Senior local government policy-makers attending a four-day Commonwealth conference in Uganda have emphasised decentralisation as a strategy for ensuring that development meets the needs of local communities.
The 2013 Commonwealth Local Government Conference (CLGC) was opened by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala on Tuesday, 14 May. Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave the keynote address. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, were both guest speakers.
The conference addressed how a decentralised approach – redistributing resources away from a central authority - can more effectively anchor development where it is most needed in the villages, towns and cities, whilst still reflecting national development strategies for growth.
Addressing the conference, Amitav Banerji, Director of Political Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat, noted that the recently-endorsed Charter of the Commonwealth recognises that parliaments, representative local government and other forms of local governance are essential elements in the exercise of democratic governance.
“Local councils and local government are where elected representatives and accountable civil servants interface the most with people at the grassroots level.
“While national governments will always remain important, the onus is even greater on local governments to deliver the fruits of development.”
Mr Banerji observed that the Commonwealth recognises that democracy and development are two sides of the same coin and are mutually reinforcing.
He added that the Secretariat works closely with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum - which organised the CLGC in collaboration with the Uganda Ministry of Local Government - in the development of policy and the provision of technical assistance to buttress local government.
He expressed the hope that the outcome of the CLGC would inform the deliberations of Commonwealth Heads of Government when they meet in Sri Lanka in November 2013.
The CLGC brings together a cross section of development agencies supporting local government and local development. The 2013 conference explored different models and approaches to developmental local government, with examples and case studies from across the Commonwealth.
Delegates had an opportunity to directly link the development needs of their local communities with key decision-makers, ensuring that the voices of local government are heard in the global debate on poverty reduction. A special consultation session was held on local government and its input into formulating the post-2015 development goals.