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Commonwealth news in brief

Pakistan suspension lifted The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which met in London on 21-22 May 2004, removed the suspension of Pakistan from the councils of the Commonwealth and took Fiji off its agenda.

The Group welcomed the progress made in Pakistan in restoring democracy and rebuilding democratic institutions. It will keep Pakistan on its agenda to monitor the situation, particularly that the 17th amendment to the Constitution is implemented fully including the separation of the offices of president and Chief of Army staff. The Group asked the Secretary General to look at technical assistance to support strengthening democracy, institution-building and good governance, and to update the Group at its next meeting in New York in September 2004.

Managing the impact of HIV/AIDs in the public sector An HIV/AIDS Expert Group Meeting held at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London from 30 to 31 March 2004 identified the need to focus on the human resource policy-making agencies to manage the impact of HIV/AIDS in the public sector. Building on good practices around the Commonwealth, the framework developed at the meeting will be sensitive to the diversity of member countries, taking into account the size of countries, prevalence levels, phases of the epidemic, vulnerability and groups at risk.

Community partnerships valuable for environment Commonwealth Environment Ministers met on 28 March 2004 for the tenth session of the Commonwealth Consultative Group on Environment (CCGE). The meeting was held in Jeju, Republic of Korea on the eve of the United Nations Environment Programme Forum.

Ministers looked at the effectiveness of partnerships in human settlements, water, sanitation and waste management, focusing on three key areas: data collection; water quality and provision; and arrangements for bilateral and multilateral support. They pointed out the valuable role that community/municipality partnerships can play in enabling the poorest communities to collect data about their own settlements and services.

ComHABITAT, of which CLGF is a member, made a submission to the environment ministers meeting.

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Local democracy

CLGF Vice Chair Hon Ponts'o Sekatle speaking at the symposium

Some 80 delegates attended the CLGF Regional Symposium on Democracy and Good Governance in the Caribbean, including many ministers responsible for local government and community development, leading mayors and other local government leaders, senior ministry officials and other stakeholders from many Caribbean countries and further afield in the Commonwealth. Symposium participants discussed local government reform and decentralisation - roles and responsibilities, partnership working, financial decentralisation, and service delivery.

Nigeria local elections welcomed

at a time when Nigeria holds the Chair of the organisation.

CLGF has welcomed the nation-wide local elections held in 34 of the 36 states of Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, on 27 March 2004.

Federal Government of Nigeria and in December 2003 agreed on the importance of holding local elections early.

For almost two years councils in Nigeria have had appointed, rather than elected, leaders after the expiry of councillors’ term of office in mid 2002. CLGF has been in discussions with the

The CLGF sees the holding of the elections as a sign that Nigeria is fully committed to the decisions of Commonwealth Heads of Government on the importance of local democracy,

Mr Kwame Owusu Bonsu, a senior official from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development of Ghana, visited Abuja on behalf of CLGF on 5-7 April to meet key stakeholders and provide CLGF with an assessment of the election process. The CLGF is also discussing with Nigerian members support for the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON).

Supporting small states Director’s introduction

Like all Commonwealth organisations, the CLGF has a particular concern for its members in small states, including those in the Caribbean. The very first CLGF regional workshop was held in Trinidad in 1994. Since then CLGF has had an active programme involving research, councillor training, provision of technical expertise and regional workshops. It has also sponsored representatives from the region at Commonwealth and other conferences.

It was thus appropriate that Jamaica hosted the first high level CLGF- Commonwealth Secretariat regional symposium following the re-enforced mandate CLGF received at the 2003 CHOGM for its work in support of

democracy and good governance. We were delighted that many mayors, ministers and other senior representatives attended and were honoured to receive a message of support from the Prime Minster of Jamaica, Rt Hon P J Patterson. We plan to convene a similar symposium in the Pacific later this year, a region which like the Caribbean, has many small states.

The regional symposium coincided with the 2004 meeting of the CLGF Board. This allowed valuable interaction between Caribbean local government policy makers and their Commonwealth colleagues, many of whom were visiting the Caribbean for the first time and were keen to develop on-going links.

The Board endorsed a new programme on local democracy and good governance as part of CLGF’s 2004-05 Business Plan. This will support programmes to consolidate local democracy, provide technical assistance and undertake local elections monitoring. The programme will target countries undergoing major local government reforms, especially small states which lack institutional capacity.

This new programme demonstrates how CLGF is both supporting small states and responding to the mandate given to it by Heads of Government.

Carl Wright, Director, CLGF

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