UNAM Conference on Federalism

On October 11 2012, Forum of Federations President, Rupak Chattopadhyay, delivered the keynote address on the fourth day of the National Congress on Constitutional Law, organized by the Institute of Legal Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Organized annually, the 2012 conference was organized around the broad theme of Constitutional Reform in Mexico, and federalism was one of the five sub-themes examined throughout the week long learning event.

Dr. Chattopadhyay was invited by the conference organizers to present a comparative analysis of the trends in metropolitan governance in federal countries, and how intergovernmental arrangements and practices can influence how such expanded jurisdictions evolve. Despite the differences in federal structure, there are many common challenges faced by metropolitan governments (or governments in metropolitan areas) including fragmentation, inefficiency of service delivery, environmental degradation and an imbalance of cost-sharing between jurisdictions. Drawing on his upcoming book on the subject, co-authored with Dr. Enid Slack of the University of Toronto, Dr. Chattopadhyay drew on case studies from eighteen cities across nine federal countries: Australia (South East Queensland and Perth); Brazil (Belo Horizonte and São Paulo); Canada (Toronto and Vancouver); Germany (Hamburg and Central Germany ); India (Hyderabad and Mumbai); South Africa (Cape Town and Gauteng metropolitan region ); Spain (Barcelona and Madrid); Switzerland (Geneva and Zurich); and the United States (Louisville and Los Angeles), Dr. Chattopadhyay presented several governance structures for metropolitan areas, assessing their strengths and weaknesses in terms of coordination of service delivery and land use planning, cost-sharing, level of citizen access to local government decisions, and the degree of local government accountability.

A one-tier consolidated structure, for example, would see the amalgamation or annexation of what were formerly separate local governments into a new single government, whereas a two-tier structure would see the creation of regional governing body that would encompass, but not replace, existing towns and village governments. While the former may achieve greater degrees of economic efficiency in terms of government expenditures, the latter may be more effective in terms of accountability and citizen engagement. Other governance arrangements for coordination and delivery of services include special purpose districts, voluntary cooperation and inter-municipal agreements.

Dr. Chattopadhyay concluded by reminding participants the economic health of countries is closely tied to the economic health of its major cities. It is of critical importance that policy makers realize that the financing and governance of metropolitan areas is crucial to the success of the country at large.

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