Sabrina Bandera
Maria Chiara Cattaneo Dr.

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18 May 2017
Implementing Partnerships for Development at Subnational Level: The Experience of the Region of Lombardy, Italy
UN Photo/Mark Garten
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The regional government of Lombardy, Italy, has sought new partnerships and co-financing to ensure the coherence and effectiveness of its international cooperation projects.

Lombardy’s governmental think tank, Éupolis Lombardia, is preparing the first edition of an annual report on the state of the art in implementing the SDGs in the region, to be released in July 2017.

Italy’s Lombardy region has a long tradition of financing and implementing international cooperation projects. From 2001 to 2016, the region co-financed 736 cooperation projects in 81 countries in Africa-Maghreb, Latin America, Asia and Central Eastern Europe, with a total budget of €57 million. These projects involved a wide range of topics, from food safety to agriculture, water resources and environmental development, economic development, vocational training and capacity building, health, and humanitarian emergencies.

Lombardy’s governmental think tank, Éupolis Lombardia (, is currently preparing a report on the state of the art in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Lombardy, including through its international cooperation projects. The ‘Lombardy Report on Sustainable Development’ will be produced annually, to support the design and implementation of new regional policies aligned with the 2030 Agenda. The first edition will be released in July 2017.

Supporting the preparation of this report, we recently conducted a series of interviews in Lombardy with the regional government, local authorities, enterprises, and development cooperation NGOs, and a survey with the 14 universities of the region. According to our interviews and the results of the survey, stakeholders are increasingly aware of the importance of building new partnerships to ensure effectiveness of intervention, with the development of a multi-stakeholder model that can better improve the contribution of all different actors. We offer a short preview of some of the themes and experiences that the Lombardy region has encountered below.

Lombardy is one of the largest of Italy’s 20 regions. With about ten million inhabitants, it has the population and economy of a medium-sized European nation state. Lombardy has a wide variety of industries (815,000 registered enterprises in 2016, Istat) and non-profit organizations (46,141 in 2011, Istat), and the production system is one of the most developed in Europe. Lombardy contributes over 25% to Italy’s GDP and Lombardy’s GDP per-capita is one of the highest in Europe.

The development projects supported by Lombardy fall into four categories: i) co-financing development cooperation projects run by NGOs, foundations and other non-profit organizations; ii) humanitarian aid operations; iii) international projects in the health and social-health fields; and iv) international cooperation projects submitted to the European Commission.

After the economic crisis, the reduction of financial resources and the resulting cuts in development projects prompted the Regional Government to seek new partnerships and co-financing to ensure the coherence and effectiveness of its international cooperation projects. In 2012, the Lombardy Region engaged in a public-private partnership (PPP) with the Cariplo Foundation (a private foundation of banking origin) to implement a joint project on ‘Enhancing sustainable development through the economic and social promotion of the populations of developing countries.’ The €3.5 million budget allowed the co-financing of 19 projects (14 in Africa, one in the Middle East and four in Latin America) for a total value of approximately €6 million. The partnership’s interventions addressed sustainable development, agro-food and local production chains, promotion of economic development and protection of the environment.

In 2014, Lombardy replicated this initiative with a project focus on ‘Feeding the Planet,’ and extended the partnership to the City of Milan. With €5.2 million, the region funded 17 projects with a total value of approximately €9 million. This project aligned with the Expo Milan 2015 theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,’ and addressed innovation in food production, sustainable agriculture, disseminating knowledge of food traditions, and entrepreneurial initiatives to combine economic success with social protection and the strengthening of human resources.

In anticipation of an Italian law on international development cooperation approved in 2014 [1], the Lombardy Region focused on social entrepreneurship initiatives that combined economic goals and objectives with social protection to strengthen human skills and potential. The 2014 law promotes synergies between universities, social actors and public administrations. These diverse actors are all invited to join the National Council for Development Cooperation, which is a permanent instrument of participation, and consultation to deliver opinions on the coherence of policy choices, strategies, guidelines, programming, forms of intervention, effectiveness, and evaluation. In accordance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the law fosters a participatory and inclusive cooperation policy, where all involved parties are called upon to interact and enhance their individual roles through building partnerships and alliances.

Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ three-year programme for 2015-2017 stresses the importance of the “territorial cooperation” developed by local and regional authorities in Italy, such as the Lombardy region, a key policy instrument in fostering sustainable economic growth and job creation in recipient countries.

We find that partnerships arise from a number of influences. In these cases, partnerships emerged as a response to crises, to capitalize on opportunities to showcase shared interests, and in response to legislation and effectiveness of interventions. The ‘Lombardy Report on Sustainable Development’ aims at promoting the 2030 Agenda in the public debate at regional level. It will be launched in July 2017 and then a series of workshops will organized with stakeholders (decision makers, third sector organizations, universities and companies) in Autumn 2017.


[1] Law no. 125/2014 “General Discipline on International Development Cooperation”.

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