Participants of a study trip within the BLP project of Baden-Württemberg and Northern Iraq on a tour of a foil greenhouse in Baden-Württemberg © GIZ

In practice

A multi-level policy dialogue for more effective decentralised development co-operation in Germany

Key messages

Germany is encouraging a more effective and co-ordinated role for cities and regions to engage in decentralised development co-operation and global partnerships in support of the 2030 Agenda. A multi-level, multi-stakeholder policy dialogue identified solutions and improved ways of working through peer-to-peer exchange with other OECD national, regional and local governments to identify best practices for decentralised development co-operation partnerships.

KeywordsInstitutional arrangement, Partnerships

Key partnerGermany

Last updated14 April 2023

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Cities and regions play a vital role in implementing over 65% of the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) targets. Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and recent successive global crises, the 16 German federal states and many cities are increasingly engaging in partnerships with counterparts in developing countries. However, the broad range of actors and initiatives also creates challenges in co-ordinating and promoting effective external actions and strategies across government. The German federal government aims to promote the effectiveness and impact of cross-border co-operation, particularly related to improving its decentralised development co-operation (DDC) policies, multi-level governance, financing, data, and monitoring and evaluation.


The German federal government, states and municipalities collaborated on a year-long multi-level study by the OECD to improve the co-ordination, financing, policies and partnerships in support of DDC. The study included targeted surveys, policy dialogues, peer reviews (i.e. Spain, France, Belgium and Italy) and capacity-building workshops. It also provided data, evidence and examples of DDC activities, including:

  • the landscape and role of DDC actors and local stakeholders

  • the core motivations of cities and regions to take part in international development co-operation

  • the geographical focus of DDC activities

  • the range of (co-)financing schemes

  • the main multi-level governance gaps hindering DDC effectiveness as well as the mechanisms to bridge them

  • the types of DDC returns on investment for local authorities and their transaction costs

  • the impact and long-term sustainability of DDC interventions.

To ensure that guidance provided to Germany was underpinned by the latest evidence and research, three workshops were held with OECD peer reviewers. These brought together experts from relevant institutions and focused on three key areas: 1) policies; 2) multi-level governance; and 3) data, monitoring and evaluation.


  • The German policy dialogue has enabled development of a multi-level governance Action Plan on implementing the OECD recommendations. The Action Plan will help shape a co-ordinated approach across local, regional and national government agencies, for more effective and impactful DDC policies, programmes and partnerships.

  • The dialogue has resulted in several recommendations including:

    • supporting peer-to-peer partnerships between German federal states and partner countries to strengthen DDC policies and enable exchange of core competencies and technical knowledge

    • improving multi-level governance by bridging the DDC co-ordination gap between federal states and municipalities to avoid fragmentation of activities and better leverage potential synergies

    • promoting better data, monitoring and evaluation of DDC projects by exploring the creation of new digital data platforms and providing capacity support and guidance for monitoring and evaluation of DDC projects.

  • The project has contributed to international awareness on how DDC can strengthen global partnerships for the 2030 Agenda.

  • The outcomes of the policy dialogue were documented in a report that was reviewed and shared with relevant OECD multi-stakeholder networks and platforms.

  • A Global Policy Toolkit has been prepared as a repository of good practices for effective, efficient and inclusive DDC from governments, regions and cities from OECD countries.

Lessons learnt

  • Promoting direct co-operation between German federal states and local and regional governments in partner countries can help generate higher returns on development finance than resources solely provided to German civil society organisations which often act as intermediaries.

  • German federal states can expand on peer-learning approaches adopted by municipal partnerships by increasing peer-to-peer exchanges with partners in the Global South.

  • Using the SDGs as a framework for co-operation can help

    • define geographical and thematic priorities of DDC activities

    • identify opportunities for new multi-stakeholder partnerships (e.g. with civil society, academia, private sector)

    • communicate the contribution of DDC activities to citizens and demonstrate the mutual benefits of global partnerships

    • increase the policy coherence of external actions across government.

  • New data platforms are needed to build awareness of the tangible outcomes and benefits of DDC. For example, Germany intends to motivate DDC engagement and reporting through a centralised ODA website or one-stop hub that highlights data and information provided by states and municipalities.

  • A harmonised approach, support and guidelines to monitor and evaluate DDC results across states and municipalities are needed to assess the efficiency and impact of DDC projects.

Further information

Destatis (2022), Öffentliche Entwicklungszusammenarbeit [Public Development Cooperation],

GIZ (2022), Jointly for sustainable development - German Government and Federal State Programme (BLP),

Service Agency Communities in One World (SKEW) by Engagement Global (2022), German municipalities with climate partnerships in Africa, Latin America and Asia,

Service Agency Communities in One World (SKEW) by Engagement Global, Fact Sheets – Municipal Climate Partnerships,

The Federal Government of Germany (2022), Germany’s Sustainable Development Strategy,

OECD resources

OECD (2023), "Decentralised development co-operation: A global policy toolkit and guidance for practitioners", OECD Regional Development Papers, No. 46, OECD Publishing, Paris,

OECD (2023), Reshaping Decentralised Development Co-operation in Germany, OECD Urban Studies,

OECD, OECD project on Decentralised Development Co-operation (DDC),

OECD, “The role of cities and regions”, Development Co-operation Fundamentals,

To learn more about Germany’s development co-operation see:

OECD (2021), OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews: Germany 2021

OECD, "Germany", in Development Co-operation Profiles

See more In Practice examples from Germany here: