Commonwealth Local Government Conference

The Secretary General, UCLG Africa participated in the CLGF conference organized in Gaborone, Botswana, 16-19 June 2015, on Achieving the Vision on Local Government 2030. The opening ceremony was chaired by Honorable Botlogile M Tshireletso, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development; and followed by welcome remarks and addresses by Honorable Slumber Tsogwane, Minister  of Local Government and Rural Development, Botswana; Cllr Rev Mpho Moruakgomo, President, Botswana Association of Local Authorities; Mayor Lawrence Yule, CLGF Chairperson; HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (by video). The Conference was also attended by Right Honorable Helen Clark, Administrator, and UNDP.

The official opening was marked by the  inaugural address by His Excellency Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, President of the Republic of Botswana, who recognized that local Government are central in the provision of basic services and key pillar in people centered development. He saw the CLGF conference in Gaborone as a platform to celebrate the progress of developmental local government that should be at the core of the effort being endeavored to localize and domesticate the effective implementation of the SDGs. He insisted on the need to define monitoring indicators for evaluating the realization of the SDGs, including at the local government level. He ended his address by declaring the conference open.

The inaugural address was followed by a Vote of Thanks by Honorable Teima Onorio, Vice President, Kiribati.

The CLGF Board Meeting took place just after the official opening.
The conference resumed its proceedings at 17:30 with the first plenary session presenting the conference overview and objectives of the conference. The first plenary received a special address by Right Honorable Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP. In her address focusing on Local government: a principal partner in the post-2015 agenda, Rt Hon Helen Clark insisted on the fact that the new global agenda being discussed at the international community opens a new

The second plenary on 17 June chaired by Mayor Lawrence Yule, Chairperson, CLGF and President, Local Government New Zealand, discussed the topic of supporting democracy and good governance to ensure effective and capable local government. In his opening remarks, Dr. Carl Wright highlighted the role of local governments in shaping the new urban agenda, from the bottom-up approach, through localizing the SDGs, contrary to the top-down approach adopted for the MDGs. He insisted on the strategic partnership just signed with the European Union Commission that will help improve the 4 themes of the conference: 1. Local democracy and good governance; 2. Promoting economic growth and sustainable local development; 3. Inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements; 4. Local government 2030: challenges and opportunities for CLGF and its members.

Lucy Slack from Deputy Secretary General, CLGF presented the background paper to the conference, highlighting the urbanization context and the unique moment we are going through, when the international community is redefining the global agendas on financing for development, disaster risks management and protection, sustainable development goals, and climate change. She presented the key issues stemming from rapid urbanization and its impact on both urban and rural areas, and the importance of regular interaction between levels of governments, that of the national associations of local governments which are key to establish structured dialogue with pertinent stakeholders; and insisted on the need for political leadership of local governments with clear mandates and responsive local administrations; the importance of information and communication to build trust and collaboration with local communities. She also presented the paper on the role of local governments in promoting local economic development, through the provision of basic economic needs for business. Understanding the local economic environment is essential in achieving the SDG8.

The fundamentals to be observed include planning, adaptation to climate change, managing informal sector, creating an enabling environment for local economic development, including adaptation of procurement procedures favorable to local entrepreneurs, capacitating the business operators.
Charlie Berman, Chairman of Debt Capital Markets-Europe, Middle East and Africa, Barclays, insisted on sound and transparent financial platforms to boost the interventions of public as well as private sectors in local government.

Barclays is in operation for 350 years throughout the world, and has established last year the Barclays Africa Group. 43,000 of Barclays people work and live in Africa. This explains why Barclays sponsored this conference. Among the things Barclays can do is assisting in building good finance as a requisite good local governments. The establishment of a municipal Bond agency in many part of the world is a powerful mean to mobilizing capital on the municipal bond markets. Aggregated municipal borrowing is very important for local governments. Financing development will continue to be a challenge, but one should not forget that Africa has a demographic dividend that needs to be transformed into concrete possibilities. Barclays is ready to assist in transforming for the better, the lives of your communities.

Right Honorable Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current Administrator, UNDP, gave a special address to the conference. She started by praising Botswana as a role model for the implementation of good governance at all levels, in particular at the local government level. The Kampala Declaration highlighted the role of developmental local governments.

2015 is a very important year for the definition of the global agendas.  A survey, which targeted 7 million people across the world, cited good governance, transparency and integrity as the 4th priority challenge facing the forthcoming sustainable development agenda.  Strong and well-resourced local governments are necessary for the implementation of the SDGs. The challenges that local governments face are: 1. decentralization policies with true devolution associated with necessary resources; 2. Financing, with a greater share of domestic resource mobilization, resource mobilization from the private sector particularly through investment funds, and access of local governments to development partners resources channeled through budget support; 3. Demographic change, with 60% of the population in Commonwealth countries under the age of 30.

Local governments should invest in youth to take advantage of the demographic dividend; 4. Urbanization, the pace of which is unprecedented in some of the world region like Africa. In such context, urban governance matters more than ever before; 5. Exclusion, in particular of women and marginalized groups.  Local governments should strive to be at the forefront in including the marginalized and excluded groups and form partnerships that will bring transformation prospects expected by local communities. Helen Clark presented a series of good examples of such partnerships in Tanzania, Bangladesh, and other countries, with the assistance of UNDP, UNCDF, and bilateral a partners such as DFID.

Local solutions and experience exchanges are key to addressing this huge challenge. South/South cooperation is a valuable mechanism to strengthening the capacity of local Authorities to manage this huge change. Building much resilience to disasters should also be among the priorities of local governments. Much more has to be done to building responsive local governments on disasters management. Adapting to climate change shall also be among the critical initiatives that local governments should consider embarking on aggressively. Finally, local governments should be involved in the localization of the SDGs. A toolkit has been developed to that effect.  UNDP and UNCDF are committed to empowering local governments in order that they take their share in the post 2015 agenda, including LED and integrated local governance. She concluded her statement saying that the place of local government in the new development agenda is fully recognized. We cannot do without local governments. The session ended with a token of appreciation to the Rt Honorable Helen Clark for her support to the local government community.

On day 2, on Wednesday 17 June, the second plenary focused on supporting democracy and good governance to ensure effective and capable local government. The second plenary was chaired by Hon Frans van der Westhuizen, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botswana, and facilitated by Brazil Morrison, Chair, Local Government Commission, New Zealand.

Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Director, Mo Ibrahim Foundation delivered a keynote speech on the importance of local democracy and good governance. In his statement, he insisted on localization and territorialisation of the development agenda, and the adoption by the AU conference of Heads of State and Government of the African Charter on Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development, as well as the creation of the High Council of Local Authorities within the AU institutions.

He also introduced the Ibrahim index of African governance (IIAG). Key findings of the 2014 index are: slight improvement of governance, but lower than 5 years ago; improvements stemming mainly on progress the implementation of human rights; dramatic deterioration in rule of law in some countries.
Jean Doret Ndongo, Deputy Minister of Decentralization and territorial affairs, delivered the message of Hon Isidore Gnonlonfon, Chair of the subcommittee on Decentralization and Local Governance, African Union, and also addressed the audience in his capacity as Head of the Camerronian delegation
Prof Adebayo Olukoshi, regional director for Africa, international institute for democracy and electoral assistance, drawn attention on the fact that in many respect, the democracy at national level depends largely on what happens at local level. The Africa inherited system of centralization that lead to personalization of power through presidentialism.

The record of performance of every day democracy in local government is characterized by huge corruption. This has created problem in the mindset of local populace on what this democracy is all about. If we are to look at the range of protest at local level, most of these are around poor service delivery. But this black painting can be balanced by good examples of quality local administration such as in Cape Verde, which has been instrumental to the development of a peaceful and inclusive environment that improved trust between people and government. He recommended a process of mutual assessment by local governments among themselves.

Hon Colin Fagan, Minister of State-Local Government and Community Development, Jamaica, stressed the role of consultation in the implementation effort of the SDGs
Cllr Greg Belz, Vice President, Australian Local Government Association, rated that Australia has 560 local councils. He presented the Australian support for local democracy.

Dr. Gloria Somolekae, Botswana’s candidate to the Board of UNESCO, stated that we are here because we are part of the global family to ensure that the SDGs to be successfully implemented. For that, we need strong and robust local institution. What steps is Botswana is taking in developing the decentralization policy. This is still in process.

The third plenary on promoting economic growth and sustainable local development was chaired by Cllr Rev Mpho, and started with a keynote speech by Dr. Stergomena Laurence Tax, Executive Secretary,SADC.

Hon Pravin Gordham, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Authorities, South Africa, went on presenting the role of local government in the economic domain in South Africa. He informed about the Agenda 2063 reference on integrated growth, championing a vision of an Africa where growth is people driven. But many factors need to be taken into account: 1. Growth and development are challenged by inequalities within and between countries, leaving behind many people; 2. New technological development is creating unintended side effect in less job creation while Africa is facing youth demographic bunge; 3. Instability of the financial system, in particular in Europe, put at risk any long term engagement relying on stability of the financial market; 4. The concentration of investments in a limited number of emerging markets raises the question of sustainable growth for all; 5. The quality of growth is also an issue given the unsustainable carbon dependent modes of production and overconsumption of non-renewable natural and other resources.

These issues have a huge impact on local governments and request them to embark in long term planning; regulation on the link between work place and living places; provision of infrastructure for essential services with attention on multi level governance cooperation through integrated planning and delivery; financing, where municipalities are compelled to raise their revenues from local rates and taxes; public employment using regeneration zones grants and development grants targeting economic zones. This requires a responsible and forward-looking leadership, which is crucial to creating a better environment for managing conflicts of interests better than done before. Overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, but an expression of a determined will.

The panel discussion that followed was moderated by Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, former deputy Secretary General, Commonwealth Secretariat. It had as panelists, Mayor Darell Bradley, Mayor, Belize City; Dr. Ab Rahman Awang, Director General, Department of Local Government, Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Malaysia; Cllr Nick Small, Local Government Association for England and Wales. After the panelists’ intervention, UNDP representative, informed that, a LED will be held in Turin in October, organized with the participation of ILO. She called for a strong representation of CLGF members.

On his part, Dr. Sutcliffe said that this was a good momentum for municipalities to intervene in LED. Many national states start recognizing the importance of local Government involvement in LED. To the extent that a full UN Conference will be held around LED in Turin in October 2015. Local governments need to be hands on about the value chain approach to their local economy.
Minister Gordham insisted on the need to go back to the basics by elaborating concrete indicators for LED and define actual doables. Human capital and its orientation is key, the geography of development as well.


But what matters is what will lift up the living conditions of all. The fourth panel was held on inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements. The panel was chaired by Cllr Philip McPhee, CLGF Vice Chairperson.

Dr. Aisa Kirabi Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director, UN Habitat, delivered a keynote address on Post 2015 Agenda and Habitat III, towards a new urban agenda. Local authorities are at the forefront of the management of the urban challenge. Cities are the places where the battle of sustainable development will be won or lost. Why so? The first reason is that many global problems are rooted in cities and towns, including impact of disasters, and climate change. The second reason is that the majority of people on earth will be living in cities. This is a huge change in the pattern of settlement and development, with tremendous changes in terms of consumption, social, cultural, political and institutional terms. The world will be living urbanization goes hand in hand with development, and that the Emilia Saiz from deputy secretary, UCLG, facilitator of the panel, said the SDGs are of interest for local governments. There seems to be a growing understanding that many the responsibilities to make development happen are in the hands of adequately resourced local governments. Everybody talks about cities but we are not recognized yet.

Cllr Raymond Louie, President of the FCM, said the topic on agenda is at the core of FCM mandate and of its 2000 members, since 1901.

Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General, UCLG Africa, confirmed that local governments have come a long way since the ’90s. He reminded of the progress made since Habitat II Conference in 1996 in Istanbul, Turkey, during which the first ever world assembly of cities and local authorities was organized. He acknowledged the adoption of Rule 62 of the UN Habitat governing Council allowing local governments to interact with UN agencies, through UN Habitat. He further recognize the setting up of the UN advisory committee for local authorities (UNACLA) and that of the Global Task Force of local governments at the UN Secretariat as undisputable headways.

However, he pointed out a series of setbacks that are leading to optimistic perspectives: (i) the fact that at the Habitat III Conference Prepcom 2 in Nairobi, rules of procedures did not explicitly provide for the participation of local governments into the debates; (ii) the total ignorance of local governments in the upcoming UN Addis Ababa conference on financing for development (July 2015), where civil society organizations and the business sector were  given a slot in the official program, and not local governments; (iii) the difficulty for local governments to have their voice heard in the climate change negotiations at COP21 in Paris, despite the fact that most of the people recognize that adaptation to climate change and mitigation of its impacts will only be efficient if addressed primarily at the local level; (iv) despite the strong advocacy campaign championed by local governments to shift attention from exclusively sector approach to a more territorial approach to the development, highlighting more consideration for local governments as key actors in the management of the urban agenda, there still remain the feeling that cities and human settlements are sectors of development the same way as education, health, or transport.

Hence, our call to approach cities not with a sector lenses, but with an actor lenses, thus recognizing local governments as the closest public face in the management of cities, therefore an unavoidable frontline in addressing the urban challenge. This perspective is yet to be fully adopted and endorsed. In his statement at the conference yesterday, the deputy minister of local government of Cameroon said that within the CLGF family, there is a shared understanding that after all, every business is local.


Mr. Elong Mbassi formulated the hope that the Cameroonian minister will be the mouthpiece of local governments to convince its colleagues to approach the local governance as true partners in public governance, and to include them in the official country delegations to the upcoming conferences in Addis, Paris and Quito.

The fifth plenary was on the celebration of the 20th anniversary of CLGF, and received testimonies by Christopher Iga, CLGF Chair 1995-1999; Jacques Jobin, CLGF interim Chair 1995; Basil Morrison, CLGF Chair 2007-2009; and Peter Wood, CLGF Board Member 1995-2005.

The closing ceremony on Friday 19 June, chaired by Hon Slumber Tsogwane, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botswana, first received a special address by Dr. Josephine Ojiambo, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General on behalf HE Kamalesh Sharma, and Commonwealth Secretary General. In her address, she insisted that Commonwealth is resolved not to leave anyone behind in the SDGs agenda. The Commonwealth secretariat is keen to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs, and is open to include local governments within the commonwealth delegations at the international UN conferences. Commonwealth will intervene in areas where impact on the improvement of the living conditions of citizen will be maximum. Among those is crowdfunding, for which a toolkit was developed by Commonwealth secretariat.

Prime Minister, Malta, Hon Dr. Joseph Muscat presented the CHOGM 2015 to be hosted in Mascate, Malta, around the theme Adding global value. He said that we need to admit that Commonwealth is sick, and needs to take action to improve on the situation and better social economic foundation for peace and prosperity. It is imperative that local governments ensure social justice to the citizen, and Malta support the subsidiarity principle of multi-level government approach. CLGF can play an important role here, through capacity building and exchange of local good experiences. The 53 Commonwealth diverse member countries can bring a lot into the international debates on global agendas on sustainable development, finance, or climate change. Malta has the highest economic performance in the European Union. This is due to the role of women, science, and universal free health care. Malta wants to share this experience and the challenges faced by small states, and to that effect will soon host the center of excellence for the Commonwealth small states. Small land states are small in terms of their land, but are big sea states, which make them the heart of the Blue economy. The blue economy includes trade-shipping routes, access to fishery, and protection of sea environment.

The blue economy connects the world for the better. Hence his plea that the world should be paying more attention to these small island countries.

In his closing remarks, His Honor Mokgweetsi Eric K Masisi, Vice President, Republic of Botswana, praised the diversity and high-level participation in the Gaborone CLGF Conference. He commended the CLGF family for the work well done for over 20 years. He welcomed the Gaborone Declaration on local government vision 2030, and its insistence on the need for efficient implementation measures, that constitutes the essence of transformation shift embedded in the SDGs. He reiterated the importance of the finance for development conference scheduled in July 2015 in Addis Ababa, as a key milestone in this structural transformation shift. The strengthening of the partnership spirit should be at the core of Commonwealth and CLGF action. He insisted on the role of BALA in steering the role of local governments in the implementation of the SDGs in Botswana. He further promised that the Botswana government will seek the endorsement of the Gaborone Declaration at the coming CHOGM in Malta. He then declare the conference close at 11:30.