Localizing the MDGs: Unlocking the Potential of Local Governments for Poverty Reduction and Development
  • January 09, 2012

Since 2000 efforts of the global development community have focused on the Millennium Development Goals 2015 (MDGs), a set of ambitious targets for reducing poverty and improving health, education and the environment that offer billions around the world the promise of better lives.   Yet translating national MDG strategies into tangible interventions that improve people's lives at the local or community level has often proven a challenge. With the 2015 MDG deadline fast approaching it is clear that central governments cannot go it alone: greater emphasis must be placed on the local arena, where local governments often have a comparative advantage in delivering the basic services – education, health, water and sanitation -- critical to MDG achievement.   

This was the main message coming out of the "Global Forum on Local Development" in Kampala, Uganda, in October 2010, and captured in the Global Forum on Local Development Report: Pursuing the MDGs through local government. The Report summarizes three days of high level discussion and debate in Kampala, involving over 600 delegates from 81 countries.  The Global Forum on Local Development was convened by the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and hosted by the Government of Uganda.

According to David Morrison, UNCDF Executive Secretary, "the Report highlights how 'localizing the MDGs' can be a key acceleration strategy, and suggests who needs to take action to make this happen." Morrison added that the Report "looks at how local governments can go beyond simply implementing national MDG strategies, to become important planners and drivers of MDG achievement in their own right."

Key questions explored at the Global Forum, and highlighted in the Report, include – among others – how can the local level be harnessed to promote gender equality? Do local governments have a comparative advantage in service delivery? Is climate change adaptation and mitigation best achieved at the local level? Should "climate proofing" become an integral part of the local government mandate? Can strengthening of local governments be an effective strategy for state building and democratization in post-conflict settings?