The departments

The Departments of France were created by the French Revolution to bring the governed closer to the government. The Law of 2 March 1982 transferred the function of departmental executive to the president of the general council, elected from among and by the latter. All of their missions stem from the various powers of the general councils, which emerged as the decentralisation process unfolded. The Departments’ common goal is to improve the daily lives of their inhabitants.

  • Social action: This is the Departments’ main area of jurisdiction. It includes a wide variety of responsibilities: action programmes to support the elderly, disabled people and children, but also preventive measures and inclusion of people in difficulty.

  • Amenities and transport: The Department ensures the development and maintenance of departmental roads. Alongside the State and the Region, it develops the road and motorway network in France. It also helps to finance municipal roads. The development and operation of commercial and fishing ports, the organisation of public transport and in particular school transport are also within the jurisdiction of the Departments.

  • Assistance to municipalities: The municipalities and intercommunal organisations are key points of contact for the Department. It helps them to invest in and install amenities in many areas: drinking water supplies, sanitation, electrification, roads, financing of municipal amenities (churches, town halls, police stations, emergency centres), decoration of villages, environmental protection, land development, etc.

  • Education: The construction and upkeep of secondary schools and some of their equipment, including computers and lending libraries, are within the jurisdiction of the Departments.

  • Culture and heritage: The departmental archive services, some museums, and actions for the protection of cultural heritage are also the responsibility of the Departments. The Departments grant subsidies to many festivals and cultural events.

  • Economic and social development: In collaboration with the Region, the Departments encourage the establishment and growth of large research facilities. The Departments aim to promote their specific merits, particularly through actions with SMEs-SMIs and the craft sector. Finally, they participate in the modernisation of agriculture and help young farmers to establish themselves.

  • Environment: The Departments are involved in the protection of the environment. They in particular ensure the preservation of sensitive natural areas (espaces naturels sensibles – ENS) and are responsible for water management, as well as steering the Departmental Plan for disposal of non-hazardous waste.

  • Tourism: They manage outdoor activities through the Departmental Commission for Spaces, Sites and Itineraries (Commission Départementale des Espaces, Sites et Itinéraires – CDESI). As such, they are heavily involved in the protection and management of hiking trails and heritage paths.

To find out more about the Departments of France: