an essential ingredient
Local democracy is key for effective governance and improving the quality of life of citizens, according to Jamaica Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sport and CLGF Board member, Hon Portia Simpson Miller.
Speaking at the opening of the Regional Symposium on Democracy and Good Governance in the Caribbean in Jamaica on 19 April, Minister Simpson Miller said:
“For societies of all sizes, local democracy is a vital ingredient of successful efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of governance.
“Good Governance demands the active and direct participation of citizens and communities in the formulation of policies and making of decisions that will affect them at local level.”
Public sector reform is a high priority in the Caribbean. Many Caribbean countries have local government, but there is a wide variation in structures and powers given to local government. Conference delegates discussed local government reform and decentralisation to develop a network and an action plan for strengthening local government in the region. Pro-poor strategies CLGF Vice Chair Hon Ponts’o Susan Sekatle, Minister for Local Government in Lesotho, who also welcomed delegates to the symposium, said:
“If we are to ensure pro-poor development strategies, if we are to meet the millennium development goals, if we are to address the special vulnerability of small states, then we
need development at community level. This is best done by democratically- elected local government, working in partnership with central government and other stakeholders,” she said.
Commonwealth Deputy Secretary- General Winston Cox said:“ The Harare declaration speaks of democratic principles. Our role is to ensure that those principles are applied, to ensure that democracy in the Commonwealth is healthy, it is robust and locally rooted.
“The key to this is to instil in all citizens a desire to defend all the institutions of democracy. This is why local government is essential”.
At the opening session of the symposium delegates also heard a message from the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Rt Hon P J Patterson.
Sierra Leone local elections well run
The first democratic local government elections in Sierra Leone for 30 years created 19 new councils that form part of Sierra Leone’s new decentralisation strategy. The strategy gives more power to local regions and is part of Sierra Leone’s plans to move forward following ten years of war and civil unrest.
Some 1200 candidates contested seats in 394 wards, with just under ten per cent of candidates being women. The two main parties are the All Peoples Congress (APC) and Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), but five political parties contested seats along with 400 candidates who stood as independents.
The Commonwealth expert team, jointly organised by CLGF and Commonwealth Secretariat, saw the
Rally before the local government elections in Sierra Leone
whole process from the opening of a station, the operation of the voting at 36 polling stations – in both rural and urban areas - to the closing and a count. Polling stations were located in markets, barries (local courts), schools and churches.
Despite election bodies having only four months to organise the elections, the Commonwealth observers noted that
the operation was very well run, and electors were able to freely express their wishes.
Mayor Montague from Jamaica, Cllr Margaret Kotta from Tanzania, Hon Farouk Lawan MP from Nigeria, and Helen Duncan, an elections expert from the UK, made up the team observing the elections which was organised in three groups, one in Freetown, one in Bo in the South and Kenema in East, the third in Makeni in the north.
“The elections were peaceful and well-run. It was good to see people being able to exercise their right to vote for local councillors for the first time in 30 years,” said CLGF Senior Policy Officer Lucy Slack who led the support staff.
Good Practice Scheme goes to Jamaica
Jamaica has been selected as the next country to receive funding of up to J$20
government projects under the CLGF Good Practice Scheme.
The Jamaica Good Practice Scheme will fund up to five projects for the Jamaica Association of Local Government Authorities and local councils to develop partnership projects
associations and municipalities in the Commonwealth. The projects will focus on strategic planning, a theme that emerged as a key issue during the recent Regional Symposium on Local Democracy and Good Governance in the Caribbean.
One bid has already been received from Port Mary who are looking for a partner to develop a strategic plan for sustainable development in the parish
many of whose inhabitants work for the tourism industry.
The CLGF Good Practice Scheme helps local government practitioners from across the Commonwealth to share experiences, good practice and resources by working together on practical projects. This part of the Scheme is funded by the UK government Department for International Development.
News in brief
Local government has role in health CLGF tells ministers In its submission to the Commonwealth Health Ministers’ Meeting in Geneva on 16 May 2004, CLGF says that local government, working in partnership with other spheres of government, civil society and the private sector, has an enormous task ahead to develop new strategies and new ways of thinking to meet the challenges of urbanisation.CLGF points to some of the good practice being undertaken by local government in many Commonwealth countries such as awareness raising on HIV/AIDs in Uganda and home-based care in Swaziland.
Local government and Cotonou A mid-term review of the implementation of the EU Cotonou agreement for African-Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries is now underway. The ACP Local Government Platform (ACPLGP), which CLGF is a leading member, has written to the European Commission to ensure that local government is included in its governance programmes and to clarify the position for local government to participate in ACP-EC cooperation.This follows two high level meetings held in Brussels earlier this year between the Platform and senior EU and ACP officers, including a meeting between the Commission’s Director General for Development, Kous Richelle, the ACP Secretary General and CLGF’s two vice chairs and Director.
Supporting UN-HABITAT programme
the MDGs and UNDP are
preparing a Millennium
Partnership. This programme will support local authorities in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and local governance systems. The Partnership will be launched at the World Urban Forum in Barcelona on 14 September 2004. CLGF has been
invited as an associate member programme review committee.
UCLG launched CLGF Board member Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, Mayor of Tshwane and President of the South African Local Government Association, was one of three presidents elected at the founding congress for United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) in Paris on 2-5 May 2004. UCLG is the result of the unification of the three international local government bodies - the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) and the United Towns Organisation (UTO/FMCU) and Metropolis. CLGF, which was also represented at the launch by Director Carl Wright, will continue to work with UCLG in areas of common interest. A Memorandum of Understanding is being developed with UCLG along the lines of the one previously established with IULA.