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Local people queue in the streets of Sri Lanka

Strengthening local governance for national development in Sri Lanka

The Commonwealth Secretariat is working in partnership with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum to strengthen local governance for national development in Sri Lanka.

Country: Sri Lanka
Host: Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF)
Start date: 01/07/2013
End date: 30/06/2016
Policy areas: Public Sector Governance 
Policy expert: Commonwealth Local Government Forum 
Project manager: Tim Newman


Sri Lanka underwent a period of momentous change and transition. This change brought significant opportunities for local government to enhance its contribution to national sustainable development and sustainable peace, and to deliver better services for the people, consistent with the national policy framework of Mahinda Chinthana, Idiri Dakma.

Against this backdrop, the Federation of Sri Lankan Local Government Authorities (FSLGA) and Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils (MLGPC) and the Commonwealth Secretariat developed a project that aimed at strengthening local government systems and to encourage an inclusive developmental approach in planning and delivery of local services.

The project acknowledged the enabling environment created through the National Policy on Local Government (NPLG) of 2009 and whereby all communities can now engage fully in the local authority democratic processes. The NPLG is a milestone document to guide future local government system in Sri Lanka and underpins most of the activities in the project. The project also took into account the outcomes of a regional local government symposium organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and CLGF and hosted by the Government of Sri Lanka, held in April 2012.

The Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat, engaged since July 2013 in a project aimed at Strengthening Local Governance for National Development in Sri Lanka. In so doing, it worked with the Federation of Sri Lanka Local Government Authorities (FSLGA) and the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils.


The project was aimed at strengthening local government systems and encouraging an inclusive developmental approach in planning and delivery of local services, consistent with the national policy framework of Mahinda Chinthana, Idiri Dekma. 

The project brought improvements to people’s living standards and wellbeing, through strengthening the local government system to contribute to national development. The project worked to encourage inclusive developmental approach to the planning and delivery of services, improve revenue flows, build local capacity, promote participatory practices, and build supportive institutional structures.

The project focused on substantive local government and democracy capacity building to further strengthen the local government system throughout Sri Lanka and to support processes of enhanced participatory development, inter-community reconciliation and fulfilling peoples’ aspirations.


It is intended that public institutions in Sri Lanka are able to deliver a more effective, efficient and equitable public governance. The project will:

  • Enhance the institutional legitimacy, place and autonomy of local government as an integral part of the system of representative government in Sri Lanka.
  • Improve the administrative and financial capacity of local authorities to better serve their people through quality and comprehensive information and increased revenue.
  • Improve the capacity of local authority elected leaders and officials to fully understand their roles, responsibilities and mandates in order to carry out their duties effectively.
  • Enhance linkages between local authorities and their colleagues, communities, other levels of government and civil society to build partnerships for more effective local governance.
  1. 393 participants of 181 councils were exposed to the National Policy on Local Government. A compiled report on the outcomes and recommendations of the dialogues prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Local Government.
  2. Two provincial activity plans were developed in accordance with provisions stipulated with regard to participatory governance and effective service delivery. The Provincial work plans underway in Central and Northern province.
  3. Guidelines were published on council meeting procedures and minute preparation in both local languages and disseminated to all nine provinces and 271 rural councils.
  4. 15 model by-laws were reviewed/ documented in accordance with gaps/ needs of the LA’s of central province and contextualized as the provincial standard by-laws. In addition, 04 new standard by-laws have also been produced.
  5. Provincial circular guidelines were developed and presented to the Commissioner of Local Government, Central province to streamline revenue management of local authority bodies.
  6. 400 Community based organizations’ leaders in the Central province and the North Western Province had a first opportunity to increase their knowledge on local government services and functions, present prospects for citizen participation, citizen responsibilities and opportunities for active citizen participation. Dialogue has been ongoing and in Panwila PS it has resulted in an agreement between the council and CBOs for the safeguard and maintain street lamps in their locality.
  7. The project has been able to bridge the gap between the local government department and valuation department of the Northern Province to solve a longstanding issue to complete the revaluation process of properties. A team comprising eleven members of other regional valuation department took part in expediting final inspections of properties in Valikamam East PS (7500 properties) and Valikamam South PS (13000 properties).     
  8. A guideline for Pradeshiya Sabha’s own-source revenue enhancement and management based on the lesson drawn from the four provinces, addresses shortcomings with regard to tax imposition, tax collection and formats, and was circulated to 271 rural councils.
  9. The project has been able to assist a set of Local authorities in four provinces to recover overdue and collect revenue in total worth of Rs.119,274,667/= during March to October 2014. Moreover, during November 2014 to October 2015, revenue collection was in total Rs. 257,038,898/=.
  10. Following training with LA secretaries, revenue inspectors and technical officers on legal proceedings linked to building code regulations, 21 councils in Central province have now filed 450 cases with the goal of recovering revenue overdue and regularizing physical structures within their locality. To date, Rs. 779,480/= has been recovered from the cases which have been resolved.
  11. A flyer was developed highlighting the key strengths of the Citizen Charter (CC) for LA’s suggesting strategies to maximize effectiveness and adopting them as a tool for democratic local governance. This is the first time the citizen charters have been tailored to the specific needs of local government. Subsequently, citizen charter new model has been launched at one of pilot council (Panwila PS) in Kandy by declaring the commitments of both parties (council and community/constituents).
  12. The project has been able to support 155 potential candidates for the next local government election from local women activists of major political parties UNP and SLFP. The Prime Minister has officially announced on 30th September 2015 that needed reforms to be brought in, to include 25% women in local government bodies.
  13. 55 provincial trainers and practitioners took part in three days advanced training delivery session (two session) from across the 9 provinces and 75% reported the training built their capacity.
  14. Ten community budget consultations facilitated at nine pilot councils in North Western province and altogether 328 community leaders have participated in the meetings.
  15. A budget summary format which contains budget particulars and should be circulated to the community based organizations, has been adopted by the North Western province.