Filipino Legislators & European Experts Discuss Ways to Improve Local Governance
A group composed of national and local legislators, communications and political experts participated in an international dialogue program that equipped them with leadership skills and innovative tools in local leadership, policy-making and advocacy campaigning.
The Study Visit Program, co-organized by FNF Philippines, and FNF’s International Academy for Leadership and the European Dialogue Program, took place in Brussels and Munich on 2-8 September. The delegates met with experts from the European Union and local chief executives in key Bavarian cities.
The exchanges between the delegates from the Philippines and their European counterparts answered the following questions: How can we effectively and continuously communicate our messages and visions to the citizens– online and offline? How can we sustain engagements between the local leaders and the constituents? How can we empower them to find solutions to the pressing problems in their communities?
The delegates exchanged good practices in local governance with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – an advisory body representing Europe’s regional and local authorities. The CoR gives regions and cities a voice in EU law-making.
“Local constituents should always be involved in planning and executing programs—social media should be maximized in ensuring this,” Frederik Francois, Communication officer of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats of Europe (ALDE) said.
Marco Ricorda, a prominent communications expert in the European Parliament, also emphasized the importance of the digital media to communicate relevant issues and to effectively engage the electorate in resolving these.
“Digital communications is more game-changing in Asia than in Europe. I am enthused with how enriching this exchange of experiences and expertise has been. These conversations are vital in shaping the future of liberalism in the world,” Ricorda said.
In Bavaria, the delegates met with mayors and councilors of Munich, Regensburg and Gundelfingen a.d. Donau. The conversations revolved around creating a citizen-oriented and innovation-driven local governance. They exchanged ways to address different issues and challenges that liberal leaders are confronted with.
Despite being in the minority, City Council member and former member of German Bundestag from the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Miriam Gruß, was elected as mayor in Gundelfingen. Asked how this came to be, Heinz Gerhards, head of the city office said: Mayor Gruß won the hearts of the people because of her clear position on issues and action-oriented leadership that inspired people to support serious policies for their town.”
In Regensburg, Mr. Ulrich Lechte, member of the German Bundestag, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and district chairman of FDP in Regensburg City lauded FNF for facilitating platforms for international engagements. He said: “Small as the liberal parties in our countries may be, this high level of cooperation between our countries strengthens our resolve to uphold individual freedom, rule of law and other liberal values globally.”
“Meeting our fellow liberals in this part of the world, and realizing that they are fighting similar battles as ours, has inspired me to believe more in the core values of liberal ideology; humane public administration, freedom, and adherence to the rule of law. These values empower me both in my capacity as a local leader and an academic. Transnational exchanges like this, has given me the courage to defend these values,” said Asst. Prof. Frederick Iguban Rey, Ph.D., Municipal Coucilor of Malinao, Aklan.
Councilor Ray-An Rentoy of Naga City added: “The exchange of ideas and experiences in local governance provided new perspectives on how to effectively reach out to our constituents, especially at the grassroots level. It also motivates me to design programs that will train community leaders in Naga City to be experts in addressing different policy issues - this would ensure continuous people’s participation and involvement in providing effective solutions to the challenges of our community- Naga City. “
"Providing spaces for collaboration between and among liberals in the Philippines, Europe, and in most part of the world, has given birth to innovative and impactful initiatives, big and small. I believe these pockets of successes will continue to thrive and spread if we keep believing in young leaders who have the drive to improve the lives of the people. One city at a time," Wolfgang Heinze, FNF Country Director, pointed out.
FNF advocates political reforms through international exchange and political dialogue between and among a diverse network of forward-thinking liberals and organizations in the Philippines and abroad.