Impressions and Snapshots: UNCDF at the Commonwealth Local Development Conference

The UNDP programme manager and Jenifer Wakhugu, UNCDF’s Technical Advisor of the Deepening Decentralization Programme, together with Lesotho’s Director General of Decentralization and the Director of Decentralization joined the meeting of UNDP’s Administrator Helen Clark and Lesotho’s Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing. The Deputy Prime Minister reaffirmed the government’s commitment to operationalize decentralization by devising conclusive decentralization policies. In this context he commended on UNDP’s and UNCDF’s Deepening Decentralisation Programme, which is set to accelerate the process of decentralization by promoting decentralized service delivery for social and economic growth. Furthermore, the UNDP/ UNCDF programme Support Financial Inclusion in Lesotho (SUFIL) was discussed. This programme is devised to improve and expand access to sustainable financial services in urban and rural areas by the low income segment of the market, particularly women. The Deputy Prime Minister thanked UNDP’s Administrator for the ongoing support and wished for a fruitful cooperation to further Lesotho’s development in the future.

UNCDF’s Technical Advisor, Dr. Kadmiel Wekwete, animatedly discusses with Mrs. Grace Maseko, Malawi's Minister of Local Government and Mr. Hadiru Ibrahim Kaloko, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Sierra Leone, after the session on “Partnerships for development: the leadership role of local government and involving all actors in inclusive local economic development”. In this session, Dr. Wekwete had presented Local Economic Development (LED) interventions in different African countries, while highlighting UNCDF’s experiences in LED implementation in the post-conflict context of Sierra Leone. As the situation didn’t allow for a classical LED approach with focus on a combination of national and local LED policies, intermediary centers were created where future entrepreneurs get access to credit, markets and trainings. The establishment of Public Private Partnerships allowed for the a priori public investments into the centre’s infrastructure, for those centers to be managed as private enterprises. Thus, rental fees and taxes are being paid to the council, which can be reinvested into service delivery and economic support to the community in turn, creating a mutual beneficial upward spiral. The presentation of the government of Malawi focused on national and local LED implementation with reference to the UNCDF/ UNDP ”Malawi Local Government Strengthening and Investment Programme (MLGSI)” and its support in devising a legal and policy framework for LED.

UNCDF’s Programme Manager of the Local Governance Economic Development Joint Programme (LGED-JP), Charles Mback, Mr. Sahr Molgua, Executive Secretary of the Local Council Association of Sierra Leone and UNCDF’s Regional Technical Advisor Dmitry Pozihaev, gather in front of the joined UN stand in the exhibition area of the Commonwealth Local Government Conference. Mr. Molgua’s presence at the conference has been supported by the LGED-JP. He tells how useful it is for him to have this opportunity to meet with his colleagues from all over the Commonwealth, who face similar challenges or operate in comparable contexts but use different responding mechanisms. Mr. Molgua’s relates how discovering different coordination strategies between central governments and associations is inspiring and how he got very excited to find out how in Uganda the Local Council Associations managed to get on a table with the central government and now are able to influence policy and budget discussions. On this line, he says, the more intimate context of such a conference is, the more conducive to closely involve with your own government as well, with the government officials opening up with offers of support for the associations’ activities. This offer marks another milestone in the associations’ often stony way. One and a half years ago, the association was without offices and not able to pay wages. Through UNCDF/ UNDP  start-up support in salaries, infrastructure and equipment, the association was able to handle their operations effectively, attracting more support from partners like UNWomen, the European Union or the World Bank. Still, in the long haul the association is aspiring to become self-sufficient with an important step, which should be laid on the General Assembly in September 2013, where strategies in this direction should be discussed. Mr. Molgua points out how impressive it is how UNCDF/ UNDP, with an amount inferior to 20.000USD, could help his association to stand on its own. “We came in as beneficiaries, now we are partners.” The value of local associations is not only known locally. In her speech to the Commonwealth conference’s delegates, Helen Clark highlighted the importance to “develop the local governments and their related associations to further development and development solutions.”