Commission prepared an operational guide to decentralized cooperation, describing the concept primarily as a different way of working that places all types of actors at the center of the cooperation process and involves them throughout the cycle of activities, defining the roles and responsibilities of each party, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. A 2001 UNDP study defined decentralized cooperation as “a long-term partnership between communities in different cities or towns and as a mechanism for establishing a new mode of partnership, focusing on direct relations between regional areas, as opposed to the model that promotes bilateral cooperation at the national level.” A committee on decentralized cooperation of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), which met in Washington on February 10, 2006, defined decentralized cooperation as “a solid partnership between foreign local communities” [with the aim of] “promoting mutual prosperity and consolidating local development and governance.” UN-Habitat considers decentralized cooperation to be a process “whereby cities (as well as other institutions) work together to define their problems and develop appropriate solutions based on shared experience among similar groups.” Decentralized cooperation is known by several names, such as twinning, city-to-city cooperation, town twinning and twinning. More recently, a new concept, municipal international cooperation (WIC), has joined the literature on decentralized cooperation, opening the possibility of providing long-term technical and financial assistance to municipal governments in a spirit of partnership and global common interest.

The underlying principle is that closer cooperation and exchanges between municipalities in Romania and Belgium can lead to creative and effective solutions for local development issues. MIC also encompasses networking and cooperation between associations of local and regional authorities in Romania and Belgium. As stated before, there are many definitions of decentralized cooperation, sometimes rather conflicting among each other, and none of the said definitions can be said to be prevailing. For the purpose of this assessment document, keeping in mind the overall goal fora on decentralized cooperation between Belgium and Romania, decentralized cooperation is defined as any project, initiative, or partnership among at least one Belgian and one Romanian sub-national authority.


The first links were formed in Europe in the aftermath of World War II, cooperation between communities or “twinning” as it was called, was seen by local leaders first and foremost as a means to build bridges of understanding and confidence between peoples of nations which had been at war. Twinning was aimed at bringing about social and cultural exchanges between civic officials, schools and community groups.

The twinning between Belgian and Romanian cities has another input. After being elected as general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party in 1965 and consolidating his power by becoming president of the State Council, communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu planned a large scale destruction of Romanian villages and municipalities. This communist systematization ended a respectful relationship with the countryside and was the largest European destruction in peacetime. By the end of the 80s of the 20th century, together with the rising internal and foreign protests, Adoption Villages Romania was set up to safeguard the destruction of rural communities in Romania. In 1988 the idea of the adoption of a Romanian village at risk, was an unilateral protest against the Ceausescu regime.

At the end of 1989 – beginning of 1990 this changed into a humanitarian action. For shortly after the first convoys, the need grew to collaborate on a structural way. Bilateral agreements resulted in governmental supported projects and actions. Around 2000 a new need came up: how could we evolve from external funded projects towards community driven projects. The development of bottom-up and inside-out projects became the headline of the last 10-15 years. Slightly the collaboration evolves from a problem driven approach towards an asset based community development.

Founding Organizations

logo TON
logo OVR
logo Embassy RinB

ADR Vlaanderen

The Open Network

Operation Villages Roumains

Embassy of Romania in Belgium

Embassy of Belgium in Romania